The debut full length electronic music release from Nat Berhanu, Incredulous, immediately establishes him as one of the genre’s most formidable talents. The sprawling eighteen track release shows him as nothing less than a virtuoso in the genre and his ability to conjure a wide range of emotions and energies from electronic textures is bracing to hear. Berhanu’s work is strictly instrumental here, but his vision of electronica incorporates a generous amount of melody and genuine verve that many of his peers in the style can only clumsily mimic. Incredulous is a work of powerful imagination and coherence – nothing ever sounds or feels arbitrary. Instead, everything, even down to the track listing, makes sense in a larger whole and never risks losing listeners despite the collection’s size. Berhanu emerges from this album as an important new voice on the indie music scene and no mere entertainer.
Much of the album has a distinctly urban sound. Incredulous delves into many moods, but the overarching sound is a city at night, a packed club, a dark street lit with neon. It’s freeing music and few of the songs better embody that quality than “Party House II”, the album’s first track. It has a buoyant attitude and doesn’t confine itself to merely laying down a danceable groove; make no mistake, however, that Berhanu is more than capable of making you want to move. The first song introduces listeners to Berhanu’s wont for incorporating memorable melodies into his electronic based compositions, something not every performer in this area does, but those melodies are juxtaposed with the beats in an ideal fashion. “At the Summit Jaml” presents listeners with a distinctly different interpretation of Berhanu’s musical vision while maintaining the needed consistency for the piece to sound like part of the album’s greater whole. He has a real talent for utilizing atmospherics in ways that are far from ham fisted or heavy handed. The track “Beauty of the Sky” takes this even further with a composition that mixes heady atmospherics with a more expansive use of electronica textures.
“Fickle Jam” has some forceful passage and a straight-forward style that grabs you physically. Berhanu’s songwriting moves freely between moments of reflective musicality and much more direct, unadorned attempts to energize his listeners. This track falls in the latter category. “Buzz Soul” combines a bit of the latter with a strong dose of the former, but it adds a lightly ominous edge thanks to its use of dynamics and darker textures. Some human voices appear in the song “Break the Fear”, but the song is certainly primarily instrumental in nature and has a more outright playful side than many of the other tracks. “Planet Trace V” is a particularly evocative piece with a variety of interesting synth sounds that seem to be recorded in a staggered sort of way – the lines are fluid but possess an interesting stutter of sorts that captures your attention. The song has strong percussion in its second half that sounds cut live rather than machine-driven. It’s one of the most invigorating moments on an energetic and wildly ambitious effort in this vein.