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[Ninja Tune; 2013]

By ; January 23, 2013 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

New York producer, FaltyDL, is an entity in constant flux. Since landing on Ninja Tune in 2011 his productions have skewed toward classic strands of house, but before that he contributed to Planet Mu’s campaign to bring unwieldy London influenced sounds to the States culminating in 2011’s excellent 2-step, funky, and DnB indebted You Stand Uncertain. Still, Drew Lustman’s devoted himself to a jazz-leaning sound balancing consonant edges with a precise textural delicacy that’s tied all of his material together and on his newest full-length offering from Ninja Tune, Hardcourage, the approach is made only more complex and aggressive.

The tracks on Hardcourage remain in contant motion without ever qualifying as manic. Even on an uptempo track like “Uncea,” which spins itself around a chopped up melody and a squelching, soulful vocal sample, things are constantly shifting in and out focus while the track remains patient and steady. The album’s synths have hardened, rounded edges and there’s an influx of tinkling percussive, bell-like samples coating the tracks’ edges, but their surroundings remain soft and cool and calm. Tracks like “Stay I’m Changed” “She Sleeps” and “Kenny Rolls One” is where Hardcourage‘s sonic through line seems to be, letting squishy, swiping synth melodies tangle around subdued liquidated tendrils lurking beneath. The latter track is the the longest and most energetic on the record, letting a bouncy funk-jazz rhythm lead the way as some frozen keys hover in the background. “Re-Assimilate” is also worth mentioning as a possible album standout just for the beautiful choral sample that pools slowly around the track’s galloping drum loop and lazily squeaking synths.

But between its ten tracks, Hardcourage has some trouble keeping its energy and emotional pallet consistent and tangible. Some track’s lack a center to latch onto and it contributes to some memorability issues. There’s a tendency toward abstraction–much more so than past releases–which, next to tracks with a more solid ground to stand on, can cause a song to lose a little of its initial punch after it’s ended. “Bells,” for example, with its upper registered synth melody seems to find its way to the middle while other tracks like “For Karme,” which are still texturally interesting, don’t quite make it from point A to point B. There’s also cuts like “Finally Some Shit/The Rain Stopped,” which fall flat with only a single idea to subtly iterate on while the rest of the album is a alight with constant left turns and more overt structural shifts.

Hardcourage is an exceedingly worthwhile release from a producer that’s constantly pushing himself toward new things. FaltyDL seems like an artist whose progression comes from his own interests and instincts rather than trying to keep up with any outside going ons and with tracks like “Re-Assimilate” “Bells,” and “She Sleeps” (which features Friendly Fires’ Ed Macfarlane) his current position is especially compelling. We can bet the New Yorker’s next release will have distanced him from Hardcourage as much as Hardcourage has from his 2011 material and that whatever it is it’ll be worth waiting for.


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