One of the dilemmas of house albums is the issue of track length: do you put the radio edits on the album, the extended versions, some middle-ground compromise, or mix your own tracks together?
Marquis Hawkes makes music squarely for the clubs, and the tracks on his second album The Marquis Of Hawkes are ready-made with DJ friendly intros and outros to prove it. This can make the pacing a little odd, though the tracks themselves are winners.
His brand of house music is minimal but tastefully so, as seen on Instrument Of Thought. Bongo grooves lay a solid foundation for bass and synths that vamp on one chord for the duration, but the track doesn’t lack interest because of subtle touches that Hawkes fills his productions with. Likewise, Hope In Our Hearts is relatively simple in structure but its chords evoke something powerful as they rise above the rhythm track’s acid burbles.
The record’s two vocal guests bring their distinct styles and add to their respective tracks, Ursula Rucker’s spoken word coalescing into a hook of sorts (“You just wanna let go of it, don’t you? / You just wanna dance, don’t you?”) and Jamie Lidell electrifying the piano stabs of We Should Be Free with his impassioned delivery.
Hawkes’ sound design is also very effective, evoking a garage-style thump on Tough Love and a more spacey, mellow atmosphere on The Matrix with seemingly effortless ease and a retro flair. A retro feeling continues onto album highlight Sunset as cerebral, pitch-shifted synths lead into an infectious groove and sultry, uncredited (sampled?) lyrics, approximating a vintage Masters At Work cut.
The Marquis Of Hawkes is a stylish release from a producer on the top of his game, highly recommended for fans of house music.