Matson on Music
Scottish DJ/producer Hudson Mohawke is fly, and so is "Butter"
Posted by Andrew Matson
In a previous post, I gawked at Scottish DJ/producer Hudson Mohawke's "Butter" album cover, which pictures raptors and iguanas like members of an '80s hair-metal band. It'll be findable in Stateside stores Tuesday, Oct. 26th, and is order-able from Warp.
Fun as Mr. Mohawke's chosen images are (see above), the real story about the 23-year-old Glaswegian's debut album is how he's taken American hiphop and blasted it into a million little pieces, glammed it up, swung it out, and hyperactivated it with the strength of infinity Red Bulls. "Butter" is a day-glo Frankenstein.
Possibly owing to the fact Hudson Mohawke (aka Ross Birchard) was a prodigy DJ, a UK DMC finalist at 15 going by "DJ Itchy," "Butter" has a particular mania to it, like Hudson Mohawke doesn't have ADHD, but ADHHHHHD. It's overlong but thrilling.
The album is built from some of the best modern American rap-production breakthroughs: the defiantly inorganic synth anthems of Swizz Beats, Timbaland's molten stutter-funk, and Just Blaze's screaming headbang-hop. Chipmunk soul shows up, too, a sound people probably either know from early-era Kanye West or old Chicago house music involving sped-up samples from old soul recordings.
The chipmunk soul on "Gluetooth" puts tinny, tiny samples way late on the beat (I believe they call it "wonky"), and takes hold of one's head like a slo-mo seizure.
"Butter"'s more straightforward instrumental hiphop is no less exciting. "No One Could Ever" jumps up and takes off fast into frantic drum programming and wailing chopped-up strings samples. It's chaotic, but one can imagine an adventurous rapper doing something amazing with it. "Butter" hits its hiphop high with "Fuse," the product of a synth melody that sounds like a Lamborghini on a straightaway, overdramatic chord changes, and a clap-clap beat that's Timabaland-esque but better than anything Timbaland's done in years.
Not everything on "Butter" is hiphop, and it's not all instrumental, either. A man named Olivier Daysoul sings fey-ed out André 3000/Fonzworh Bentley spazz-soul on a few tracks and that's fun to listen to, but not more than a few times. "Allhot" with female singer Nadsroic fares much better. She's a Scot, too, and a member of Hudson Mohawke's LuckyMe crew. The track's got snares, an echo-ey blip, and that's about it, instrument-wise. Everything's cleared out of the way for Nadsroic (no idea how to pronounce that) to express herself vocally. She pants, breathes, and does a kind of pointillism with her soprano, occasionally upsetting the precision and letting notes slide downward. It's creepy, a little, but hypnotic. ("Allhot" is also on her a solo EP with Hudson Mohawke, "Room Mist.") "Got a strange feeling / I can feel it in my bones," she sings. Indeed.
Early "Butter" reviews have popped up on blogs and the ever-influential Pitchfork. By and large, the blogs think it's the best thing ever and Pitchfork says it's inspired but overkill. They're both right.
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