The credentials of Gobby are still unknown. He is perceived exclusively through the material he releases both individually and collaboratively, alongside a growing collection of YouTube videos and free EPs that are steadily accumulating under the repugnant moniker. Through this curious reflection emerges a portrait of our artist — some low-opacity android, a comic book villain, a blunted mutant from outer space — responsible for a catalogue of primed techno and unalloyed hip-hop that has resulted in great expectations; a grand start for this sporadic and unhinged beatsmith.
All these free releases accompanied Gobby’s work with Mykki Blanco in crafting the impression of an impulsive producer set to carve experimental hip-hop a new face. With that came additional acclaim riding on the back of his first official single, “New Hat,” and the delightfully wild Lantern EP. However, on this highly anticipated debut, our enigmatic Harlem-based libertine unpacks the atypical structures he adopted on his initial UNO NYC release and casts aside everything he has since achieved.
Chronology, then, is the deceitful allusion to Fashion Lady’s erratic trans-fetishism, where Gobby embarks on a holistic unveiling of his earlier work while booting out any progressive hip-hop strategy and his quite brilliant take on footwork. Those detours allowed him to explore a number of stylistic forms before reverting to the persuasions of his most acclaimed release to date. But Fashion Lady is a peculiar mistress; with her eye on succulent splices of classic techno and curious helpings of J-TEK, portions of her personality remain fine and favorable, while she can just as easily don the guise of some incessant nag, an anchor slung across that inventive edge we saw on Lantern.
“Rashe” begins with a mailbox greeting for Lieutenant John Pike, the disgraced UAC police officer infamous for his deplorable use of pepper spray at a University student protest. It’s one of the few vocal components on the album, and when juxtaposed with a reference to Krylon on the opening track, it indicates a feeling of upheaval, of antagonistic behavior, and a rallying against authority, either through spray paint vandalism or the misuse of personal contact details. These entrenched references work as a response to such themes through forceful repetition, but where “Krylon Surf Magix” uses coarse synths to create a bustling, urban feel, “Rashe” embodies a bloated and ruffled pump that pulls on aesthetics of long-form bangers that soon become disturbingly ceaseless and flabby.
In alternate beat bouts, where repetition maintains prominence as a commanding force, “Healing Factor” resembles some Reaktor preset pulled through a series of effects, which appear smooth and graceful in contrast to the harsher methods adopted on the surrounding tunes. The phasing techniques employed to morph the 4/4 mulch of “Healing Factor” are also optimized on “Slick Boi Gel,” where rugged drum arrangements cut in and out of the track’s deep and husky bass. Although these beats are imposing and quite often playful in their deliberate evasion of tact, they seldom reach the heights of ingenuity demonstrated on New Hat, the trigger that fired up the majority of Fashion Lady’s stylistic preferences. But when the music does excel, it really holds its own: “Lect Hom” presses a damaged synth pattern over flickering percussion that sounds equally as imaginative as anything on Lantern, while the album closer “Faculty” is a full-frontal surge that radiates sensational pulling power over the course of its 11 minutes.
Fashion Lady is a queer sidestep for Gobby. Even though he has a knack for creating astonishing techno and innovative rhythms, the results are often mixed, which makes the combined efforts here disappointing. However, there is enough promise lingering on this full-length to keep audiences poised for more of that “mad free shit.” My guess is that the LP permits Gobby to rework some older material for the sole purpose of dropping an album; it’s a territorial act that sees him priming listeners for more. But then again, when you are dealing with an artist as perplexing as Gobby, that guess remains just as good as anybody else’s.