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Sunday
Nov152009

Hudson Mohawke - Butter

HUDSON MOHAWKE - BUTTER (Warp)

Within a small amount of time the nascent Glasgow scene that has seen talents such as Rustie, Jackmaster and the Wireblock label has emerged with a major talent. Ross Birchard aka Hudson Mohawke was already a DMC finalist at the sickeningly young age of 15, and 8 years later he’s now released a debut album that seeks to wriggle out of any definition that the media, still trying to place him, want to label the scene with.

“Butter” is more than anything, utterly irreverent. It’s a 18 song slalom through 50 minutes of pop-influenced experimentation and rhythmic sketches that puts him probably alongside Scott Herren in terms of the cut-up beats on show, but retains a youthful vigour that transcends the wilful excursions into complexity which dot the surface. What does it sound like? Well, think 8-bit dubstep, hiphop, jazz, Rephlex, and even smidgeons of italo thrown into a bucket and swirled around for, well about a year.  The ideas and musical sketches come thick and fast, but laid within each song are enough hooks for you to return, even if they are often buried in an avalanche of sonic debris. At times it does feel that the sheer range of themes and ideas threatens to lose one within a maelstrom of digital sinewaves, but Birchard does reprieve you from the scattergun rhythms that take up most of this album from time to time, most notably with “Acoustic Lady”, a 2 minute ambient reprieve that is perfectly placed around halfway through the album.

The album’s first proper track “Gluetooth” gives a great indicator as to the rest of proceedings, combining all sorts of aural excitement within the first 32 bars, but to his credit, Birchard arranges it in almost an insolent way, chucking in rhythms alongside digitally arrange swooshes of melody that come and go as quickly as they emerge. “Joy Fantastic” , featuring a fantastic contribution from vocalist Olivier Daysoul, is the sort of cerebral hiphop/dubstep hybrid that you thought could exist if it wasn’t for the somewhat introspective musings of most producers these days. It’s a genuinely exciting, noisy and amusing racket that contains as many hooks as all the deep house records put together you heard this year. “Fruit Touch” careers along like a jackhamer 8-bit track with the feeling that it will fall apart at any time, only to be coated with a gloriously rich melody, and just when you think matters are getting too abstract, he summons up a slick 2 minute funk anthem like “Tell me what you want from me” and the irresistible “FUSE”, which completes a strong triumvirate of fantastic unconventional pop songs. Elsewhere, many of the tracks are mostly instrumental efforts, but each have their own sonic character and signature, and there’s plenty of scope and range on offer. Against it, I can only say that it is a little detached at times, and that below the surface there’s not a great emotional range.

“Butter” then is arguably the finest album Warp themselves have released for a long time (apart from Autechre’s efforts) and a redemption for a label that many feel has lost its way in recent years. It also goes a very long way to solidifying Birchard as a talent of some considerable size and I suspect that his star will increase somewhat in 2010. For proof of something fantastic building in Glasgow, then this is it.

Toby Frith

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