One of dance music’s true innovators, Leeds-based producer George Evelyn, aka Nightmares On Wax, virtually invented the smoky chill-out subgenre that became known as trip-hop. But as evident by N.O.W. Is The Time, a two-disc compilation released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of both his first album and the equally pioneering Warp label to which he’s signed, there has always been more to his talents than late-night grooves.
Indeed, those only familiar with his comedown fare may be slightly startled to hear the four cuts from A Word Of Science: The First & Final Chapter, the 1991 debut recorded with DJ Kevin Harper, which range from bouncy acid house (“Aftermath”) to skeletal Detroit techno (“Dextrous”), not to mention subsequent E.P. offerings such as the hands-in-the-air rave of “Set Me Free (Piano Dub)” and “I’m For Real.”
Elsewhere, N.O.W. Is The Time also includes forays into speaker-blasting 80s synth-pop (“(Man) Tha Journey)”), playful Afrobeat (“African Pirates”) and breezy acoustic hip-hop (“70s 80s”), while “Give Thx” and “I Am You (Live In Chicago)” are timeless soul numbers which appear to be inspired by the legendary Curtis Mayfield.
With tracks selected from each of his seven LPs, this 28-track collection proves that although Nightmares On Wax might not be considered as mind-bending as label mates Aphex Twin and Autechre, he’s far from a one-trick pony. But of course, there’s still plenty of his signature nocturnal tunes on display, with the sweetly-sung nu-soul of “Morse,” the seductive Latin funk of “Thinking of Omara” and the Quincy Jones-sampling “Les Nuits” providing the highlights.
Admittedly, only the title track, a cartoonish blend of squelchy sound effects, funky basslines and pounding piano hooks, stands out from the seven cuts chosen from his last two albums (2008’s thought so…, 2013’s Feelin’ Good), with the majority veering more towards meandering muzak territory.
But although Evelyn may need a rethink for the next Nightmares On Wax studio effort, N.O.W. Is The Time is an often intriguing and cleverly-compiled anthology which serves as a great introduction to an unsung hero.