Depending on your school of thought, being “Kanye’s secret weapon” is either fairly accusatory or a commendable accolade. In any case, it doesn’t seem to have creatively exhausted Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke. Sure, there are credits to his name that construct a vision of a mythic, sound-lab interloper, akin to most of Warp’s roster in fairness, but when we take a step back and observe his rounder back catalogue (thanks Discogs), Ross Birchard appears every bit the restless commander of the fluidity of style and genre. Lantern, Birchard’s second full-length effort, is transparent in portraying as much and does so with a bank of familiar components in a fresh, forward-looking manner.
So, let’s talk pop. And electronica. And R & B, albeit with a healthy nod to a futurist aesthetic. It’s all here and more and as such paints Birchard and his music in the most technicolour of hues. Flitting between non-formulaic electronica and staggered pop music seems an effortless pursuit within Lantern. The juxtaposition of tracks like album opener ‘Lantern’ and ‘Very First Breath’ ft. Irfane compound elements of of various generic tropes into composed sound vignettes, much to the producer’s credit. Rough and ready hip hop via Clams Casino is preceded by airy, crescendo laden synths. It should be said though, that this is one of Warp’s more progressive releases as of late. In fact, it could be argued that this one of their most progressive ever, given the complexity with which many, if not most, of their artists operate; more Jamie Lidell than Richard D. James.
Technical dexterity aside, this is a solid record and bears all of the hallmarks of a producer just having fun. ‘Ryderz’ and its soul-tinged sampling and foray into breakneck, staggered beats; ‘Kettles’ and the anthemic electronic brass section rising to a grandiose, regal melody that’s nuanced with twinkling xylophone; or 8-bit madness meets crunk-style beats on ‘Shadows’. ‘System’ ups the game in the same respect – maniacally tying up any loose ends of ill-fitting genre expeditions that have been heard before it.
The problem is it’s hard to determine where exactly this record fits. Headphones in the living room? The pulsating rhythms heard on the club dance-floor? Maybe, but maybe not. It’s at times too furious a mix to enjoy, but perhaps that’s where the significance is; there’s no bundling Hudson Mohawke into a box just yet and if that doesn’t garner interest for future releases, we’re not sure what will.