The pessimistic view of electronic music holds that it too often entails faceless pseudonyms crafting derivative, sterile “beats” with the assistance of prohibitively expensive software. Whether or not that ugly caricature holds completely true, there is certainly a kernel of truth in the repetitious nature of the legions of electronic music produced damn near everyday. And then there is the young, evasive, and unassuming Hudson Mohawke. Hudmo, as his fans refer reverently to him as, feeds his manic creativity through relatively simple software (Frootyloops) and somehow comes out with epic, densely layered, and glitch-ridden proclamations of pure digital joy. Butter, his debut album off the prestigious Warp Records shows a startling evolution in the fabric of Hudmo’s music. So startling, in fact, that any attempt to review the album is dependent on isolating the three stylistic identities connected by an interweaving eccentricity Hudmo seems to embrace at varying points in the album. From the top:
The Golden Child Disciple of J Dilla and Flying Lotus
Though his discography is rather thin, Hudmo’s status as the rising golden child of the UK Warp/LuckyMe/Wireblock community has long been established. He was Scottish DMC Champion and UK finalist at age fourteen, and the few EPs and compilations that have escaped his bedroom studio met with enormous critical acclaim. His Polyfolk Dance EP and his work with Mike Slott as Heralds of Change solidified his position as the heir apparent to Dilla’s legacy of chopped, distorted sample-based hip hop and Flying Lotus’ ongoing digital reconstruction of abstract hip hop production. At times listening to Butter, Hudmo seems to triumphantly achieve that “promised one” rhetoric, crafting furious, kinetic beats that tear forward through warped electronic melodies. Hudson bombards the tracks with layers of alternately polished and buzz saw synth lines, pushing them forward and gridding off their melodies with chopped vocal creations. Especially during the middle passage of “3.30,” “Trykk,” “Fruit Touch,” and “Zoooooom,” Hudmo seems to embrace and faithfully execute the dogma of turbo-charged glitch hop. At other times in the album, however, he seems bored by the limitations of the genre and transforms his vision into that of…
The R&B acid revisionist
At certain points throughout his career, Hudmo has expressed an infatuation with the potent pathos of contemporary R&B. His bootleg bass remix of Tweet’s jam “Ooops” is widely considered to be the song that directly preceded his signing to Warp. In interviews past, he has mentioned the looming possibility of joining Erykah Badu or Chris Brown in the studio someday soon. On Butter, his collaborations with vocalists Olivier Daysoul and Dam Funk stand in stark contrast to his other tracks; they operate under an entirely different aesthetic. Tracks like “Joy Fantastic,” “Tell Me What You Want From Me,” and the extraordinary break up song “I Just Decided” tweak the butter-smooth (no pun intended), nu-soul efforts of 80’s R&B classics like Belle Biv DeVoe by throwing their earnest hooks over enormously busy and glossy backing tracks. Hudmo’s effects work well enough with the flamboyance and vitality of his guest vocalists to give classic R&B a neon/day-glo facelift. Olivier Daysoul in particular comes off like Slick Rick’s New Jack twin in his star turns on “Joy Fantastic” and “I Just Decided.” The eclecticism of Hudmo’s surreal subjection of R&B to his own eccentric means is eclipsed only by his turns as…
The Triumphant Abstraction
Two of the tracks off Butter that attracted the greatest prerelease buzz were the massive cuts “Fuse” and “Rising 5,” neither of which fit neatly into the artistic modes of Hudmo described above. These two are the true gems of the album. Both songs seem to incorporate elements of live instrumentation jammed through powerful electronic filters in ways that amplify digitally yet preserve entirely their organic melody and vitality. They are too sprawling, too awe-inspiring to be considered hip hop; there is not an MC alive who could take on these massive constructions and make them his own. “Fuse” sounds as if some one took a triumphant yet tinny 8-bit synth line from an old Zelda game, remastered it a bajillion times and crafted a goddamn anthem out of it. Though Butter as an album is most likely stronger than the sum of its components, “Fuse” and “Rising 5” are its most exciting contributions. If these tracks are indicative of his newest assumed artistic identity, then we can expect exciting things in the future from Hudson Mohawke.
Though this cut isn't on the album Butter, it still ranks as one of Hudmo's most popular and innovative to date. Check out Hudson Mohawke's bass remix of Timbaland's beat for Tweet!Read Less ↑
Mike Slott's newest album Lucky 9teen, released off the tight knit LuckyMe label collective, is indicative of the ongoing evolution of the off-kilter hip hop sound originally pioneered by J Dilla and later made electronic by Flying Lotus. Slott's sudden, unexpected deviation from the hip hop-centric origins of the sound is part of what makes his newest work so fascinating. Though originally a devotee of the Dilla and DJ Premier school of purist hip hop production, Slott has been gradually incorporating more eclecticism into his mixes. Compared to his earlier hip hop production work as half of Heralds of Change with Hudson Mohawke, the new album Lucky 9teen has evolved past the head-knock rhythmics and structured, gratifying beats characteristic of the Brainfeeder/LuckyMe sound. Scene architects like Flying Lotus and Mary Anne Hobbs have called the album "lush," beautiful," and "deeply innovative." While the album is certainly a step beyond the constraining labels of hip hop production, it still contains more than enough hooks and rhythms to keep the listener engaged. It would be disingenuous to claim that Slott has totally evolved past the trappings of hip hop production; what he's really done is incorporated an unprecedented amount of feeling and pathos into his digital compositions. In that sense, Lucky 9teen isn't a new take on hip hop; rather, it's the creation of Digital Soul.
Though this track was left off the album, it's still indicative of the show you can expect from Mike Slott at the RBMA 2010 celebration this friday!