Outputmessage: Nebulae

Talk about precocious. Given Bernard Emmanuel Farley Jr.'s recent status as grad student, one listen to his Outputmessage disc Nebulae starts one wondering whether the 22-year-old Virginian was enrolled in some Hogwarts-styled program. How else to account for the incredible sleight-of-hand that enables an album debut to sound like the work of an old master?

Following a shimmering overture (“Metal”), the album proper begins with the fulminating “Glintz,” the tune's wide-screen reverberance, buzzing bass lines, and driving breaks already establishing the spirited attack that distinguishes Outputmessage's tracks. Nebulae follows that with one jewel after another, like the buoyant skip of “Sommeil” (heard already on Ghostly's Idol Tryouts Volume 2) and sunkissed swing of “Approaching Skyline.” Ambient vignettes (“Window Breeze,” “Nouvelle Forme (Fin)”) and downtempo melancholia (“Snow”) offer becalmed contrast to the uptempo rush of longer pieces like the panoramic “Gleam.” The album's sweetest moment arrives when auroral synths stretch gloriously across the sky during the gently swaying “Bernard's Song (Melodic Mix).”

Nebulae satisfies on multiple levels: the pace never drags, as Farley Jr. never burdens the material with excessive complexity, and the tracks make their point succinctly and then step aside (the album weighs in at a svelte 37 minutes)—a remarkably accomplished debut.

July 2006