This Ain’t No Easy Listening: Hudson Mohawke “Chimes EP”

Kyle Ellison is on that Bronx smooth ish Kanye is known for having a receptive ear, but it’s fair to say that Hudson Mohawke’s road to G.O.O.D. Music would have been rockier had it not been...
By    October 9, 2014


Kyle Ellison is on that Bronx smooth ish

Kanye is known for having a receptive ear, but it’s fair to say that Hudson Mohawke’s road to G.O.O.D. Music would have been rockier had it not been for TNGHT. The two producers share some DNA – or rather HudMo grew up on West and Just Blaze, threading their glossy styles through a patchwork of influences closer to home; drum & bass, prog rock and happy hardcore to name just three. Hip hop was always there or thereabouts, particularly in the weight of his drums that thumped so emphatically through the system that they actually hurt. On record, though, Mohawke was a specialist in sonic collage.

By contrast, his collaborations with Lunice as TNGHT have been about refining a sound and, to an extent, riding a zeitgeist – not coincidentally two of Kanye’s trademarks. If you’ve seen them perform, then you’ll know better than to question the duo’s genuine enthusiasm for quote-unquote Real Trap Shit. Lunice especially sells Lex Luger and 808 Mafia beats almost as convincingly as Waka Flocka, bouncing around the stage with the same zeal Macaulay Culkin did his parents’ house before Joe Pesci turned up. That was supposed to be it for TNGHT – the fun side-project they took to festivals – but its popularity has had unexpected consequences. For Mohawke, it’s resulted in a multiplying of opportunities, but also the narrowing of his vision.

New Warp EP Chimes does nothing to expand his horizons. Its title track might as well be a TNGHT song, complete with ‘R U Ready’ horns, Officer Ricky grunts and the usual trap bass peaks. Not to mention the fact it’s been kicking about in TNGHT sets since 2012. ‘Brainwave’ is a pretty enough interlude, but it’s basically unwelcome as part of a 4-song set – particularly when one of those songs is a ‘Chimes’ rework that adds next-to-nothing. The remaining song, ‘King Kong Beaver’, is the best of the bunch if only for its more imaginative drum patterns, but even those look tame when put side-by-side with Butter’s best bits; an album that still sounds like the future five years later.

Looking at it now, that period in the late 00s was a good time to be around the fringes of hip hop production. Before producing for Danny Brown, Rustie was making squelchy hybrids of dubstep and grime that would soon blossom into the vivid hypercolour of Glass Swords. Flying Lotus made the revelatory Los Angeles, which would form the basis for Brainfeeder, the beat scene and beyond. Meanwhile, Odd Future was brewing a sound so obnoxious that Tyler & Co. were able to smuggle in through the back door to rap stardom. All of these guys have been tipped to play influential roles in hip hop’s future, but their integration is more exciting in the abstract than in reality. Idiosyncrasy thrives on the peripheries, but the closer in you get the harder it is to retain.

With the exception of FlyLo – who returns on this month’s You’re Dead! – these rap futurists have all hit a creative plateau. For Rustie it was a case of maturing too fast on Green Language, when it was precisely his immaturity that initially drew us to the Glaswegian. Odd Future stopped scaring people and opened a sock factory, re-treading Neptunes beats and forgetting to write hooks somewhere along the way. Now returns Hudson Mohawke, whose latest solo work finds him not just standing still, but sadly regressing since his last stop-gap EP; 2011’s Satin Panthers. With any luck Chimes is HudMo’s way of clearing out the vaults before he makes like Marty McFly.

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