Daniel Martin-McCormick’s background is work within intensive genres with a tendency to overwhelm. Most recognizable with his mutant disco outfit Mi Ami and DC millennial post-hardcore group Black Eyes, McCormick’s house music moniker, Ital, arrived last year with a suite of 12″s on the newly-christened 100% Silk. McCormick’s past work casts a potentially interesting light on his Ital project. Producers with a background in sonic extremes converting to dance-infected composition certainly isn’t a new development in electronic music. Black Dice, Steve Hauschildt, and even more recently Pete Swanson have all made beats somewhat of a priority on recent outings. Charging ahead without any real knowledge or ties to dance music’s sordid history can potentially result in greatness like on Fuck Buttons’ 2009 masterful Tarot Sport, which did away with most recognizable or contemporary dance music reference points for pure sonic vision.
Ital doesn’t quite fit into that outsider mold though. McCormick has been reportedly making dance-inspired tracks since his days with Black Eyes and his more ambient-minded electro project, Sex Worker, isn’t at all adverse to pseudo-trance rhythms. I’m tempted to compare Ital to groups like Brooklyn house (or ‘hipster house’ as they’re often crassly referred) duo Blondes – who’ve always seemed more suited to twiddling knobs in dank, pulsing basements than staring at laptop screens overlooking a dance floor – in regard to their similarly impulsive or ‘live’ approach to sound manipulation. Yet Ital’s full-length debut, Hive Mind, offers a more arresting and intricate, at-home listening experience. Whereas many knob-twiddlers can get lost in their crowd pleasing (or crowd pulverizing) dynamics, McCormick commits to his 4/4 road map instead of leaving it behind. The approach reminds me of a little gem from last year, Moomin’s The Story About You, which, while being a stark example of deep house, prided itself and thrived on its devotion to human ‘error’.
Ital is not at all unlike McCormick’s work with Mi Ami or Black Eyes. Rhythm becomes more ceremonial than propulsive, letting everything surrounding it poke and jab untethered. Oily sun-tanned synths unconcernedly languish from the pounding kick and time-stretched samples are in constant threat of slowly giving way. While the pace locks early on, the tracks’ intangibles feel constantly messed-with without ever familiarizing themselves with a constant groove. McCormick’s presence is felt in almost all corners of each track right down to the off-kilter flourish of extraneous kick drum between Hive Mind‘s constant 4/4 gate. On “First Wave”, the mileage wrung from its two-measure sample feels borderline abusive. The reflective mixture of strings and chimes is chopped up, sped up, slowed down, rewound, staggered, warbled, pitched up and down multiple octaves, yanked through high and low pass filters, and on and on until it’s left mutilated and unrecognizable, spit from a giant set of unsatisfied teeth.
Despite any notion of production histrionics, Hive Mind remains somehow single-mindedly devoted to its primeval rhythms (or its confluence with jagged anti-rhythms). McCormick presents his stumbling 4/4 with a confrontational, almost challenging intensity as if daring the listener to dance. “Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him)” bucks along a spine-bending disco funk bass line while a diced insectoid vocal sample flits around the track out of step, taunting the drums to follow. “Israel” piles on the percussion until all we hear is a distant loping clang of ride cymbals and hand drums trapped in a snowballing din between the stereo field. “Floridian Void” is perhaps the most straightforward house cut, its bass pulse latching onto a primal singularity as its nebulas synths slowly devolve in beams of tangled starlight around throaty poly-rhythms like fingers drumming along a mahogany desk.
It’s a difficult balance to strike between emphasized syncopation and adversely combative, sputtering and glacial melody, but Hive Mind is confident in finding a throughway and becomes as much a joy to listen to for its toy-box experimentation as it is for its head-nodding immediacy. As Ital, McCormick doesn’t forsake house music’s familiarity through willful ignorance. Instead, he approaches the genre with a purpose in mind. One that skews the formula to McCormick’s own sensibilities and results in one of the strongest debuts of early 2012.