On “Miracle in Transit”, Naked Flames pendulates between 90s influences and the skittish nostalgia of 2022. The ensuing 50 minutes of euphoric dance music is limber, vibrant, and imaginative.
Ever since dance music collective Eldia hit the scene a couple of years ago, there’s been a light obsession with the textures and colourful culture of house, techno, and a pyramid of subgenres in the underground’s collective consciousness. Over the same few years Y2K has reclaimed its spot at the top of the fashion food chain, fuelled in equal measure by irony and nostalgia. A pantheon of artists bridge the gap between the underground space and the established but ever changing landscape of dance; dazegxd, cat mother, age, to name a few. One of the most imaginative is Naked Flames, a London-based producer whose digital presence is split between labels Plaster Fe, No Agreements, and Dismiss Yourself. His music goes far beyond throwing a 909 into a pre-existing beat or decorating a beat with rave leads; in fact his new album “Miracle in Transit” evidences just how far dance conventions can go in the hands of a firebrand.
From the jump “Miracle in Transit” seeks to prove Naked Flames’ devotion to sound and all its possibilities. “Pan Matsuri” opens the album with nostalgic ambient jazz, soon joined by a simple, groovy drum pattern. Small synths recur as echoey alarms before pads move in to thicken everything up. By the second minute “Pan Matsuri” is a pulsing arrangement of resonant chords and conscious percussion, with each layer rising and fading like tides to reveal the ones underneath. This surge-fall cycle is also the flow of the album overall – “Miracle” has a satisfying path, peaks of intensity and valleys of either build-up or ambience. The next track and lead single “Carrot Car” expedites the process, with staccato chords that bloom rapidly into acidic and kitschy organ house. Each twist of the filter on that acid bass is thoughtful and intentional, and as the melodies flourish in lush plastic synthesis those bass notes provide a necessary bounce. Rolling off of “Carrot Car”, “Visiting Corners” is a terse follow up even more defined by the TB-303 synthesiser’s raging acidity. Here the gloves are off. Of the record’s seven tracks this is the most serious; a burning, fast, entrancing tune flanked by stuttering arpeggios and shuffling hi-hats.
“Miracle in Transit” can be loosely cut into two halves, the first focused on energy and drive and charisma and the second devoted to the pensive fractions between each pulse of the kick drum. “Every Tree in England” opens the album’s second act with graceful ambience, growing into a dense flora of unprocessed electronics and washed-out reverberations. It has far more space than any other track on the record, sparse chambers of synth and guitar merging with bass interruptions. Across the whole of “Miracle” Naked Flames displays impressive malleability. He soothes the breakneck “Taking the Stairs” with calming pan flutes and muted organ tones, sublimating any harshness. On Naked Flames’ previous record “247 365” every song was blanketed in a lofi mask – “Taking the Stairs” in all its pristine glitter shows why ditching the murkiness for “Miracle” was an excellent choice.
“Miracle in Transit” is one of the most chromatic records of the year, an album replete with energy and movement worthy of its name. Naked Flames crafts an imaginative record swarming with exultant synths and hammering drums that set him apart as one of the genre’s most playful architects. The album ends with “Tennessee Transit”, a funky house banger full of fanfare and ascendant melodies. Every bit of celebration feels earned.
Listen to “Miracle in Transit” here.
– Jamie (Managing Editor @108MICS)