A fervent community of Northeast American electronic producers has abandoned the hard-hitting, four-on-the-floor, bass-drop aesthetic that permeated techno and the like since the mid-’90s, American dubstep notwithstanding. It’s not necessarily a new trend, as producers like Oneohtrix Point Never have been creating challenging yet stylistically-grounded forms of electronic music since the end of the noughties, but it is one whose newfound audience is much more in the mainstream, as seen by the success of OPN’s R Plus Seven. In The Wild, the fourth full-length since 2009 by Drew Lustman, aka FaltyDL, passes through an incredibly diverse range of musical styles – from Chicago house to British downtempo – and, for the most part, it navigates them quite successfully, becoming a satisfactory if tiring addition to the scene.
Compared to last year’s Hardcourage, In The Wild is distinctly tenor-influenced and compositionally experimental, no doubt taking cues from Lustman’s Ninja Tune labelmates. Dos Gardenias is a triptastic journey through Illum Sphere cinema and Leatherette polyrhythmic hi-hats, with just plain pretty electric piano melodies. Both Do Me and Heart And Soul have a jungle backing that’s in line with previous club hit She Sleeps. Grief is subtle but not benign, trading in the percussive excitement of previous hits for old school glitch beats like those on Arthur Krieger’s Short Piece. Some Jazz Shit is a six minute mastery of electronic production, taking the listener to whatever cosmic dimension Lustman inhabits where the grass is digital and the girls are atypical.
Interludes are a fickle prospect in music production. Done well, as with the palette-cleansing Treefingers on Radiohead’s Kid A, they can be a pleasant transition between movements, which is especially necessary and effective within concept works. Five of In The Wild’s tracks are less than one hundred seconds long, and they feel haphazardly placed within the album, sounding more like incomplete ideas rather than singular statements. The J Dilla brevity succeeds on Greater Antilles Pt. 1, a pleasant trip through downtempo oscillations that primes the listener for the comparatively heavy Nine.
The 17-track, hour-plus run-time of In The Wild is, in a word, daunting. Longer albums always tread that dangerous line between brilliantly encompassing (like The Clash’s London Calling) and tedious (see Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV). Lustman traverses through a multitude of styles, all very beautiful, where even the most ill-conceived have some aspect of melodic pleasure. But the NYC-based producer offers too much at once for any of the individual song’s exceptionality to hit as effectively as they could, resulting in an aurally and emotionally exhausting listen at the expensive of some gorgeous beats.
This fact becomes especially apparent in songs like Frontin and In The Shit. Yeah, the former’s repeat of expletives (or at the very least, edited to sound so) is kind of funny the first time, but after almost three minutes it’s grating. In The Shit (no pun intended) just has too much going on, as if there were several ideas for interludes lying around and Lustman decided to throw them all into one.
If In The Wild were simply edited down to a more manageable track listing or some concept with the interludes were fleshed out, then it would be a vastly more enjoyable album. What’s given in the end is a slapdash work that had so many things going without enough points to stop and listen to the ambience. Whereas some electronic producers run with ideas for so long that they play themselves out, Lustman has the opposite problem: songs are cut down before they have a chance to fly. The ideas are there, it’s just time to see Lustman go for it. In The Wild has some super solid additions to any electronic music playlist – the singles mentioned previously are pretty damn hot – but exploring it front-to-back is simply too much to handle.