Album Reviews

Hudson Mohawke – Butter

(Warp) UK release date: 26 October 2009

Now that Jamie Lidell seems to be preoccupied with all things blue-eyed and soulful, there’s room on the Warp roster for someone who funks with a touch of the maverick.

Enter Ross Birchard, the man behind Hudson Mohawke, a one-man band who does extraordinary things with a synth. Mind you, to restrict him to one instrument seems ungenerous, as he also sorts out a sharply toned bass and large, cavernous drum fills, with the help of falsetto guest vocals and occasional snatches of helium-inflected cartoon voices.

There is something fantastical about this music, something not of this earth, as it hyperactively moves around like a butterfly trying to settle. The bold treble lines are restless, rarely stopping, while the sudden rush that comes from a clatter of drums that could have fallen down the stairs is effectively handled and somehow rarely overused.

Birchard is an artist clearly in debt to Prince, though he doesn’t overdo the influence. Also making their presence felt are Stevie Wonder and Outkast, though the music’s sheer unpredictability often takes Birchard off in his own more individual direction.

But there’s something else Hudson Mohawke has up his sleeve, a roving musical eye that means he just can’t sit still. Usher in a catchy riff and he’s all over it, pulling it to pieces, rushing it through the effects processor or developing it, the music responding like a shaken up can of ginger beer. Sometimes this is just too much, and the ear has to pull away a bit, but mostly it’s well judged

There is still time for thought here; with some moments of respite from the frantic riff ‘n’ fill. Acoustic Lady drifts in on a dreamy, Balearic haze, which makes the following big room funk of Rising 5 all the more effective. But most of the time the energy levels are high, the beats ricocheting around the stereo picture.

The euphoric vocals of Olivier Daysoul work particularly well with this music, and Joy Fantastic is definitely where it’s at for an affirmative pop record, the big rhythms and stabbing bass demanding a full scale wig out. Just Decided packs a similarly uplifting punch.

So Birchard has worked his influences in well with music of his own thinking to create something that’s instantly recognisable as his. If you’re in the wrong mood it can be a touch wearing by the end, but more often than not this is 21st century funk gone right.

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Hudson Mohawke – Butter