Hudson Mohawke Sound + Vision
Published Jul 02, 2015Six years can go by quickly when you're as busy as Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke is.
Since releasing his Warp debut, Butter, in 2009, the musician born Ross Birchard has gone from glitch-y bedroom turntablist to in-demand hip-hop production superstar, eschewing the persnickety compositions of EPs like 2009's Polyfolk Dance for a more grandiose, neon-tinted trap sound that he established on 2011's Satin Panthers. In 2012, he perfected that sound as TNGHT, his collaboration with Montreal producer Lunice that laid the blueprint for the next few years of hip-hop. Their self-titled EP got HudMo signed to Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music team, and he spent the next few years producing for rap's biggest names: West, Pusha T, Lil Wayne, Drake.
You won't find any of them on his new album, Lantern, though. "It would be easy to put a bunch of A-list celebrity vocalists, rappers, whatever, on the record," offers Mohawke, "but it might actually take the focus away from the fact that it's my record."
The six years since Butter have made Mohawke eager to re-establish his sonic voice as a solo artist. "It was something that I wanted to release for a long time, but I couldn't find the time to actually sit down, say no to people and say, 'I have to finish my solo record.' It took me until the middle of last year to get to that point."
The result finds Mohawke exploring new, subtler sonic territory; while expectedly heavy-hitting bangers like "Scud Books," "Shadows," and the sky-reaching closer, "Brand New World" are sure to please fans of TNGHT, and of his recent Chimes EP, there's plenty here to suggest that Mohawke is branching out.
First single "Very First Breath," featuring singer Irfane, is his first bona fide pop tune; "Ryderz" is a slow-burner that toes the line between trap and soul; and "Indian Steps" swirls solemnly around Antony Hegarty's croon. All represent new territory for Mohawke, but it's "Kettles," a patient, whimsical symphonic piece comprised of flute trills, woodwind flutters and timpani rolls, and punctuated by Mohawke's trademark synth sparkles, that really speak to his growth as a musician — and he's excited to show it.
"I feel like a lot of people will have just become aware of me because of the TNGHT project, so I want to introduce those people to my wider musical taste — the more orchestral pieces and more soundtrack-y songs.
"The first record and the subsequent EPs have either been almost entirely instrumental and/or dance floor-focused; I wanted this to be a listening record, rather than a mosh pit record."
Mohawke is still as forward-looking as ever, though, and points to the multiple interpretations of "Ryderz" — Is it a hip-hop banger? A yearning soul ballad? — as proof.
"Certainly, it has the rap instrumental element, but you can interpret it in a number of ways, and I kind of like that fact. I wanted to make a record I knew I'd be happy with in ten years' time."