- Nothing is Steve Goodman's first album without Stephen Samuel Gordon, AKA The Spaceape. The MC's baritone was a constant presence in Goodman's work, and arguably part of the fabric of dubstep itself. Gordon lost his battle with cancer late last year, and his absence is strongly felt on Nothing. Inspired by Goodman's recent obsession with zeroes, the album is the foundation for a new live project focusing on the Nøtel, an "evacuated, fully-automated luxury hotel" that exists in a "post-scarcity world." His performances will offer a tour of the Nøtel, whose corporate logo emblazons the album art. Its dryly futuristic aesthetics hint at the sounds within.
Compared to the enveloping dub of Memories Of The Future or Black Sun's springy funk, Nothing is more difficult to grasp. The tracks are spare and methodical. "Vacuum Packed" is like listening to Goodman make a tune in real time. A stiff piano sample repeats lifelessly for a few bars, before it gently builds into a footwork rhythm. By the end it's a banger, but you wouldn't expect that from the first 30 seconds. And as far as footwork goes, "Vacuum Packed" is opalescent, textural stuff with all the soul sucked out.
Soulless sheen is another defining element of Nothing. The powerful "Zero Work" centers around a vocal grunt that feels devoid of humanity, while "Holo" pairs ghostly choral pads with computer noises to make a robotic club track. It's all faceless and functional, which "Wu Wei" gets across directly—the title roughly translates to "non-doing," or "natural action without effect." At its most extreme moments, Nothing's music sounds designed for the post-human future Goodman imagines.
In spite of that, Nothing has its share of arresting tracks. The shiny melodies on "Mirage" are a thirst-quenching oasis amid the album's arid digital landscape, and Goodman's silvery synths—a trademark of his for years now—are brilliant as ever when they appear elsewhere. Spaceape appears on the brief "Third Ear Transmission," his voice flanged and filtered like it's coming from a different realm. "Respirator" and "Void" are two of the album's starkest tracks, but are affecting nonetheless. Frequently silent or reduced to mere skeletons, they force you to imagine how Spaceape's growls and groans might have filled the spaces. It's those moments when human emotion cracks through the album's fibreglass facade. "9 Drones" cuts up "9 Samurai," a Kode9 & The Spaceape classic. Even if it hadn't featured the MC, it feels like Goodman trying to make sense of his past via the emptiness of his present.
Closer "Nothing Lasts Forever" is nine minutes of silence meant as a eulogy to Gordon. It's an appropriate tribute to end an album like Nothing. Goodman's music, often calculated and experimental, has still communicated certain feelings, usually something like dread or panic. Nothing, too, is evocative in this way, its blankness aching with loss. The mechanistic form and function can feel totally lifeless, but there's a layer of mourning beneath the gleaming metal.
01. Zero Point Energy
05. Third Ear Transmission feat. The Spaceape
06. Zero Work
07. Vacuum Packed
08. Wu Wei
09. Casimir Effect
13. Nothing Lasts Forever