If the name Nigel Mullaney doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because for a good portion of his career he’s worked behind the scenes. You may not have heard of his name, but more than likely you’ve heard his work via Netflix, DC, Marvel, AMC, Fox, HBO and the BBC. His work as an in-session programmer and remixer is sought by the best in the business, and Madonna, George Harrison and Peter Gabriel are just a few names he’s worked with. Mullaney is also an accomplished DJ, DJ-ing shows all over the country due to his work in the experimental breakbeat/electronica world.
But really, none of that means a thing until you hear his new album The Navigator.
I was first wowed by Mullaney on the now legendary Portals compilation(Behind The Sky) over the summer of 2020. “Kessel Run” was a dizzying, swirling electronic masterpiece. All sci-fi, dystopian bliss with the heft of the Komische masters that came before it. Well now Nigel Mullaney has dropped the future classic The Navigator with Behind The Sky. It’s a slow burn of heady synth and mind-expanding depth. “Kessel Run” was merely the jumping off point. We’re now in full-on deep dive.
The Navigator is all about widescreen sound and bigger-than-us mindfulness. As a whole it has the depth of Vangelis’ Blade Runner score, with the mind expansion of Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon. But the dark edges of those two classics aren’t present here. Instead Nigel Mullaney uses his arsenal of vintage, modular, and analog equipment to build us a circuital journey that feels like finding the earth after a deep, dark, journey through the galaxy. It feels like finding home after being lost for some time.
“Beyond The Map’s Edge” is a perfect opener for this journey. It radiates an energy, pulsing with the excitement of the unknown. Mullaney sets the tone here with this track’s optimism that there’s more out there beyond what the naked eye allows us to see. That’s the theme of The Navigator. “Paradise of Birds” shimmers in ethereal light, shedding the headiness of Berlin School for an almost New Age glow. The playfulness here pulls us into the world Mullaney is building, one song at a time. “A Shifting Sea” begins a turn into drones and long swaths of sound. A landscape of tone and bliss spread out over 6 minutes, detailing both light and dark.
The journey takes a turn into dissonance and decay with “Descent to the Underneath”. The song has a melancholy tone and minor key heaviness that seems to be covered in distortion and withered time. Mullaney twists and turns the song’s underlying melody and intent in electronic madness. We return to a touch of calm with the one-two punch of “Eternal Return” and “The Final Voyage”. The former feeling like watching the sun rise off some alien coast with Disasterpeace’s Fez score coming to mind, while the latter settling us back into that ethereal light we started out in. Our navigator, Nigel Mullaney, returning us to a place of peace and calm.
The journey of Nigel Mullaney’s The Navigator is one well worth taking. It’s a loose and mindful record, epic in scope and emotional heft. The Navigator will surprise you by where it takes you, and how deep you feel it.
8.5 out of 10
‘The Navigator’ is available now via Behind The Sky. Buy it here.