Posted on June 15th, 2015 (3:00 pm) by Aaron Tremper

At the promising age of 15, Scottish producer Ross Birchard became the youngest finalist in the UK division of the Disco Mix Club World DJ Championship. Influenced by everything from his dad’s taste for the funk and soul broadcasts of Glasgow's Radio Clyde to his own explorations of jungle and hardcore, Birchard eventually left competitive turntablism behind for the creative challenges of production work.

After honing his studio skills and lifting the name “Hudson Mohawke” from a statue engraving, Birchard soon found himself signed to Warp Records in 2009. Following the release of his debut album, Butter, Hudson Mohawke’s electro/hip-hop style caught the attention of Kanye West, who featured Birchard on the the GOOD Music label compilation album, Cruel Summer and his own Yeezus. With its A-List R&B features and trap sensibilities, 2015’s Lantern successfully fuses Birchard’s electro-turntablism with a practiced ear for Top 40 Hip-Hop.

Unlike 2014’s Chimes EP, itself a magnificent sampling of aggressive, urban bangers, Lantern smooths out most of the jagged, hardcore edges that had previously placed Hudson Mohawke somewhere between Rustie's grime and the jungle terror of Wiwek. The resulting collection offers a softer palette of tracks, showcasing the 29-year old producer’s surgical precision in splicing various commercial genres together within one track. “Scud Books,” with its energetic mesh of symphonic brass and synthesizers, borrows extensively from the eponymous single of the aforementioned Chimes. The latter’s fierce atmosphere, however, is replaced with uplifting progressions accentuated by Birchard’s choice of timbres.

A more sinister Mohawke returns on other "genre-clashing" cuts, including “Lil Djembe,” an instrumental named after the Western African variety of drums pervading the track. With its infectious, yet haunting mood, “Lil Djembe” puts the meager attempts of Débruit's simultaneous release to shame, while the album’s most eclectic track, “Shadows,” invokes the experimental voicings of Japanese techno-pop producer Yasutaka Nakata. Nevertheless, the main focus of the album is R&B; whether it’s the contemporary groove of “Warrior” or vintage soul mash-ups reminiscent of Pretty Lights, Hudson Mohawke phones in some of the genre’s latest phenoms to humanize his productions. Indie R&B darling Jhené Aiko delivers the album's most commanding vocal performance on the spell-binding “Resistance,” with Miguel appearing on the somber “Deepspace.”

While Lantern may not reach the combative extremes of Chimes, Hudson Mohawke’s latest release showcases a disciplined producer whose tastes appeal to Top 40 enthusiasts and dedicated fans alike. Though the album rests its gaze primarily on the wide expanse of R&B, Lantern's most inspiring moments lie on the fringes of the record’s commercial appeal; the emotionally-charged instrumentals of the orchestral “Kettles” and the fantastic “System” stand as Hudson Mohawke’s most impressive recordings yet. Neither an experimental disaster nor a slice of cookie-cutter commercialism, Lantern is a perfect balance of mainstream appeal and studio wizardry.

Track List:

  1. Lantern
  2. Very First Breath (feat. Irfane)
  3. Ryderz
  4. Warriors (feat. Ruckazoid and Devaeux)
  5. Kettles
  6. Scud Books
  7. Indian Steps (feat. Antony Hegarty)
  8. Lil Djembe
  9. Deepspace (feat. Miguel)
  10. Shadows
  11. Resistance (feat. Jhené Aiko)
  12. Portrait of Luci
  13. System
  14. Brand New World
Hudson Mohawke - Lantern
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

83 / 100
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