Release Date: Jun 16, 2015
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Dance, Electronic, EDM
Six years separate Scottish producer Ross Birchard’s debut album under the name Hudson Mohawke from its follow up. That’s a long time, but, in fairness, Birchard has been busy. He has achieved the British dance producer’s commercial holy grail of cracking the US market. He has worked with Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Azealia Banks and Kanye West.
Having crafted beats for the latest and greatest in modern hip-hop, Hudson Mohawke seems to be the producer du jour. Drake, Pusha-T, John Legend and even Yeezy have called upon his services, and it’s no wonder why. HudMo is making some of the most progressive yet accessible beats out there at the moment, each track equally as suited to the dancefloors of fabric as they are to a night spent in with a pair of cheap Sennheisers and your laptop.
In the six years since Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke released his debut full-length, Butter, Mohawke's music has gone from a glitch-y, turntablist jitter to a euphoric, multi-coloured trap-hop pound and everywhere in between. On Lantern, Mohawke's long-anticipated followup, the Glaswegian producer eschews the bombast he's embraced these last few years for something more mature, songwriterly and, yes, restrained.Those moments of restraint, though few, are significant. "Indian Steps," a collaboration with Antony Hegarty, is subtly moving, evoking small celebratory sparklers in place of Mohawke's usual fireworks, but it's midway track "Kettles" that proves particularly special.
Over the last three years, Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke (born Ross Birchard) has made major headway infusing rap with new electronic textures both as one half of TNGHT with Canadian DJ Lunice and as a beatmaker in Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music stable. But he doesn’t seem to want to be defined by his hip-hop dabbling anymore. Mohawke said as much in conversation with Pitchfork this spring, where he was reticent to even utter the word "rap." And so the guiding principle for Mohawke's sophomore album, Lantern, is to showcase his versatility.
Ever since Hudson Mohawke dropped a cryptic teaser video for his sophomore LP several months ago, it’s become increasingly difficult to avoid the Scottish producer’s name, regardless of the genre you favor. Anticipation has been building since he burst onto the scene with 2012’s monstrous TNGHT EP, and it appears that fans of many genres, not just hip-hop and electronic music, have joined his realm. Like many artists, Hudson Mohawke isn’t keen on being pigeonholed.
Is there any musician yet to enter the mainstream consciousness that seems better suited for pop stardom in 2015 than Hudson Mohawke? While this question may be forever up in the air, one thing is for sure - if HudMo (real name: Ross Birchard) never does make it quite as big as it seems he can, it won’t be from lack of exposure. Between his work with electronic duo TNGHT and production credits for artists like Azealia Banks, Drake and Kanye West (the latter of whom used TNGHT’s R U Ready for an instantly-iconic sample in Blood On The Leaves), he’s shown an admirable ability to make his sensibility felt in whatever project he enters. And if Birchard’s friends in high places weren’t enough to catapult him to fame, it seems like this sensibility would.
Hip-hop producer Hudson Mohawke has blown up in the years since his debut album Butter, to the point that even those indirectly familiar with his work could glean the artist’s signature sounds from his long-awaited follow-up, Lantern. To that end, Mohawke has moved away from the busy, hyperactive approach that defined his early work for a more controlled, centralized sound. In contrast to the stuttering beat music of Butter, Lantern offers a much more cohesive album statement but also a far less challenging one, plainly evoking many of the conventions Mohawke skillfully chopped into with his first foray into the album format.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard my older material, but it’s quite different,” Hudson Mohawke said in an interview last year. For much of his career, it often seems like the London-via-Glasgow producer (born Ross Birchard) has defined himself by what he is not — which is a lot. The former turntablist born Ross Birchard has been inducted into the ranks of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D.
As anyone aware of Hudson Mohawke's activities between the release dates of Butter and Lantern could attest, the Glaswegian producer did not spend those six intervening years on the margins. Following Butter, his 2009 debut album, Mohawke magnified his profile with dozens of co-productions and remixes. Most noticeably, he contributed to Kanye West's "Mercy," "I Am a God," and "Blood on the Leaves," three of the most progressive tracks in early-2010s aboveground music.
For all the hubbub around his work, Ross Birchard's brilliance tends to come in intermittent flashes: the highlights of his spotty debut album, Butter, or the brief but powerful Satin Panthers. His big break really came with TNGHT, a collaborative project with Lunice that gave trap one of its definitive anthems ("Higher Ground") but pushed Birchard into an EDM corner he didn't like. Unsurprisingly, there are few EDM-friendly moments on Lantern.
With his credits on Yeezus and global huzzahs for TNGHT, his skull-crushing EDM tag team with Lunice, it's unsurprising that Scottish DJ Ross Birchard (a.k.a. Hudson Mohawke) has sidelined the goofy bedroom funk of 2009's solo Butter. His follow-up is an A-list beat scientist's version of Brian Eno's Another Green World. The monster beat shell games of "Scud Books" and "Portrait of Luci" show why his jams are a hip-hop gold standard.
Probably one of the most pop releases that the electronic label have been associated with in a while, Scottish beatsmith Hudson Mohawke’s second artist album on Warp resembles Giorgio Moroder’s effort this week: a hot producer’s compilation, featuring guest vocalists. How different this one is, though. Although Drake and Kanye, HudMo’s most high-profile clients, stay away, singers such as Antony Hegarty put nuance into tracks such as the burnished Indian Steps, while slick R&B crooner Miguel sings over Deepspace’s echoey rhythms and a surprise guitar histrionic.
Hyped for his work alongside Kanye West and hailed on the festival circuit through his involvement in TNGHT (with Lunice), Ross Birchard drops his third album as Hudson Mowhawke with a bludgeoning thud of expectation. Lantern is a pop album pitched as a personal batch of tracks for Birchard and his mates, which he will still “want to listen to in 10 years’ time.” That message carries a lot of sentiment and intrigue, particularly after flicking through the supposed influences for the record. These include a mind-bending live performance by Kuro Pipe and a short sketch from one of the most incredible British TV shows of the last 20 years.
Scottish producer-DJ Hudson Mohawke makes a vital artistic leap from his hyperactive 2009 solo debut, “Butter,” with his inventive, inviting new record. Where “Butter” sounded like he downloaded every idea in his brain into the music, this is more concentrated and immersive; the 13 intricately sculptured songs inform one another and cohere into a complete work. Showing Mohawke’s understanding of the importance of space, the music is alternately playful, exploratory, and at times orchestral.
With the imperialistic rise of electronic music, we live in a moment where the “producer’s album” has grown increasingly common. A behind-the-booth artist, performer or not, will dutifully compose tracks featuring turns from a parade of collaborators. Timbaland, Mark Ronson, Jamie xx – the list goes on and on. There’s something strangely classical about the idea – a composer who stakes their artistic vision on the cultivation of a singular aesthetic, rather than spotlight performance moments.
Yet another producer reacts against agg-bro EDM with an album designed to show off his emotional side. This time it's Scottish beatmaker Hudson Mohawke (aka Ross Birchard) who as one half of TNGHT unwittingly popularized a virulent strain of diarrhea-inducing EDM-trap music. Lantern is his second album but first since finding success in the hip-hop world, most notably as an inner member of Kanye West's creative circle.
Ross Birchard has produced for Kanye West, Drake and Lil Wayne in the past couple of years but he hasn't released a Hudson Mohawke LP of his own since 2009's Butter. Albums aren't exactly necessary to become a household name for your production though, and Hudson Mohawke has been getting along just fine, thanks to a sequence of production credits and assorted releases. These include a couple of fantastic EPs (Chimes and Satin Panthers), and more recently remixes for a few far-reaching names like festival trance outfit Above & Beyond, pop-folk whimsy Paolo Nutini, and Armand Van Helden & A-Trak's disco re-enactment affair, Duck Sauce.