The third full-length from Ital Tek (a.k.a. Alan Myson) marks another shift in sound for the restless producer. In the past, the Brighton-based Atom River label boss has dabbled in Dilla-flavored hip-hop, hulking dubstep, and noise-leaning drum & bass, but the Nebula Dance LP finds him broadening his horizons once again. His latest is in line with other recent Planet Mu releases from the likes of Young Smoke and Traxman, as Ital Tek has immersed himself in footwork's skittering rhythms and rapid tempos. His take involves glossy, precise production that results in pristinely crafted tracks where only rarely is a hair out of place.
The songs brim with neatly organized minutiae, the music's precision showcasing Ital Tek's attention to detail. Tracks like "In Motion" are teeming with a variety of twinkling percussive sounds that work like micro-melodies, but they're all arranged in what feels like an exact order. Every element, from the surging synths to the husky monosyllabic vocal samples, is not only particularly placed, but meticulously sculpted and edited.
The drawback to this perfectionism is that the productions can come off a little sterile. On "Pixel Haze," Ital Tek falls short of constructing a specific or humanizing mood, as the sense of wonder generated by the song's sparkling synths and shimmering pads is undercut by the braying trance melodies that come in toward the end. Coupled with pixelated trills, the track lays digital sounds on thick, which can verge on alienating the listener.
Thankfully, Ital Tek has an ear for beauty that counteracts his penchant for highly robotic soundscapes. "Pixel Haze" is overlaid with sleek pads and moments of airy ambience, an aesthetic he expands upon with tracks like "Dusk Beat," "Glokk," and "Solar Sail." Representing some of the most engaging and inviting work on Nebula Dance, these tracks use the producer's detailed, precise production to compose blithe and occasionally dozy moods. "Dusk Beat" creates a sense of light, relaxed hypnotism from a lustrous palette of sounds that includes flickering synths, rapid-fire percussive bubbling, and gliding, angelic vocals. "Glokk" and "Solar Sail" are similarly astral and soothing, although they ground the pretty, delicate noises in a hum of low end.
Skating along on smooth sounds that seem almost effortless, these outer-galaxy footwork songs—along with the energy and aura they display—are Ital Tek's strong suit. The tangible moods offered provide an entry point for listener engagement, which can be a struggle when the productions are otherwise so digitally pristine. The fluidity of the gliding synths, along with the spaced-out, ambient leaning cuts like "Discontinuum," lend the album a sense of cohesion that makes Nebula Dance a gorgeous, lean-back listening experience.