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.
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“I’m not into stuff that’s over-produced, it’s very uninteresting to me.” So states Al Green, the man behind some of the most distinctive, visceral electronic music to grace our ears in recent times. One listen to any of the plentiful Boddika tracks that have been released for labels such as [Naked Lunch], Swamp81 or his own Nonplus, and you can instantly feel where he’s coming from. The kickback against crisp and clean digital production that typified last year’s dance music output is no more apparent than on the raw, abrasive drums n’ synths that characterise the Boddika sound.
There’s been a lot of debate surrounding “Sicko Cell”, chiefly around the identity of the (kind of) anonymous producer. The general consensus is that Joy Orbison is responsible, which would come as no surprise to anyone with a keen ear for his productions; “Sicko Cell” has much in common with “BB”, released on Orbison’s Doldrums imprint last year: stripped back 808 patterns, phased bassline, a demonically pitched down vocal sample and most tellingly, house inspired chords which ring out in the background.
Of course there is an equally valid argument surrounding the track: is it actually any good? The fact is that nothing quite like this has been released; although it comes from a similar angle to the juke inspired productions of artists like Addison Groove and Machinedrum, there’s an equal part to the track that has as much in common with the paranoid dub experiments of Hype Williams. It’s a track built around two competing energies, the rush of the “too much” vocal sample and drums, and the sludgy “cocaine powder” sample and bassline which alternately drags everything into its centre of gravity, but despite this it’s the way that the sample is turned into such an unlikely pop hook that really makes this track so effective.
For many though, the better track may be “Knock Knock”. The samples are cut into smaller pieces, and although that same sense of push and pull remains, the effect is a lot more self-contained, and together with the titular rhythm that never really lets up, creates an effect more suited to maintaining dancefloor momentum. It’s the contrasting warmer mood though, brought on by the sublime synth breakdown filling the track’s sparse production that will probably win most people over. It’s the perfect blend of the total euphoria of “Hyph Mngo” and his more stripped back work like “Wade In”; this restraint is something that suits him particularly well, and as such makes it one of his most balanced productions to date.
Perhaps the thing to admire most about FaltyDL’s music is the sense of surprise that accompanies each release. Despite his finely crafted signature style, you can never be quite sure what you’re gonna get with a Falty production. This is partly due to the use of intriguing samples – listen carefully and you’ll hear everything from old funk to 90s house snippets chopped up – as well as the producer’s passion for a plethora of musical styles. There’s also his location; based in Brooklyn, New York, he has an entirely different perspective on the many strands of UK dance music that inform much of his work.
His sophomore album, You Stand Uncertain, touched on everything from afrobeat to 2-step and garage via dubstep and old fashioned rave, while his recent single for Irish imprint All City reinvented a late 90s house jam from Shena with the help of crazed overlapping drums and a sparkling bassline. Prior to that was one of our favourite 12″s of 2011 – the Mean Streets EP for Swamp 81 – in which the New Yorker laughed in the face of genre obsessives who throw around the post-whatever phrase all too easily.
This followed a particularly impressive 2010 with killer drops on Rush Hour – the back scratching Cosmin TRG split release in particular – and Planet Mu, the label that has released both of his albums to date, along with a slew of remixes which further established him as one of this generation’s most distinctive and forward-thinking talents. Juno Plus scribe Helen Luu caught up with the producer (real name Drew Lustman) to discuss early plans for his third album, his dream of discovering a vocalist in Brooklyn and how 14 hour shifts as a sushi chef instilled some much needed discipline.
Perfectly timed to coincide with the release of FaltyDL’s imperious second album for Planet Mu, Swamp 81 drop his contribution to what is becoming the label’s Annus Mirabilis. Having already treated us to heavyweight vinyl excursions into 23rd century electro paced at 140bpm plus via Addison Groove and Boddika, those expecting something similar from the NYC beat wizard will get slapped in the face by the curveball nature of Mean Streets.
Anyone who has visited New York can testify to the magical hold the city retains on your memories long after you depart JFK airport, and Mean Streets Part One certainly comes across as Lustman’s ode to the unique hustle and bustle of the five boroughs. This is most evident in the title track, which much like the overall feel of You Stand Uncertain, laughs in the face of genre obsessives who throw around the post-whatever phrase all too easily.
“Mean Streets” revolves around an afro jazz swing that cuts through the pitched vocal effects and opaque chord washes, and perhaps most thrillingly offers up several rhythmic left turns along the way. On the flip “Moonshine” sounds like a lost Marvin Gaye classic diced up and made palatable for modern day beat junkies, whilst “Hard” is the sole concession to dancefloor dynamics with a fuzzed out bottom end thrust doused in rude attitude and expertly chopped up rave breaks. Whilst it’s become increasingly apparent Falty DL is just one of a number of artists at the moment who seem inspired to challenge preconceptions, what really impresses here is that Loefah’s label seems to be following in kind – which can only be a very good thing for the future of musical progression.
Ever since the news broke that Instra:mental’s Alex Green was to take on the guise of Boddika for his slower tempo, house and electro style productions, we’ve been foaming at the mouth with fevered anticipation. Last October, his 130bpm outing on Naked Lunch – “Boddika’s House/Syn Cron” – and his recent appearance on Benji B’s Radio One show, coupled with his recent mix for the Boiler Room, gave a glimpse into what to expect from this release on Loefah’s Swamp 81 imprint.
Dominated by 808 drum machines and pulsing rhythms, yet maintaining that sleek classiness and delicacy that shapes his work with production partner Damon (Kid Drama) as Instra:mental, Boddika really lives up to the high expectation bequeathed upon him here in both “Electron” and “Underground”. Whilst “Electron” is the rather more frenetically patterned, ever so slightly aggressive and insatiable track of the pair, after a few listens you will be enveloped by the driving groove, with beats pattering around like the dots of an impressionist paintbrush before a heavy drum kick and atmospheric pressure re-sets the tone. “Underground” continues in a similar vein, dark and brooding, coloured with cowbells and droning arpeggiated synths. It’s a contemplative cut and more of a 3am draw, but just as powerful in its own right. Superbly crafted, intricate artwork by Ashes 57 seals the deal and makes this a must buy for vinyl collectors and music lovers alike.