Hudson Mohawke Satin Panthers [EP]

[Warp; 2011]

Styles: electronic, wonky, rave, hip-hop, IDM
Others: Flying Lotus, LuckyMe Collective

Satin Panthers is Hudson Mohawke’s third major outing for Warp, and in many respects, it’s also his most accomplished. It’s a tight little EP — five staggering, stuttering, often imperious dancefloor gems — and far more consistent than Butter, his debut full-length from 2009. Opener “Octan” is a masterpiece of a pricktease: all anticipation, no climax. And then, once “Thunder Bay” has kicked in with its surly rude-girl vocals, massive baile-inflected horn riff, and ravetastic synth break in the middle, our appetite for the rest of the record remains duly whetted. From the loping THC-addled bassline of “Cbat,” through the glossy-as-fuck “All Your Love,” to the frenetic marshal snares of closer “Thank You,” Satin Panthers is a quality piece of work from Glasgow’s much vaunted wunderkind.

But here’s the rub: It’s also less exuberant, less manic, less gleefully ADHD than some of HudMo’s previous efforts. Wasn’t it partly Butter’s sublime absurdity, after all — its absolutely tangible creative restlessness — that held so much appeal in the age of ‘blando’? The gameboytronica of “Gluetooth” juxtaposed immediately with that hilarious R&B collab with Olivier Daysoul on “Joy Fantastic”? The downright bizarreness of “Velvet Peel,” the musique concrète of “Star Crackout”? Even HudMo’s much-reported recent outing with Chris Brown (of all people!) had a certain zany appeal.

Satin Panthers, by contrast, is virtually ‘mature’ by those standards. And, at least in some respects, that’s a shame. It’s also ironic in a way because there’s more than a little of the ‘Retromanic’ about this record. It’s HudMo’s self-avowed attempt to do something with the music he was brought up on: which is to say 90s rave, happy hardcore, etc. We hear that on Satin Panthers in the surging synth lines of “Octan” and “Thunder Bay,” and, in particular, on the overtly dated piano riff on “All Your Love.” And it makes you wonder…

Isn’t there something strange about the fact that a record aimed squarely at the music of a person’s childhood can seem ‘mature’? Doesn’t it seem a little odd to be commending one of the most promising and innovative young producers to appear in the last couple of years for casting his ears backwards, rather than for pursuing the restlessly (post)modernist streak that caught our attention in the first place? To be fair, this is no mere pastiche or ‘period-work.’ And Hudson Mohawke has been pretty clear that he has no particular intention of pursuing this direction any further. That, I think, will turn out to be Satin Panther’s saving grace. It’s what’ll justify us thinking of it as an interesting and extremely well-crafted moment of critical self-reflection early-ish in a talented producer’s career rather than a worrying about-turn.

Links: Hudson Mohawke - Warp

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