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Posted on May 26th, 2015 (2:00 pm) by Aaron Tremper

U.K.-based DJ Maya Jane Coles has perfected the art of the alias. When she isn’t performing house music under her birth name, she produces dubstep tracks under the stage name Nocturnal Sunshine, or joins Lena Cullen as one half of the dubtronica duo She Is Danger. The duo’s releases through Real Tone Records brought breakthrough success, with consistent charting and acknowledgements in DJ Mag, Mixmag, and Rolling Stone (which placed her at number 15 on their 2012 list, “25 DJ’s That Rule The World”). The sampling of her track, “What They Say,” in Nicki Minaj’s recent single, “Truffle Butter,” only solidified Coles status within the electronic community. For 2015’s Nocturnal Sunshine, Coles opts for a dubstep debut through her own label, I/AM/ME; those looking for the amped, manic, bro-step of Skrillex would do better in looking elsewhere.

Nocturnal Sunshine features subtle hints of the genre’s characteristic syncopated rhythms and sub-bass lines, but Coles’ tech-house and electronica experience reinforces much of the album's sound, almost overshadowing the project’s intended direction. The brunt wobble-bass featured in mixes as far back as dubstep pioneer DJ Hatcha’s collection is blatantly lacking, as is many of the drum & bass elements that influenced the genre’s sound. The opener, “Believe,” flirts with traditional dubstep in it’s softened, dancing bass kicks and low-key sub-bass. Once the gloomy chorus of featured singer Chelou appears, however, the listener gets an honest preview of the subdued album yet to come. By the time the following track, “It’s Alright,” moves in, we have entered the realm of deep house. The album constantly wavers between lukewarm dubstep (“Take Me There”), spacey 2-step garage (“Drive,” “Intergalactic”), progressive breaks (“Footsteps,”), and gentle tech-house (“Can’t Hide The Way I Feel,” “Skipper”).

The tracks “Footsteps” and “Skipper” prove not only album highlights, but also allude to Coles’ past musical dabblings. An ethereal percussive track, “Footsteps” merges springy synth delays with ominous vocal ad-libs and bass squelches into a bizarre yet enticing mixture. “Skipper,” meanwhile, is a “Footsteps (Pt. 2)," if you will. Skipper shares in the reverbed ad-libs, and delayed synth stabs of the former, but provides a more somber background with it’s sweeping FM synth bass. Relying on timbres rather than rhythm, both tracks reaffirm Coles’ extensive work in deep & tech house.

While Nocturnal Sunshine has been touted as a bass-driven dubstep release, an actual listen to the material suggests an album that sounds otherwise. True, the LP flashes a darker side to Coles' repertoire, but dubstep enthusiasts are bound to overlook many of the softer, yet calculated tracks that rely on the repetitious riffs of tech-house to round them out. Brief stabs of sub-bass hardly satisfy the hype on even the most dubbed-out tracks such as “Believe” and “Take Me There.” Nevertheless, the music itself stands as a pleasing, yet forgettable compilation of moody, tech-house-inspired tracks suited for lovers of subtle electronica, lounge, and IDM. Labeling Nocturnal Sunshine as a bonafide dubstep album or as an album expected from one of Rolling Stone’s exceptional DJs, however, seems a little much of a stretch.

Tracklist:

  1. Intro (Holding On)
  2. Believe (feat. Chelou)
  3. It’s Alright
  4. Take Me There
  5. Drive
  6. Footsteps
  7. Down By The River (feat. Catnapp)
  8. Bass Bin
  9. Can’t Hide The Way I Feel
  10. Intergalactic
  11. Skipper
  12. Hotel
Nocturnal Sunshine - Nocturnal Sunshine
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

58 / 100
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