Not once during the course of Altered Natives' Tenement Yard series—now in its third volume over the past three years—has it ever sounded like Danny Yorke was making music for anyone but himself. Without a doubt, his brand of hard-edged, heavy-handed house continues to be aimed at the dancefloor, but that seems to be as much to suit his own preferences as those of any particular audience, and furthermore, the track titles and vocal samples used throughout this trilogy have frequently been tied to inside jokes or—while seeming ambiguous to most listeners—have been said to each have specific meaning to the artist. In 2012, crafting music that is this personal in such high volume (Tenement Yard has added 45 tracks to Yorke's run) while maintaining such an impeccable standard of quality is no easy feat. Clearly though, Altered Natives is up to the task.
To give a sense of how close the London producer is to the themes and ideas which run through Tenement Yard Vol. 3, Yorke sent along earnest descriptions of each album track with his press release. "This is where it all begins. Love and betrayal" describes the Sade-sampling "The K I S S;" "Be Nice (Like We Should)" comes with a note about wanting to send a message to all the "miserable clubbers of the world;" and the title of album opener "Martyn's Friend" emanates from multiple experiences where guys at shows would introduce themselves under the pretense of being mates with the 3024 label boss. As one might expect, it's not all serious, and Yorke ends one of his more revealing thoughts with a ping of self-deprecation, "I write music as personal notes to remind me of stuff. Lessons I feel I should never forget, with bass and stuff." The humor, sentimentality, and genuine insightfulness with which Yorke appears to approach his music is surprising, especially considering the rough rhythms and dense tones which result from his process. Rather than indulging in sentimental melodies or emotive soundscapes to log these memories, Altered Natives casts his lessons in much darker trappings—clipped drum patterns, overpowering percussion, full-bodied stabs, and an entire spectrum of haunting synths (usually in pad form) account for much of the album's core. Maybe because these stem from such genuine roots of inspiration, they all appear to come together with an effortless touch.
But all this is largely meaningless without quality tunes, something Vol. 3 fortunately has in spades. The grimmer strains of the album account for most of the highlights; songs like "In My Heart Forever (Stay Dead)," "You Used To," "The Calling," and the aforementioned "The K I S S" and "Be Nice (Like We Should)" are trademark Altered Natives fare, finding a balance between punishing drum loops, ghostly pads, and revolving patterns of lead stabs. Still, some of the more intriguing tracks are the ones which peer just outside Yorke's comfort zone—"Natural Freak" reworks gorgeous piano and disco samples into a loaded skipper; "Allwhere" simmers with skittering drums and classic house chords; and the closing "You Cut Me Out of My Life" is almost—dare we say—blissful.
In truth, Vol. 3 is not the crown jewel of Altered Native's Tenement Yard trilogy, as last year's Vol. 2 still remains the strongest effort of the series. But with another 90 minutes of quality, pumping house added to his discography, and our appetite for Altered Natives production nowhere near satisfied, the trilogy's final chapter is indeed a success.