What’s first apparent about the four tracks on Mr. Fingers 2016 is how timeless they sound—that is, it’s impossible to pin down when Heard recorded them. The tapestry of disconnected rhythms and sparse, muted melodies in “Outer Acid” feels current for its sheer complexity, while the spoken word in “Qwazars” and modulated robo-voice in “Nodyahed” hint at vintage methods. “Aether” is a lavish deep house masterwork that would’ve been right at home around the turn of the century. Though billed as Mr. Fingers, 2016 sounds less connected to Heard’s oldest alias than Loosefingers, his eclectic house project responsible for a few records in the mid-’00s. The spacey groove in “Lamentation,” and how “Transmission X” flaunts acid notes and digital pads, points directly to the mindset here. But Loosefingers’ 2011 track “Winterflower” might be the closest precursor: from the austere piano chords, to the subtle syncopation and galactic FX, Heard is prepping the ground where this music would grow.
Classic Mr. Fingers themes centered on love and partying, whereas 2016 is fueled by the cosmic unknown and noirish tension. It’s a collection of thoughtful, lovingly crafted dance tracks, of course, but remember they were written by a man in his 50s, someone with more on his mind than dictating the vibe of an all-night warehouse rave. “Qwazars” works so well because of its inherent maturity and restraint. This is a record of the rich tones, elaborate arrangements and melodic depth synonymous with all of Heard’s music. 2016 is a flawless return not because Heard revamped an alias to say something new, but because no one else can say what he does with such eloquence.