Perhaps its because it happened in front of our very eyes, but there are still moments when the ascension of Ross Birchard beggars belief. The formerly pudgy faced Scottish beat nerd has gone from making house party ready edits of RnB anthems in his bedroom to becoming a bonafide global superstar in just six short years. Now an affiliate of Kanye West’s, Birchard is more likely to be heard soundtracking Adidas’ Messi advert and headlining Central Park than in the booth at a club night – which makes this latest EP all the more special.
Pre-occupied with his and Lunice’s bombastic TNGHT project in recent times, ‘Chimes’ constitutes the first solo Hudson Mohawke EP in over three years. The period spent collaborating with the Canadian producer has clearly left a lasting impression on Birchard, with the title track banging as hard as anything the pair made together – thanks to a fearsome Trap indebted 808 and snare combo. There’s also the not-so-small matter of the planetary sized horn section, a touch that’s becoming something of a trademark for the Scotsman after his doom laden arrangement dominated TNGHT’s ‘Higher Ground’. Prefaced by a wide-eyed synth line, ‘Chimes’ is a classic case of pairing the rough with the smooth to create an anthem with edge. A logical selection for the latest Apple advert, this is maximalism of the most tasteful variety.
‘Brainwave’ follows, and provides two plus minutes of atmosphere – and little else in particular. That’s not to say it isn’t worthwhile – as ever the way Birchard approaches the construction of his track’s in unusual and engaging. Here he once again demonstrates his knack for finding the value in sounds others would deem too cheesy by wringing out drama of basic choral tones and droning them out across the track. A cutesy Acid tinged lead line and a short repeated bass purr add drama, but just as we feel on the edge of something epic, ‘Brainwave’ cools off into silence. Potentially of use in the hands of a smart DJ, this doesn’t hugely demand repeat listens.
A product of full blown musical excess, the ludicrously titled ‘King Kong Beaver’ is as close to marmite as Birchard has probably ever got. There’s an unbridled joy in the opening synth pattern that harks back to his ‘Hudson’s Heeters’ days, before some obnoxiously large kicks stampede into the foreground. Pads shimmer with almost blinding brightness at the drop before all the component parts career in and out of view in an impressive display of hyperactivity. Its big, shiny and as subtle as a herd of drunken elephants – but therein lies its beauty.
Rounding off the four tracker with a brash rework of the title track from Scottish Hardstyle vet Gammer very much confirms what the rest of the EP has already strongly alluded to: that Hudson Mohawke very much marches to the beat of his own drum. Now a certified A-lister, he’s stuck to the foibles and kinks of the sound that made him a star, and thankfully continues to make music that is as bold, unique and confounding as ever.
‘Chimes’ is out 29th September on Warp. Pre-order it here.