- Nathan Levenson is part of the Seattle crew Secondnature, who have put on parties with Abdulla Rashim and Varg, among other heady artists. Those Swedish producers are good reference points for Levenson's own material, which is techno so deep you can barely find the kick drum. My first brush with his Josef Gaard project was through a Technoist podcast on which he intuitively stitched together abstract techno. His productions are just as elaborate, and on Obsidian Falls, for the Portland label Blankstairs, he makes immaculate surround-sound techno that you could spend hours picking apart.
Opener "Perennials" layers graceful elements—drifting chords, pirouetting percussion—and lets them slowly roll in like a thick fog. Dub techno chords spread out over "Obsidian Falls" until the entire track is swallowed by delay effects, while "Fjord"'s epic melody unfurls in Matrix-style slow motion. Levenson's patient approach means that his tracks gradually swell to a climax instead of building in a traditional techno manner. They work just as well as sound-design pieces as they do club tracks.
"Elysea" is the strongest effort here. It falls into a bottomless breakdown—featuring what sounds like a sputtering railroad car—that goes on way too long for most DJs to consider playing it. When Levenson pulls the drums back in, it's like you've snapped out of a hypnotic state. Touches like that are what separate Levenson's atmospheric techno from the droves of producers peddling similar stuff. There are obvious antecedents for his style (particularly the Northern Electronics label), but he comes at a familiar sound from a new perspective and makes it sound totally fresh.
02. Obsidian Falls
05. Obsidian Falls (Archivist Remix)