Hip-hop maverick Hudson Mohawke‘s debut album Butter is the aural equivalent of stuffing a full packet of Jelly Tots into your mouth at once. It’s so full of artificial sweeteners and processed ingredients that fans of proper organic music (guitars and drums and stuff) will campaign to have it banned under an EU directive. While many of the current bright young electro things trawl a monochrome ’80s haunted by Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, HudMo has resurrected a sprawling fluorescent beast concocted from chunks of that decade’s non-biodegradable plastic pop detritus. It’s a shimmering kaleidoscope that kicks the door in with a shredding guitar solo on opener -Shower Melody’ and doesn’t let up over 18 tracks.
The 23-year-old Glasgow producer landed his dream job when Warp Records signed him in 2008 after a handful of dextrous mixes and J Dilla-style cut-up instrumentals. He released the Polyfolk Dance EP on Warp earlier this year, and even managed to put his stamp on the influential label’s 20th anniversary showcase compilation – seems the new kid on the block is here to stay.
On first listen, Butter can be a lurid assault on the senses – taking Max Tundra and Jackson & His Computer Band’s cut & paste aesthetic to tipping point. It’s all squiggly synths and stuttery drum patterns, with the treble turned up to a frequency that’ll keep canine fans happy. But after a few spins your brain has time to recalibrate and those sickly melodies become addictive. As the euphoric synthetic flute solo kicks in on -Fuse’, you’ll start to feel nostalgia for half-remembered European cartoons, while the faux-mystical synths and vocal samples on -Fruit Touch’ conjure up dark kids’ fantasies like Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. -Trykk’ sounds like a scrambled up ’80s TV ident you can’t quite place, and -Gluetooth’ goes the whole hog with a fantasy fiction skit featuring two kids in a ‘magical place… you can get there if you fall asleep with the mirror in your face’.
A former teen DMC mixing champ, Hudson inevitably lets his virtuosity get in the way of a good tune at times. -Black n Red’ starts off as a hyper cousin of -Rockit’-era Herbie Hancock before it collapses in on itself like an over-ambitious sonic Jenga tower. Even worse, -3.30′ and -No One Could Ever’ both go down the dreaded route of using sped-up chipmunk vocals. It’s not all jittery cut-up mania though. Falsetto vocalist Olivier Daysoul adds a dollop of Prince-style histrionics to the lush dream pop of -Joy Fantastic’ and some camp sheen to saccharine soul number -Just Decided’. Rising Stones Throw star Dam Funk also manages to tame Hudson, sprinkling G-funk dust all over -Tell Me What You Want From Me’ and -Allhot’.
The stand-out tracks lurk beneath the day-glo template. Slow burner -ZOo00OOm’ boasts a churning dubstep bassline and -Acoustic Lady’ sounds like Boards of Canada’s woozy take on a sci-fi soundtrack recovered from a warped video tape. The album’s biggest U-turn is the haunting -Star Crackout’, which loops folk standard -The Sun is Burning’ to create a scratchy mesh of harpsichord, glitchy rain effects and pagan hymns – as if Four Tet remixed the Wicker Man soundtrack. It’s a melancholy scattering of autumn leaves among the bright neon, a hazy comedown from the rest of the album’s excesses, and proof that it’s impossible to nail down Hudson Mohawke’s next sonic move.