25-year-old producer Stuart Howard, aka Lapalux, has managed to build quite the expectant fan base ahead of the release of his debut album Nostalchic. It's little wonder, either; not for nothing does Brainfeeder label boss Flying Lotus decide to take a personal interest in a young artists' work, and nor do remixes for the likes of Bonobo and Lianne La Havas start presenting themselves unless a producer is really starting to catch the eye. No, the Essex-born Howard definitely has an ear that sets him above many of his peers already - something which began to surface on the When You're Gone and Some Other Time EPs - and Nostalchic is a culmination of the turbulent musical journey that the promising young electronic producer has been on up until now. It is potential realised.
Nostalchic is twelve tracks long, but in reality it consists of hundreds - if not thousands - of tiny, fleeting moments; moments which you might not hear on the first listen, or even the second or third. Howard's skill is based on an understanding of how the minutiae of these sounds work and how they can be used to create a deep sense of mood and, more importantly, emotion. On the beat-driven 'Swallowing Smoke', a single vocal line of "We lost it all" is enough - alongside woozy synths and space-age electronics - to convey a scene that is genuinely moving. Elsewhere 'One Thing', which features the rising Jenna Andrews on vocals, is completely enveloping, combining punch-drunk synths and Andrew's soulful vocals to create a track that sits somewhere on the fringes of modern R&B.
And yet, despite Nostalchic's successes when it comes to the tiny, understated episodes within - two of its strongest moments are when Howard keeps it punchy and simple - first on the brilliant glitch-hop stomp of 'Guuurl', which is hands down Nostalchic's most dancefloor-friendly moment - and second on the drugged out jam of 'Without You'. Both revolve around pretty straightforward vocal themes, too - "I wanna make love to you, ain't nothing else I wanna do" on the former, while Kerry Leatham delivers the knockout "I didn't want you to leave me" on the latter, which is as hypnotic as its counterpart is catchy.
Howard admitted recently in an interview with the 405 that a lot of his songs "... seem to have sixty-odd tracks going on inside them." That might be a slight exaggeration, (or perhaps an artist not giving himself enough credit for keeping so many influences in check) but it is true that Nostalchic does find itself meandering in brief parts. Then again, such minor pitfalls are to be expected from an artist that draws from such a wide range of sources, and who places such a great deal of emphasis on the tiniest details within tracks.
When speaking about Nostalchic, Howard went on, "I just hope that people actually sit down and listen to it a few times and pick up the little details instead of it being something that you stick on, forget about, and have it going on in the background. It's a stick on your headphones, actually think about what's going on sort of album." After repeated listens of Nostalchic, it's impossible not to agree.