Back in 2008, Hudson Mohawke was a name that garnered a fair amount of anticipation through a single release on the now defunct Wireblock label (as a collab with the ever present LuckyMe), as the young Glaswegian’s edit of Tweet’s Timbaland-produced r’n’b hit ‘Ooops!’ became an instant anthem. Fast forward 3 years and Ross Birchard has released an astounding debut album on Warp records, a follow up EP of bone-crunchingly precise future rhythms, and is being leveled as a possible successor to Timbaland’s former position as pop’s go-to-guy for commercial yet credible success.
Returning to the shortened Hud Mo moniker for another collection of r’n’b updates, this time round Birchard takes on 5 more artists from across the Atlantic, as Janet Jackson, Jodeci, Keri Hilson, Aaliyah and Gucci Mane are lined-up for the Mohawke treatment, and the results are stellar.
Released on the newly-minted Pleasure Principle label (who’s website blurb remarks on the release “we thought it was so fresh, we’d start up a label for it”), the opening track sees Ms. Jackon’s 1986 hit of the same name re-imagined as a soaring, tempest-like rush of sky-high keys, layered hand-claps and an insistent synth 4 note melody, breaking into a running kick drum which sees the chorus vocal bringing on a euphoric display of straight up party anthemics, whilst managing to stand out from the body of sound sitting behind it in the mix.
In Jodeci’s ‘Freek’n You’, you have a track cherished by pretty much anyone who grew up in the nineties, meaning a remix can be a tender area to stray upon (MK’s original house edit being, until now, the finest effort to date). Yet Hud Mo takes on the task with aplomb, allowing the gospel nature of the vocal to transform into a full powered celebration of no holds barred ‘freakin’ that makes this the sort of shit that both you and your woman need immediately. Backed with that weighty brass-synth sound used so effectively on his recent ‘Thunder Bay’, plus a live drum track that only an actual sticks man could piece together, ‘Freek’ is an all out killer track that sounds like R Kelly’s live band if they were birthed in George Clinton’s Mothership.
Keri Hilson and Lil Wayne’s ‘Turnin’ Me On’, here appearing as ‘Turn Me Off’, may lack the immediate power of the tracks preceding it, but that ridiculously heavy live kick drum makes another appearance, sitting atop a swirling piano riff that’s soon enough replaced by a deadly sea of synth bass that, once mixed with Wayne’s vocal track, has you sold.
Meanwhile Gucci Mane’s ‘Party Animal’ is transformed from Dirty South low-riding nepotism to the sort of track that would actually soundtrack a party (as opposed to a drug deal), with the Georgia rappers drawl married to some seriously good time keys and stuttered drum programming to create the sort of atmosphere you’d imagine the man himself would want at his latest celebration of freedom.
The out-and-out star here is, fittingly, Aaliyah’s ‘Are You That Somebody’. Hud Mo goes all out in building one of the finest club tracks of the year, in which the sparse funk of Timbaland’s production becomes obsolete in the face of the futurist take on just what popular, mass market music should (or can) be capable of. Creeping verses, drenched in buzzing synths, liquid bass effects, clicking, intricately edited rhythms and stuttered hi-hats roll along with comfortable menace underneath Aaliyah’s vocal, before things get switched up for the heavy rave-like chorus, in which a barrage of stabbing warehouse synths oscillate around off beat cymbal work and the original backing vocal to create what may just be the remix of the year. Hudson Mohawke is That Somebody, and he’s rapidly devouring the future of pop.
‘Pleasure’ is out now on Pleasure Principle.