Hyetal was already establishing himself as a recognised producer way before his 2011 debut, Broadcast, thanks to collaborations with Julio Bashmore (in Velour) and a joint release with Peverelist. Using a plethora of reference points such as dream pop and modern hip-hop production, his first album won him plenty of acclaim. Now signed to True Panther Sounds, his follow-up Modern Worship sees him retain the qualities that won him a legion of supporters whilst exploring new territory.
Modern Worship works both on dancefloors and at home through headphones and, despite its tendency to put analogue instrumentation high up in the mix, this feels like electronica that belongs in the present. Whilst there is no massive change of direction from his debut, there is a sense that he’s being more assertive and urgent than before. This is a more straightforward effort that doesn’t take long to get going – right from the off, the arpeggiated synth loop that dominates opener Forefathers grabs.
Despite its frenetic energy, the construction of all 12 tracks is meticulously calculated and well thought out (see the bare bones of Playing The Game, built on rather precise beats and hand claps). The bulk of the aesthetic remains the same throughout, but there are enough tweaks to the formula to keep things interesting that aren’t especially obvious on first listen. Both the reverb-laden and otherworldly 1000 Lights and Jam The Network employ great bass but in differing ways; the former sees it groan away in the background whilst the latter uses a more shuddering in-your-face tone that drives the track forward.
Synths crash like waves and dominate many of the LP’s high points, but there are also moments when the beats are allowed to shine, since they can have an equally satisfying impact. Take North By Northwest, one of a few tracks that have assistance from Gwillym Gold. Reminiscent of Animal Collective to boot, it’s driven by almost tribal percussion. The concluding moments are a bit more subdued; after a short ambient interlude called Cloud Bridge, Four Walls is a much-needed piece of serenity.
The album’s vibrancy is to be admired, and the balance of minimalism and expansive textures is expertly managed over the course of Modern Worship’s 47-minute running time. What’s more, despite the fact that his primary aim is to make people dance, it still sounds as if Hyetal is experimenting with ideas, which makes the fact that this is a cohesive album all the more impressive. This is exhilarating from start to finish, and it makes Hyetal stand out from what is an overcrowded market.