When I saw the list of artists' albums and songs that LA based multi-instrumentalist/producer and songwriter Nate Mercereau has contributed to I had to take his new release for a spin. He has worked with Jay-Z, Rhye, Leon Bridges, Lizzo and Shawn Mendes to name a few.
His new release, Joy Techniques was made without any keyboards, which would surprise the passive or uninformed listener, because it sounds very synth heavy. He instead relied on vintage Roland and Korg guitar synths. What's old is new and hip again! Blake Mills just released the experimental record Look using vintage Roland guitar synths that is a good listen so check that one out as well!
The vibes on Joy Techniques range from Tangerine Dream and Boards of Canada sounding bits to Radiohead-like moments to Pat Metheny/John Abercrombie synth adventures. Toss in some sprinkles reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's 70's classics, a handful of post-apocalyptic cinematic soundscape interludes, some glitchy and aggressive noise paired with frenetic drum and bass style drumming, and you have a sense of what this record is about. Thundercat, Wayne Krantz and Kamasi Washington are also likely on the guest list. Oh wait, early 70's Brian Eno is wondering if he can drop by!
This is not a one dimensional record. Sometimes I expect (and want) an electronic record's purpose to be for more passive listening, but this is not that record. That is not to say it lacks cohesion or a thoughtful story arc. It has both. Joy Techniques is a journey. The record tells a story. It has peaks and valleys and darkness and light. In the age of Tiktok and bite-sized singles tailor made and paired with video snippets for online consumption, this is sadly not a given. Mercereau and his cohorts have put some thought into actually selecting and sequencing a collection of songs that work together and have a narrative.
The record has a very NYC 55 bar coffeed-up sound to it at times and at others a blunt-worthy hazy west coast swagger. I would put it in the jazz column rather than an electronic music release, but to say it is a "jazz" record would only be to say that it is at times experimental and adventurous. It is obvious to me why the likes of Jay-Z and other well known artists have folks like Nate Mercereau in the mix when making a record. He is bringing the X-factor and envelope-pushing elements into the room.
Joy Techniques also features drummers Derek Taylor, Mitchell Wilcox and Aaron Steele, Josh Johnson and Terrace Martin on saxophone, Josh Lippi on bass, Shaina Evoniuk on violin, and Steve Wyreman on noise machine.
It was produced by Nate Mercereau and Ricky Reed, mixed by Nate Mercereau, and mastered by Michelle Mancini at Larabee Studios in Los Angeles. Joy Techniques is the first release on Mercereau's new How So Records, a partnership with Ricky Reed's Nice Life Recording Company.