Altered Natives – Tenement Yard Vol. 3

‘Tenement Yard Vol. 3’ by Altered Natives is the third instalment of the series of Danny Native’s extensive work. I enjoyed his ‘The Fates’ EP released this year so I was looking forward to this continuation of the Tenement Yard series. ‘Loved By Few’ on Vol 2 was a good song but the rest of the album was a little patchy for me. So, would Vol 3 iron these patches out?

This is an experimental album in many ways, it draws out nuances and segments of techno, acid and funky house expanding these sections into bigger ideas. I’m not a huge funkyhouse fan but I am open to being impressed with anything. Overall, there were some outstanding tracks on here and there are some less outstanding tracks. Altered Natives use of vocal samples and features is extensive and in some places it works very well but in others they come across as superfluous. The production is also very clean and precise which is obviously intentional and necessary for this blend of genres but it did come away as feeling a bit too polished.

Anyway, the first track: ‘Martyns Friend’ is a solid opener featuring a nice minimal kick with chunky bass-heavy melody over the top. Altered Native’s hasn’t broken their love of a strait up groove. The samples over the top add a few extra layers but at a couple of points feel like they are there in want of better feature, but the track progresses well and have some lighter textures featuring towards the end before ending in a spoken segment.

The next song, ‘In My Heart Forever (Stay Dead)’ has a dreamy feel and ethos with light keys and sounds that could be found in a sound-scape production. Throughout the track there are the same breezy keyboard melodies and bright sound and these are underpinned with a strait forward house beat while a minimal three bit hook works alongside. Following this, the track opens out into a more open dub techno section. Altered Natives are good at making techo that has a warm sound.

Track three, ‘London Gods’ is a more adventurous track that still uses the dreamy sounds and chords but with a tactile bass line and nice dub drum hits, however, the vocal feature on here which is looped doesn’t massively augment the track, it isn’t bad, it just falls into the mid ground too often when there are other, more interesting, things happening in the track. There are some quite unusual chord progressions on here however that keep a listeners attention. The kick orientated percussion progresses into a looser sounding, noisier beat that is a good progression for the track over all. Something that come apparent by this track is the way that Altered Natives have a track reference the track that came immediately before it and ‘You Used To’ makes this explicit where the close, low, bass thud familiar from ‘London Gods’ reappears. But by this stage of the record, the beats are more complex than the first two tracks that had been a little limited. ‘You Used To’ is more experimental playing with vocal loops until a dark, even wacky organ (like Ghost Town by the Specials) section enters and the beat drops into the background a little more. This feels like a well composed track overall though; it is hard to notice the subtle moves of the organ transforming into strings and the gradual growth of the beat into a taught eclectic set of drum hits.

Unfortunately some of the tracks in the middle of the album fall short of the standards set previously. ‘Be Nice (Like We Should) is a collaboration with ESP and has a bigger dub vibe in the vocal samples and a very regular kick. The beat develops with a flat, noisy, almost glitch made groove over the top and a schizophrenic range of vocal samples. ‘Be Nice’ has some good features and sections but it could do with being a little more ambitious, the sample is just not working with the rest of the track and feels abrasive. ‘Natural Freak’ has a contemporary/r&b style piano opening that brings in another regular kick beat tied with a hi-hat beat but this is only for a short time and the piano returns. But then the whole track moves into a garage track taking strong influence from dubstep which allows for the song to develop and progress.  The problem comes down to the same regular kick beat featuring in nearly every song, its not the beat itself but the lack of variety in its application. This is true of ‘Landlord’ also which samples heavy breathing, the sentence ‘no one there can fuck with me’ and what comes close to a reggaeton syth/key melodic feature. This is probably one of the weaker tracks on the whole album because not a whole lot happens; the melodic feature becomes well worn pretty soon and this happens of ‘Neverlove’ and ‘The Calling’ too. Yet, these could work well live. However, this record does become more ambitious towards the latter half.

‘The K I S S’, is more experimental and complex overall using a staccato rhythm to cut up a combination of beat and textures whilst also deploying some reverbed synths and tones. More dub sounds feature in this track also which makes this a strong track for its variety. It’s a mesmerising track and hits the spot that Altered Natives is aiming for in some of the other tracks. This continues onto ‘Allwhere’ which develops from its spacey opening using modulated sounds over the top of, (yes) the regular beat, that has a few twitching glitches combined with it. The warm bass on here and progressive percussive work makes this track shine and it is refreshingly different. The keyboard and synths that drop in also make this a more interesting listen.

The final few tracks move have a load more bass and this brings these out a great deal more. ‘Bad New Talent’ has a heavier, dub orientated bass line that syncs with the tight beat pattern while the swirling sounds around the main body of the track maintain a sense of depth. The bass and beat groove is solid making this an enjoyable track.  ‘Bhuuumbahdeeeet’ has a laid back reggae sample and fresh, bright sounding percussion. Altered Native is best when he is pushing himself and producing these more complex beat patterns, his attention to the timbre and variety of drums hits can be so good – like on this track – yet some of the less experimental tracks leave the listener wanting. ‘Future Drop’ is a very clean sounding track again; the percussion is smooth and rounded. It has some good structural development also. ‘You Cut Me (Out of My Life)’ has a lot of the best sounds on the album and reminds me of Flying Lotus’s latest release in some aspects. There are great bassy tones on here and a depth of sounds that include strings, jazz instruments and a variety of percussion that lends itself to the groove and feel of the track.

Overall, this has some good tracks but it equally has a fair few uninspired ones. Altered Native’s ability with techno approaches is better than his work using dub imot  so I hope he will play more to those strengths in the future. Also, the vocal samples could benefit from being toned down slightly. Yet, where it comes together on this record the product is great but the less ambitious songs make these feel a bit far between. Again though, this is subjectivity.

Tenement Yard Vol. 3 came out on October 3rd on Eye4Eye Recordings.

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