It’s refreshing when anyone in Dance music does something that genuinely stands out amongst the many many DJs and Producers out there. Jamie XX’s fantastic debut immediately comes to mind as well as the more club-ready songs of Jack U’s debut; both these records stand as some of the best Dance albums of the year so far based on the fact that in a genre so overly saturated with bland inanity they managed to retain some originality. Hudson Mohawke’s career so far has seen him making very intelligent and well-crafted club-bangers that also fit into this category, with all of his tracks being club-ready but highly endearing.
Hudson Mohawke has found himself lumped together with a scene filled with people who do everything they physically can to shift units, so naturally on his sophomore solo album he’s decided to take a different approach. Hudson Mohawke still has a knack for writing pop hooks when he needs them like on the track ‘Very First Breathe’ with Irfane, but ‘Lantern’ is a lot more ambitious and cinematic than any of his previous material. Many of the tracks deliberately go against the typical EDM formula like the especially grand ‘Kettles’ which has glittering chimes, horn pieces and a string section that lingers around slowly building to a crescendo, all completely percussionless.
Perhaps it’s because of his desire to go against the grain that when percussion does show up on nearly all of the other tracks they sound especially different in texture to so many other artists’ approach. The percussion is essentially the backbone to dance music and experimenting with the textures of bass and drums can lead to invigorating results. The problem is that when the cinematic atmosphere really kicks in halfway through the album with ‘Kettles’ the track that follows it, ‘Scud Books’ tries to continue this atmosphere but is overshadowed by the big thumping dull drum that persists throughout the track. This problem persists throughout most of the album with them sounding so overpowering in the mixing. Hudson Mohawke simultaneously proves he’s a talented producer–with the synths sounding gorgeous–but a lousy decision maker because this drum timbre shows up frequently.
The percussion itself can actually be quite entertaining when it wants to be like on the song ‘Lil Djembe’ which has a wide variety of drum beats that Hudson Mohawke is renowned for, but even that song is mixed so that the drums are overbearing and distracting. Ironically some of the songs where the drums aren’t so obnoxious are some of the least well written songs like ‘Warriors’ which has lyrics that sound like they’ve been written by a stroppy teenager on Tumblr complaining about haters. ‘Oh let us say a prayer, and put our middle fingers in the air, to all the haters like fuck ya’ll’ the guest singer Ruckazoid melodramatically sings uncharismatically. It sounds less like a triumphant track responding to negativity and more like a petty response from someone who thinks they have arch-enemies on the internet.
‘Lantern’ is a coherent Electronic album that’s unfortunately let down by some questionable decisions in the way the vocals are utilised and the way in which he sometimes suffocates his own compositions. Hudson Mohawke must be praised for genuinely trying to sound different in the way he approaches his music and every now and again it does click like on the song ‘Shadows’ which finds the balance between glitchy and genuinely danceable. But for a vast number of the tracks on here they’re hard to tackle because of the way they’re produced, especially when they accidentally find themselves revelling in Dance clichés in their vocal cuts.
Best Tracks: Lil Djembe, Very First Breath, Kettles