Pulling off a musical transformation is no easy task, yet Graham Bertie seems to do it with relative ease. Just a few years back, he was best known as the production half of Thunderheist, a sassy electro duo beloved by the blogs and inked to Ninja Tune. Following its dissolution, he teamed up with Jubilee for the short-lived and tropical-tinged Bassanovva project. These days, he's flying solo as Nautiluss, and if Habitat, his second EP under the guise, is any indication, perhaps he should have been working alone all along.
It's not that Bertie's past work was bad, it's just that his output as Nautiluss is so much better. Taking some serious cues from the Hessle Audio and Hemlock schools of UK bass, the Toronto producer's recent output is founded upon his newfound penchant for ominously odd rhythms. Nautiluss' drum patterns aren't merely a metronome pulse; they rattle, clack, and bang, underpinning dark, rumbling productions where melodic elements do exist, but remain firmly strapped into the back seat. This formula first appeared on last year's debut single for Hemlock, and was improved upon for his subsequent ?lpha EP, but Habitat showcases Nautiluss operating at a higher level than ever before.
"Depth Charge," the first track on the EP, is also its best, layering cascading, siren-like synths over a clap-heavy beat and thick, rolling bass tones. "Surfeit" is more linear, but finds Nautiluss fattening up the drum sounds and weaving them together with a crunchy low end that swells and contracts throughout the pounding house cut. "Sunder" utilizes a similar sound palette, but takes a more playful approach, nodding toward Chicago's jacking house lineage and employing a swirling, rough-edged synth build. "Stygian" reigns in the proceedings, closing out the EP with melancholy, bell-like tones ringing over a churning drum pattern.
Until now, it's been easy to feel like Nautiluss hasn't been taken as seriously as some of his counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic. It could simply be a function of geography, although it's also possible that Bertie is being hampered by his less "serious" past efforts, or even his current affiliation with Tiga's fun-loving Turbo imprint. Ultimately though, this particular "why" is unimportant, as the release of Habitat makes it abundantly clear that Nautiluss is a project that deserves our collective attention.
Go here to stream Habitat in full.