Altered Natives - Tenement Yard Vol. 3

Available on: Eye4Eye Recordings LP

It’s ironic that the music of Altered Natives, which is entirely without cliché, lends itself to clichéd writing so well. At this point, if you’ve ever followed Danny Native on Twitter or Facebook, let alone met him, then it’s impossible to separate the music from the man. Like his records, Danny Native is outspoken, uncompromising, and does and says whatever the fuck he likes; sometimes it’s on point, sometimes it’s stupid. Music is an entirely necessary outlet for Native, and although there is an element of the diary or travelogue to his Tenement Yard releases – the liner notes-cum-suicide note bundled with this latest and final edition emphasises that all its tracks are inspired by real-life events – they feel more like a physical outlet than they do a form of writing.

When you think of dance music as a physical outlet, you might think of hardware, and a producer willingly submitting to the limitations, grooves and idiosyncrasies of their machines. Danny Native doesn’t do that: his music is, to my knowledge, mostly software and sample-based, and so there’s a curious contradiction to the Tenement Yard albums where Native feels both a slave to his need for this outlet, and completely in control of its results.

It’s not the only juxtaposition in Native’s music: as his Tenement Yard series has progressed, it’s become more overtly emotional in terms of the implied extra-musical content and relationship to Native’s personal life, but also more humourous. Tracks titled ‘In My Heart Forever (Stay Dead)’ and ‘You Cut Me (Out of my Life)’ rub shoulders with one titled ‘Bhuumbahcleeeet’, and another titled ‘Martyn’s Friend’ that samples Native saying “hey Martyn, say hi” as its hook (Martyn being the Dutch producer who released a past Native single on his 3024 label) and closes with a speech about why not to take on music as a full-time occupation.

Perhaps the strangest and most impressive juxtaposition about the Tenement Yard series though, is that for a series of albums seemingly written with little compromise or filter, each designed more as a snapshot of what’s come out of Native’s studio that year than a carefully-crafted Album with a Capital A, they are so damn consistent. This is why it’s easier to talk about the overall series than the individual records: it’s sometimes hard to distinguish them, let alone compare them. Tenement Yard Vol. 3 for me, however, might just edge out the others as his best.

From ‘Martyn’s Friend’, effectively a bubbling introduction, onwards, Natives hits a hot streak and barely lets up. ‘In my Heart’ pairs subtle, SAW-esque synth tones with trickling raindrop percussion, before ‘London Gods’ – a dedication to heroes of London’s underground dance music scene, past present and future – and ‘Be Nice’ turn up the heat and the distortion. After a venture into ‘I Feel Love’-esque filtered disco on ‘Natural Freak’, we meet ‘The Landlord’, probably the stand out track of Volume 3’s first half. It would make make a good sequel to Natives’ 2009 crossover single ‘Rass Out’ were it not so rhythmically weird.

The album’s second half isn’t quite the tour de force that its first is – if you were to cut a couple of tracks, it would definitely be from this part of the record – but adds new colours with the tweaked acid of ‘The K I S S’ and the toxic whirr of ‘Allwhere’, before closing on two of the best tracks from the entire Tenement series: first, ‘Future Hype’, a track that could almost be described as jump up were it not so swamped in tape saturation, and then the album’s staggering closer, ‘You Cut Me (Out of my Life)’. Natives’ music usually sounds instinctive, but ‘You Cut Me’ finds him striving to make something epic, with a gradual, carefully planned structure and build. The effects are spectacular: with faint, wilting effects in the background and a longing vocal from Lizzy B, it sounds like it’s been recorded in a planetarium, and ends the Tenement series on a memorable high.

4.5
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