Depending on who you ask, Daniel Martin-McCormick has been having kind of a great 2012. Dream On, his second LP as Ital, is his third this year. That includes the third full-length from mutant disco outfit Mi Ami, Decade, as well as Ital’s excellent Planet Mu debut, Hive Mind. The Los Angelesian has somehow made the full conversion from wailing post-hardcore noise-monger and guitarist of Black Eyes and Mi Ami fame to weirdo, attention-deficit dance producer. And Dream On only further cements McCormick’s identity shift, picking up from where Hive Mind left off and traveling deeper into the realm of warped, floor-abiding deep house and grouchy, unfurling techno.
This being his third record in less than twelve months, McCormick’s work ethic is sure to come into focus. Especially considering the questionable results of Decade. But it makes sense that it would only take nine months for another Ital album to be ready for shipment. The project and McCormick thrive on impulse. Hive Mind‘s stark contrast between ultra-rhythmic beats, atmospheric synth architecture, and a constant, incessant pummeling, chopping, and fucking-with of samples gave the record its power. McCormick was like a boxer with only one round to fight. No do-overs or birds-eye technique adjustments. Just forward momentum and instinct.
Surprisingly though, Dream On is the most fully realized and finished-sounding of McCormick’s three 2012 LPs. It’s less emotive and razors-edge than Hive Mind, but it’s denser, more complex, and more focused as a result (focused being a relative term). Most of the songs have an identifiable premeditated structure without completely eschewing McCormick’s penchant for sharp, unexpected course changes. And most of the track’s here dip into untethered techno territories (“Enrique” is nothing but). It clocks in at almost the exact same length as Hive Mind, but the tracks are shorter and more to the point and often feel briefer than their reported times (Decade was the opposite). McCormick still likes to juggle bony, atonal synths, stomping, repetitive percussion, and looped staccato vocal samples, but Dream On is conducted with a more precise hand.
Opener, “Despot” would have been right at home on Hive Mind, its thick, machine-wound synths like runny digital paint streaks weaving a vivid atomic web around a wrenching 4/4 and an echoing, percussive vocal sample, woody, indigenous percussion knocking around its edges. The track cycles through each minor detail, building in and out of dodges and lulls in a constant state of flux before hopping back on course again. “Boi” and “Enrique” burrow into more nocturnal areas. The former settles on a comfy, shadow-strewn bed of synths, its driving 130 BPM drum loop like clicking metallic slivers. The track’s rotating vocal sample becomes further and further unhinged while some acid keys linger around the track’s periphery. “Enrique” goes all the way dark, submerging an industrial throb beneath an ebbing black drone, machine-ghost voices, squawks of white noise, and an eerie, haunted hi-hat stutter peering into the foreground. Elsewhere, there are tracks like “Eat Shit” and “Housecappella,” which are tiny experimental interludes simliar to “Privacy Settings” from Hive Mind. “What A Mess” is true to its name, but better than it sounds. The track is a tangle of synths and voices, never really settling around any percussion.
Dream On is a worthy followup to Hive Mind and it reinforces McCormick occupies his own little island of leftfield dance music. It’s not just an inferior clone either. The record touches on new tonal and structural territories, however incremental, while maneuvering within the same basic framework laid out in Ital’s debut. It’s obvious the project is still in its birthing stage and McCormick is simply trying to stay ahead of a glut of new ideas, enough to warrant two full-lengths in the same year. With any luck we’ll be hearing from Ital again quite soon.