A graduate of 2011’s Red Bull Music Academy, Wroclaw-based electronic producer Naphta (real name Pawel Klimczak) dropped his debut album ‘7th Expedition’ on Polish label Transatlantyk in 2016, which saw him combining programmed rhythms and synthetic elements with instrumental contributions from a range of collaborators, resulting in a smooth and easy-going listen somewhere between downtempo, disco and house.
Two years on, as its title hints, this follow-up ‘Naphta and The Shamans’ sees him going for even more of a live band feel, enlisting a brace of instrumental players for a propulsive yet chilled out collection that sees house kickdrums rubbing shoulders with live percussion, folky guitar inflections and funk infused basslines.
Opening track ‘Dim Daybreak’ emerges into focus like a mirage as slow percussion rouses itself into life against what sounds like the rush of water, while feathery acoustic guitar textures unfurl against Jaq Merner’s wordless soul vocals, the addition of plucked bends adding a curiously Middle Eastern edge as a warm funk bassline locks into place against rolling hand percussion. While there’s a sparse 4/4 kickdrum powering the track at its heart, the sense of groove is more oriented towards laying back and nodding your head than anything else, with the emphasis falling on chill-out rather than physical interaction.
‘Thom’s Beach’ represents the closest thing to a fullhearted engagement with the dancefloor here, as rattling programmed percussion fills build into propulsive 4/4 house rhythms against bluesy guitar ripples, wheezing electric bass and eerie background ambience, but the emphasis is on breezy airiness more than any sense of visceral muscle even as bouncy bass drops emerge out of the woodwork towards the end.
Elsewhere, ‘Crystal Lizard’ gets more jazzy, offering up what’s easily one of this album’s most intriguing moments as elegant keyboard arrangements glide against snapping broken rhythms and warm-sounding bass grooves, while brooding background orchestration swells against rippling dub effects, before ‘Firelink Shrine’ takes things off on a vaguely dubby wander that sees delay-treated guitar echoes ebbing against rattling percussion, noodling analogue synths rattling percussion. As a suitably chilled way to spend your Saturday afternoon, ‘Naphta and The Shamans’ manages to hit the spot. Great cover art, too.