Nat Walker (Ex-Chromatics) Gets ‘Physical’ on New EP

Nat Walker is a multi-instrumentalist, known predominantly for drumming for the disbanded Chromatics, in addition to contributing various parts to that group’s erstwhile labelmates Desire and Symmetry. It’s been two years since Walker, Adam Miller, and Ruth Radelet announced the end of Chromatics and left the Italians Do It Better fold generally. And since that time, the LA-based Walker’s been busy with a few new chapters in his musical career. His latest release, the instrumental Physical Culture EP, released a few weeks ago, showcases one lane of his strengths: Extracting big emotion, a broad color palette, and memorable hooks from rather minimalist arrangements.

Walker’s first solo EP works like a beat-driven mood piece and succeeds quite well. The eight cuts over 13 minutes are brimful of the hazy serenity of vaporwave, ambient electronic music, and lo-fi hip-hop, drenched in the intricate artistry of synth-laden film score cues.

There is a genetically cinematic quality to the tracks, which unweave like low-key cues themes for a small-scale, late-night film somewhere in the late 1980s and early 1990s. You know the kind: You’re still awake long after everyone else is asleep and you’re not entirely sure what the movie’s about, but you’re intrigued. The music’s mood rides the boundary between a kind of isolated contemplation and relaxing with a purpose. The cathode ray tubes of your ancient TV unleashing a warm, bluish light that serves as the sole illumination for the room. If not for this entertainment, what else would there even be to do?

Opening number “Late Night Lineup” kicks off the EP with a quick, galactic blast to clear out our headspace before giving way to the hypnotic meditations of “Broken Aerobics.” The cut unwinds like a stretched exercise VHS tape losing its grip, the VCR unable to present the kinesthetic speed you need to break a sweat.

“Airbrush” is a warm synth palette with a splash of yearning fuzz on top and a jagged drum-machine strut beneath. A cathartic choir and poignant ambient soundscapes dominate “Summer Storm,” a cut with a swinging pulsation.

“Sandstone” is a spectral contemplation with front-and-center electronics that swirl around over a rhythm section located somewhere in the deepest recesses of your psyche. The bass-driven “Frame Dominant” is a pocket symphony for the lo-fi trip-hop set, with gorgeous brassy synths that ebb and flow with aquatic resonance.

“Star Touch” flows like a breezy ride down the Pacific Coast Highway in California — synths sparkle with celestial lighting over sonics that purr with the steady hum of a car engine. The closer, “Valley Lights,” is a minor-key piece with a confident momentum and a dreamy synth melody straight out of Blade Runner.

Overall, despite the EPs quick hits to your brain, its elements linger much longer than its 13-minute runtime. Furthermore, as we’ve seen with his work with former Glass Candy singer Ida No in their Fawn band, Walker’s musical talent contributed much more to the success of Italians Do It Better’s previous era than any music journalist gave him credit for.

nat walker photo by Ida No
Nat Walker. Photo by Ida No.

Physical Culture is available on all of your favorite streaming platforms and Bandcamp.

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