FaltyDL – ‘In The Wild’ (Ninja Tune)

Five years deep into his production career, Drew Lustman remains genuinely unpredictable. Regardless of the fact that he’s attached the FaltyDL name to four LP’s and countless EP’s and 12″s,  there’s always a degree of uncertainty as to the direction he’s going to take with each new release. Genre hopping with haphazard abandon for the majority of his career, his fourth disc  ‘In The Wild’ will do little to dissipate the air of musical enigma that surrounds him – and rightly so.

Last year’s ‘Hardcourage’ provided the most accessible body of work to be found in Lustman’s discography thus far – with its Friendly Fires featuring, dancefloor focused slickness showcasing an artist with the capacity for crossover success. Using that as a reference point, its hard not to come away from a first listen to ‘In The Wild’ and feel rather bemused. Opening track ‘Aqui Por Ligitat’ gets us underway with a minute and a half of bleary eyed tones, rich in beauty yet belied by a sinister undercurrent – a juxtaposition repeated numerous times throughout. Bleeding effortlessly into ‘New Haven’, Lustman introduces a loose rhythm punctuated by the kind of eerie flourishes that will be more than familiar to fans of Channel 4’s schizoid conspiracy thriller ‘Utopia’. Teetering on the precipice, ‘New Haven’ suddenly tails off into the tonal palette cleanse of ‘Uptight’, before once again approaching rhythm with the sparse and icy robo Juke of ‘Do Me’ –  a track who’s titular refrain sounds part come on, part cry for help.  So far, so disorientating.

These jerky tempo shifts might put the listener in a state of unease, but they also serve to create ‘In The Wild”s immersive sonic environment. Grandiose but never pretentious, Lustman has a knack of using unusual parts without ever alienating. The foreboding cello and pastoral flute of ‘Nine’ add depth bordering on the cinematic, whilst plucked Spanish guitars combine perfectly with lazer cutting synths on ‘Dos Gardenias’ to similarly epic effect. It’s when he succeeds with these startling juxtapositions, that you really have to question whether or not we could be listening to the work of anyone else.

Long known to be a musical Anglophile, there are residual elements of Lustman’s fascination with the Hardcore continuum to be found on the album – particularly on former single ‘Danger’. The most club ready track on the record, it doesn’t break from the ranks of its more prosaic peers, with its breaks sounding more akin to ‘New Forms’ era Roni Size that any kind of Reese powered tear out. Jungle breaks also crop up on ‘Heart and Soul’, although the twisted melancholic vocal stays true the album’s air of withered, haunting beauty. ‘Frontin’ also takes a trip to the higher reaches of the tempo spectrum, with some rapid fire bongos and pitched down Teklife-esque vox samples, but it’s chilly atmosphere keeps with the overall mood of the record.

The stylistic sprawl of ‘In The Wild’ might initially come across as overwhelming, although once you start to recognise the common thread woven through by Lustman’s deviously inventive musical mind it all starts to fall into place. Listened to as a whole, it constitutes one of the most profoundly interesting and affecting pieces of music released so far this year.

‘In The Wild’ is available to buy on vinyl and digital now here.

Christian Murphy

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