espite his supposedly prolific output, little of Outputmessage’s work has seen release, which isn’t surprising considering that the man behind the project—the unassuming Virginia Tech student Bernard Farley—has until recently been juggling a major in mathematics with a minor in Philosophy. An EP and a handful of remixes and singles for the ever wonderful Ghostly International—including entries on both of their essential Idol Tryouts compilations—have shown off the producer’s potential, but his debut LP, Nebulae, released earlier this summer, has followed through on the promise of those few releases. Clocking in at a svelte thirty-six minutes, the album’s quality is undeniable. Sequenced to perfection, each track flows logically into the next, with sumptuous ambient passages interspersed between intricately constructed electro-pop songs on par with the best that Morr Music has to offer.
Opening with a brief introductory overture of glistening ambience, the album quickly kicks into gear as an urgent backbeat is dropped behind rolling waves of synthesizer melody on “Glintz.” The song may border on the typical, but thanks to its driving tempo and urgency, it shows that despite Farley’s flirtations with IDM, he refuses to give in to the banalities of the cliché-ridden genre. After building to a cinematic climax, waves of delay and reverb collapse in on themselves to reveal one of the true standouts from Ghostly’s Idol Tryouts, Vol. 2, “Sommeil.” With its stately arpeggios and rolling breakbeats, the song is a triumph for both Outputmessage and electronic music in general. The wonderful “Bernard’s Song,” Farley’s contribution to the first Idol Tryouts, is also included here in a slightly revised form, offering yet another slice of truly classic electronica.
It’s almost a shame that cuts like these were favored for inclusion over new material. Most listeners will most likely have come to Nebulae having already been introduced to Outputmessage’s work via the Ghostly compilations; but, what’s more, they set the bar so high. Farley can’t be faulted for their inclusion, they are fantastic songs after all, but tracks like the plodding “Approaching Skyline” and regrettably Mission Impossible-esque “Gleame” stand out as particularly weak in comparison, even though they’re not bad songs, per se. Regardless, the rest of the new material showcased on the album backs up the quality of the Idol Tryouts tracks and keep Nebulae engaging.
As far as debut albums go, Nebulae is about as good as they come. Farley has crafted a succinct statement of purpose that not only manages to show up the work of his contemporaries, but also serves as one of the most enjoyably listenable electronic records to come along for quite some time.
Reviewed by: Carl Ritger
Reviewed on: 2006-09-13