Review: Hudson Mohawke – Lantern
Polished, mature second album from Hudson Mohawke
Hudson Mohawke’s debut album, Butter, was made by an up-and-coming 23-year-old producer from Glasgow. As this follow-up, Lantern, arrives six years later, it's remarkable to reflect on the pace and scale of change in Ross Birchard's career. In the intervening years, he's released a handful of EPs for Warp, but it's his work with others – as one half of TNGHT, and as a producer for the likes of Kanye West and Drake – that has taken him to where he is now.
Lantern is, in parts, a gleaming reflection of his experience as a producer for rappers who mostly mingle behind thick rope cordons, and its tone in places is not dissimilar. The choruses are outsized; the synths squeal in ever-escalating registers; the drums land like boulders off a cliff. It's a big record, a monument to the physicality of Hudson Mohawke's music. His sound has certainly matured – there's much less of the fun, hyperactive funk of Butter here – but Lantern isn't without its pimples. Irfane's diabetes-inducing vocal on ‘Very First Breath’ isn't a good start; ‘Warriors’, a truculent ‘fuck the haters’ anthem, is the ill-advised rendering of a passive-aggressive Facebook status.
After a rocky start, Lantern improves considerably. Where Butter orbited a world that felt like a teenager's bedroom – R&B, funk, computer games, garish Photoshop gags – Lantern's touchstones are more adult. ‘Indian Steps’, featuring Antony Hegarty, fares surprisingly well as a tender love song, and Miguel's heartfelt vocal, stretched over ‘Deepspace'’s streaky organs and sparing drum track, proves that Birchard can do pop music well, and on his terms, too.
Some of Lantern's surest moments recall aspects of Birchard's solo work. Anthemic synths, helium vocals, and frenzied drops – two out of three of these appear on ‘System’, one of Lantern's brightest spots – are present, mostly in the album's middle and back-end sections. While Birchard's versatility isn't in doubt, Lantern shows the best of itself when it sidesteps the champagne bar for a more familiar space.
Lantern is released on Mon 15 Jun on Warp.