Hudson Mohawke Lantern

[Warp; 2015]

Rating: 1/5

Styles: electronic music, “rooftop party playlists”
Others: Hot Chip, TNGHT, Disclosure

Hyped for his work alongside Kanye West and hailed on the festival circuit through his involvement in TNGHT (with Lunice), Ross Birchard drops his third album as Hudson Mowhawke with a bludgeoning thud of expectation. Lantern is a pop album pitched as a personal batch of tracks for Birchard and his mates, which he will still “want to listen to in 10 years’ time.” That message carries a lot of sentiment and intrigue, particularly after flicking through the supposed influences for the record. These include a mind-bending live performance by Kuro Pipe and a short sketch from one of the most incredible British TV shows of the last 20 years. Hudson has a lot riding on this, and although there are few doubts that Lantern will do well commercially (with the Brit Awards and maybe even a Mercury Prize in sight), there remains a troublesome gripe. For all its anticipation and self-assuredness, Lantern is a bad album.

The joint force of this record amounts to little more than a whimpering collapse. It’s painful to endure as a consequence of its crowd-pleasing whims and a disappointment to anyone who enjoyed the off-kilter trappings of his earlier work. The main offender here comes just a few tracks in, and it emphasizes the overall vibe of the record in a way that just about induces a sickly wince (the strongest emotional response I can muster toward these songs). “Warriors” almost seems to mock the TNGHT fan base by hinting at a collective unity for those propping up barriers at the V Festival main stage: “We might lose the battle but we win the war/ And we don’t care ‘cause love is what we’re fighting for/ So fuck what they say/ ‘Cause we are the warriors.” The track is an unapologetic wreck, exuding an attitude that has about as much appeal as a cat-food smoothie.

That the track is surrounded by mediocre instrumentals and uninteresting segues doesn’t relieve the stench either. “Kettles” is an aimless meander of sparkly effects and orchestral buildups that mostly serve to distract us from the album’s weak guest spots (Antony — why?). “Shadows” is a drifting skirmish into big-beat territory that dabbles with some interesting aesthetics (muffled beats, glitch, and feedback), but that ultimately pitters away into the gaumless nothing from which it came. Although there are some tracks that show Birchard flexing his production muscle, most of them are pretty safe. “Ryderz” might be an exception to that, as a tribute to D.J. Rogers and a topless flaunt exposing a faint shade of soul through the reams of perfectly groomed chest hair, but it doesn’t last long.

For all its lackluster, there are a handful of tracks that spark interest. “Very First Breath,” “Scud Books,” and “System” are all fun, perky jams that play on pop, trap, and abstract dance themes. Birchard spoke with The Guardian about how he wanted to make these tunes feel alive and avoid composing on his laptop, and of all the music on here, these three demonstrate that mentality best. “Very First Breath” is a feel-good banger with a catchy melody and a dancefloor-ready trample, taking the simplistic melody initiative from “Scud Books” a tad further with its inclusion of Irfane’s vocals and adding a much-needed edge to the record. “System” veers away from that, mirroring a Gobby-like trajectory with its percussive experimentation.

Unfortunately, these tracks don’t save the album. There is no doubt that HudMo is able to draw a crowd and get the dancefloor writhing. He has an excellent ear for crafting the right bass line and maximizing his often untamed percussive arsenal. But by avoiding the harsher, noisier, and experimental textures that made tracks like “Star Crackout” and “Jelly N Jam” turn heads a couple of years back, Lantern comes off like Birchard wallowing in an uncharacteristic and blissful tedium.

Links: Hudson Mohawke - Warp

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