Brrd’s Towers/Anointing is the inaugural release from Blueberry Recordings, the new label from FaltyDL. The label has been trailed for some months, and Drew Lustman had announced that the catalogue would be opening with the Denver producer’s record, but relatively little is known about Brrd. He produced a song on the Lord Byron tape, which suggested a love of jazz-tinged hip-hop in a classic vein – but on Towers/Anointing he announces himself as a much more interesting prospect that that track might indicate.
It seems almost impossible to go through seven days without the arrival of another Danny Wolfers track at the moment, and true to form, another 12″ arrived from the producer this week on Unknown To The Unknown.
There’s always an air of uncertainty that hovers around a fresh Falty DL release before you set it off and submit your ears to it. Drew Lustman has adopted a chameleonic trajectory since first emerging just five years ago in the midst of a dubstep scene he didn’t really fit in with. More than anything his output has always seemed indebted to the free spirit of beats (as in that wholly insufficient catch-all term for the likes of Flying Lotus and Prefuse 73), as hip hop-mannered sampling collides with contemporary club dynamics across all kinds of tempos. There’s no denying that the UK hardcore heritage comes to bear in many places too, and now this latest offering for his more recent home of Ninja Tune makes some sizable nods to the past.
It’s difficult to gauge which label FaltyDL’s music is most suited to; he’s graced Planet Mu with two albums and a sprinkle of EPs, and his productions seem equally at home on zeitgeist obsessives 50Weapons, Amsterdam’s house and techno bastion Rush Hour and evergreen UK beats institution Ninja Tune. The fact is his music – a cluttered, intoxicating blend of garage, house, jungle, hip-hop and afrobeat – is suited to all of the aforementioned imprints, yet the most thrilling FaltyDL 12” to date, for this writer at least, was Mean Streets Pt. 1, released via Swamp81 last year. There are a few reasons for this: it was a vinyl-only affair and limited to 500 pressings. The full picture sleeve offered a glimpse of contemporary Brooklyn life, with visual artist and long term Swamp affiliate Ashes57 on hand to take a classy black and white photo. The music itself was bliss, particularly the ephemeral future soul jam “Moonshine”.
Full details have surfaced of FaltyDL’s return to the excellent Swamp 81 label overseen by Loefah, with the American producer delivering a second helping of musical odes to New York City, cunningly entitled Mean Streets Part 2.
This year we decided to expand our best tracks of the year list from 50 to an admittedly bulging 100. The simple fact is, listening to records as we do, day in, day out, we hear a lot of good music. Some great music, in fact, and in our top 100 we have specified exactly what drew us to each title – was it the quirky B-Side, the anthemic opener or, as with our number one selection, the entire EP? Read on to find out…
As we revealed last week, Juno Plus was handed the reins for curating a free seven inch featuring exclusive tracks from FaltyDL and JD Twitch, which our office partners Juno Records are giving away with any order over the festive period.
FaltyDL has long been something of a musical alchemist; the New Yorker’s wriggling, mutating sonic experiments are borne from whatever the studio equivalent is to hunching over a row of bubbling test tubes in a laboratory, carefully seeking out the right measurements to discover that elusive elixir of life. Contained within those test tubes is a milieu of musical elements – a forgotten jungle break, a vocal from an 80s house classic, or an obscure slice of afrobeat – which are then combined with certain trademark touches (slashing, frantic hats) and constantly evolving rhythms.
These experiments becoming increasingly deft, and the Atlantis EP arrives on venerable UK imprint Ninja Tune with arguably the most accomplished FaltyDL productions to date. The producer’s relationship with some of electronic music’s most respected labels – Planet Mu, 50 Weapons, Rush Hour, Swamp 81 – has seem some fascinating results, especially in 2011, but even so this serves as a landmark release.
As with most recent FaltyDL 12”s the artwork is striking, and, like his Mean Streets release for Swamp 81, the vinyl weighs in at a reassuringly heavy 180g. The title track is a melodic, smudged out deep house roller, with a bassline that evokes memories of LCD Soundsystems’ “Tribulations” dovetailing snugly with twangy plucked instrumentation. As one expects from a FaltyDL production, there are frequent rhythmic shifts, changes in direction and any number of seemingly disparate samples, mashed together into one engaging whole.
“Can’t Stop The Prophet” is more adventurous still, with crackly atmospherics, toyed-with vocals and sumptuous strings giving off a languid, relaxed air – that is until the frenetic jungle breakdown arrives – perhaps a nod to his earliest forays into production. There’s even a cheeky moment at the end where the source material for the primary samples is briefly, tantalisingly, revealed – a trick that he has used on recent outings for All City and Swamp 81. The flipside houses two more richly detailed productions, with the hip-hop-esque swagger of “My Light My Love” an exercise in the art of filtering. The clattering hats and softly throbbing deep house chords of “The Sale Ends” save perhaps the most emotive, introspective moment of the EP for last, leaving an unmistakable sense that, once again, this musical alchemist has got his measurements just right.
Irish imprint All City, based out of a record shop located in Dublin’s Temple Bar, has blossomed in recent times thanks to the excellent Los Angeles split 10″ series and an artist roster that includes Onra, Mike Slott, Tessela, Martyn, and, now, New York beatsmith FaltyDL. Ostensibly these represent Falty’s two housiest cuts to date – hardly surprising considering the source material – yet they are rooted in a collage sampling style that betrays the producer’s reverence for vintage hip-hop.
A-Side missive “Make It Difficult” essentially serves as a reinvention of a late 90s house gem by Shena. The vocals and chords from that ‘97 version are appropriated and given the full Falty treatment – hi-hats that relentlessly slap you around the face from every which way, an excellent bassline that was lacking from the original and deliciously swung drums. There’s also the male vocal intoning the track’s title, which contrasts nicely with Shena’s dulcet tones. It sits somewhere in between Bakey USTL’s “A Tender Place” and Blawan’s “Getting Me Down”, with skilfully arranged samples doused in a producer’s idiosyncratic style – the result being a track that sounds warm and familiar yet very much of the now.
Flip over for “Jack Your Job”, with more frenetic drum programming and call and response vocal snippets making for a next level mutant house jam (this time Romanthony is the most obvious sample source to these ears). The main vocal imploring us to get “control over your job” is backed by a wailing female backing and a seemingly endless procession of deft sonic touches – handclaps, more idiosyncratic hi-hats, flute – all layered on top of each other in a manner that brings to mind classic hip-hop layered sampling (think Paul’s Boutique and 3 Feet High and Rising) being adopted to a house template with breezy aplomb.