Thursday, 19 November 2009

Hudson Mohawke – Butter [Warp]

The debut album from genre-skewing hip-hop producer Hudson Mohawke was always going to be a mad one. His first beat tape Hudson’s Heaters hinted at him being a madcap party starter that fused strange and sometimes goofy samples with hip-hop sensibilities to create something all together different. A vision of hip-hop that has a lineage with people like Madlib and J Dilla where the beats do the talking. But it’s more than just a look back at those producers things are being pushed forward. A slew of young artists are taking inspiration from all over the place whether it be the slick R&B of Brandy, Timberland and so many US chart hits or the hip-hop underground via the vibrant bass sounds of dubstep and the off-kilter smeared synth sounds of Skweee/Chip-tune or the LA/Glasgow beat scene. With all that and more in the pot a whole new dance sound is coming to the fore, one that’s been bubbling under for some time.

With Butter HudMo picks up where he left off with the Polyfolk Dance EP earlier in the year, that was full of colourful cartoon-like playful beats with so much energy it came on like a sugar rush. Butter takes the goofy cartoon style even further but manages to keep things the right side of cheesy/fun by setting it against some seriously well-crafted tracks with a shimmering, highly polished mutated party sound.

The hair-metal meets grimy hip-hop opener that flows into ‘Gluetooth’ with its bright and glitchy bounce and buzzing low-end bass funk getting things off to a rip roaring start and sets the tone for the more instrumental beat based tracks perfectly. He comes on like instrumental Outkast at their most insane and follows in the hip-hop tradition of silly skits with the lead into the supper sugary ‘Joy Fantastic’ with the vocal tones of Olivier Daysoul that gives a good performance on a track that straddles the fine line between cheese and brilliance. A trick that’s pulled off to better effect on the prince-like ‘Just Decided’, which might not be as insanely ear worm inducing but it hits the spot for me.

But where he really shines on Butter for my money is on the super shiney glitch addled instrumentals like the skippy chipmunk soul and synth funk of ‘3.30’ or the broken beat twisted horn action of ‘Trykk’ and the skipping high-hat funk of ‘Velvet Peel’. These tracks make you want to sing along even though they have no words, you can almost hear Andre 3000 letting rip without him actually being present and to me that’s more powerful than much of the vocal contributions on offer here, which do show potential and work a treat but get trumped by the power of the productions.

The beat boxing, bleeped out ‘ZOo00OOm’ is another highlight for sure the flowing bass drones and SNES bleeps come on like Timberland with an eye on the dance floor, its future funk at it’s best. ‘Rising 5’ pulls off a similar trick but comes off as a more laid back smooth groove, the twinkling soul vibes snapping drums and Rhodes keys give it a poppy Dre-era vibe, which brings us nicely onto: ‘Tell Me What You Want From Me’ with Lo-Fi-G-Funk maestro DâM-Funk which is a vocal highlight that meets somewhere between the pure computer game synth funk of his own productions and the glitchy soul of HudMo’s there is a sweet, smooth flow to it with a healthy air of cheese. Nadsroic’s contribution on ‘Allhot’ works well too she comes across like a robo-songstress over the big beats.

The track that was almost vocaled by R&B superstar Rihanna, ‘FUSE’ is brilliant you can only imagine what it could have been like with such a vocal on top, there is melody a plenty and so much slick shine. The charts need a bit more fun injected into them with a bit more freaky, interesting yet insanely addictive instantly enjoyable beats and going by this effort HudMo could well be the UK’s answer to the R&B super producers and deliver on that. It sure would cut through the vapid auto-pilot pop that comes off like background music for fashion show or the soulless/sexless teen-bop/auto-tune R&B imported form the US and imitated here by TV show contestants or people chasing the money sound all of which lacks so much funk and fun that its depressing or the coffee table indie anthems by numbers of so much more joyless chart fodder… I can dream can’t I? Sure keep it slick, fun and shallow with loads of up front pantomime and bring on the show but a little more twinkle in the beats a big more fun experimentation with personality would go a long way.

And that’s what he’s got, there is so much personality to Hudson Mohawke’s music its full of life, energy and humour; Butter is one of the most fun albums I’ve heard for a little while, sure it’s a bit goofy and fly’s all over the place skitting from idea to idea and back again but its all the better for the playful nature of it. The super shiny and bright production gives everything a brilliant glow that just demands attention and attention is what he’s got with rumours a plenty of him executive producing for big names such as Rihanna and Erykah Badu, which could be very exciting indeed. Butter is a solid debut album from an interesting, diverse producer with some serious potential that most importantly puts a smile on your face.

Play: Butter Star Galactica

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