It seems weirdly appropriate to be writing about an album entitled Hive Mind just as the BBC Sound of 2012 list instructs us all as to what we must like and make successful in 2012. Mercifully, title aside, Daniel Martin-McCormick’s approach to music making is anything but hive-minded. He has already made bafflingly brutal music under the name Sex Worker for the much lauded Not Not Fun label, as well as being a member of a ‘disco-punk’ band called Mi Ami. In fact, he actually has roots in Washington D.C.’s hardcore scene, perhaps about as far away from this music as it’s possible to get. As Ital, he makes gleefully subversive house music and has now joined the Planet Mu stable.
With just five tracks, three of them over 10 minutes in duration, Hive Mind is an album that makes little concession to accessibility or commercial concerns. It’s first and foremost a brilliant capturing of the virtues of rhythmic repetition, although Martin-McCormick uses this as a springboard for all manner of unpredictable sounds and interruptions. For the most part, Hive Mind is maximal rather than minimal – with a whole manner of ideas buzzing and flying around. Unlike much house music, the music here never quite gets comfortable.
Whilst Hive Mind may not be aiming for radio hits, it is not without a considerable sense of fun. The opening Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him) is a particular case in point – an electronic voice reiterating the title occasionally competing with a sample of Whitney Houston singing I Will Always Love You. The sample is used ingeniously, if probably not affectionately. The resulting sonic melee, all happening over and above a consistent, anchoring synth bass figure, is irresistible.
At just shy of four minutes, the warped musique concrete of Privacy Settings feels, at least in the context of the album as a whole, like a disorientating, unnerving interlude. It is the most consciously distant and detached moment here. Some will find it immersive and fascinating, others will find it distracting and perhaps slightly out of place.
The crux of Hive Mind comes in the form of Israel, Floridian Void and First Wave, the three long tracks that brilliantly showcase Martin-McCormick’s creativity and versatility. First Wave is perhaps the most immediate and accessible piece here, with a hint of the pastoral, melodic qualities of Four Tet. Yet extended over more than ten minutes, it takes on a life entirely of its own, with a pinch of classic Chicago House and plenty of ingenious manipulations. Israel is darker and more mysterious, unfolding in a decidedly unhurried fashion. If much of Hive Mind feels snappily edited and playful, Israel feels like the equivalent of a movie made from a small number of long tracking shots. Floridian Void feels almost overwhelming in its swathes of sustained sound. It veers far from the warmth and immediacy of First Wave into more unsettling and unpredictable territory.
Hive Mind is a concentrated, focused and exciting work that should bring Martin-McCormick and the Ital moniker to a wider audience. It’s a creative, intelligent and serious work that also has moments of considerable fun. It also displays an almost exhausting variety of ideas and approaches. Whatever move Martin-McCormick makes next will now be of real interest.