Distortion; if you want one word to sum up Hudson Mohawke’s second LP, it would be that.
Intro ‘Lantern’ starts with the sound of broken electronics, and a massive hoover-esque synth, and some heavily distorted whistling that serves to grate and make the listener uncomfortable, reminding you that he’s on Warp Records, and not just the guy who produces for Kanye West.
However, ‘Very First Breath’ is a straight up electro pop number, using huge kicks as almost all of the bass and overlapping synths that reach higher and higher, whilst a fairly unforgettable vocal from Irlane asking us to “bring us back to our very first breath”.
After scratching a soul record to death whilst slamming skittish snares over the top for ‘Ryderz’, HudMo again gets the guest vocalists (Ruckazoid & Devaeux) in for ‘Warriors’, but again the content of the lyrics seems disposable, “we don’t care cos love is what we’re fighting for”.
We return to the instrumentals for ‘Kettles’, which is a piece of incidental classical music, perhaps a pitch for a future film score, although he doesn’t forget to through in a bit of distortion on the brass section, giving the sound a much more scratchy edge than a real orchestra would provide.
The synth brass continues for the excellently named, and much missed, ‘Scud Books’, which returns to a more signature sound; high synths, lack of bass other than the drum, skittish sounds and lots of stuff going on.
‘Indian Steps’ gets a lot out of Antony Johnson’s croon, with stalky lyrics “I’m standing by, the side of your house, waiting and waiting, because I know you’re sleeping”, and lets the singer take centre stage for at least a minute before submerging his voice into the sound, then letting it up to breathe again, before submerging it again; the voice and the music battling each other for supremacy, before ending in a minute of cacophonic ground loop sounding harshness, as if to signify the music’s victory over the vocals.
‘Lil Djembe’ is just that, a little Djembe drum, which sounds as if it’s straight from Aphex Twin’s playbook; childish, creepy and fun, and marks the start of the second half of the album.
There are a couple more guest vocalists on the record, Miguel and Jhene Aiko, and the tracks that they sing on (‘Deepspace’ and ‘Resistance’ respectively) work better that the earlier vocal tracks, whereas the other instrumentals range from chiptune (‘Shadows’) to trance (‘System’), before ending on the totally unexpected stadium rock of ‘Brand New World’, which sounds like it just needs Van Halen telling you to jump to complete it.
It’s hard to know where you stand with Hudson Mohawke; he probably likes it that way.
Words: Stevie Williams