“All humans share one spirit / All humans share one consciousness / But yet they want to be separated” sets in motion Nightmares on Wax’s latest offering, Shape the Future, a call to arms for oneness that spans from hip hop to jazz via dub, soul and myriad other things in between. Echoing its own lyrical sentiment of the power of the collective, it’s an album which has embraced collaborators, from the Mexican Wixarika tribe, to Kanye collaborator Allan Kingdom – a brave move, but one that pays dividends, as variety is one of its clear strengths.
The record veers from lush instrumentation to eerie electronic ambience and club beats, all in George Evelyn’s trademark chilled out style. The two more commercial tracks come with guest vocalists in the form of Sadie Miller and Jordan Rakei – while Miller’s contribution proves easy on the ears, but not striking as such, ‘Typical’, with its big band instrumentation swings to more of a classic soul beat, making it the cut that might make your mum prick her ears up in the kitchen. It’s certainly worlds apart from the relatively minimalist Tenor Fly, whose instrumentation borders on being soundscape-like at points, the vocal line half sung spoken word, not-quite hip hop. While the tension on the track is interesting, it feels almost interlude like, rendered insignificant before the richly layered, gospel heavy ‘Citizen Kane’, with its deep humming lines that ooze over the sharp electronic beat.
There’s yet another stark contrast in the more upbeat instrumental tracks, some of the highlights of the record: ‘On It Maestro’ is a breath of sunshine and clean movement after the darker haziness of the first three tracks, hitting the listener hard after the trance-like sway and sliding strings of ‘Shape the Future’. Closing track ‘Gotta Smile’ is perhaps the most electronic track on the album, with the same cinematic scope as cuts off Bonobo’s Migrations, but a little less chaotic, a little more effortlessly joyful. To use its hook ‘‘you, me he, she, we, they, us, all / gotta smile” as a point of reflection on the album, Evelyn brings together many different strings on this record which work in harmony to form a picture that places optimistic unity from all kinds of corners at the centre of its vision.