Ross Birchard may hate being described as ‘bedroom techno’ but, like a 21st century White Town, he is a home made music machine. When he transforms into Hudson Mohawke he brings forth sounds that are both familiar and startling new. His tracks, keyboard and sample heavy, are a mind-bending mixture of dubstep, techno, jazz, disco and synth pop, blended with gleeful abandon. Debut album Butter, released on Warp in 2010, contained some revelations. It included ‘FUSE’, a delirious wave of something sounding like synthesised panpipes. It was reminiscent of 80s theme sci-fi music and 90s Nintendo soundtracks, yet sounded as though it was beamed in from a parallel, awesomely cool future. It was really rather addictive.
This approach is high risk. From his name to his staggering cover art – a late 70s charity shop painting of eagles, geckos and moonlight on Butter – Hud Mo (as journalists seem to call him) teeters on the edge of risibility, yet pulls it off with some serious panache. Not everything on Butter lived up to ‘FUSE’, too many tracks filling space or failing to catch fire. Now Satin Panthers, a much anticipated follow-up EP, gives us five new ones to play with.
As always, the beats are the focus of the EP rather than the vocals, unless you count the looped, orgasmic squeaks that march backwards across ‘Thunder Bay’. This is one of two stand-out tracks, three minutes of further crunchiness, more power drill than bike this time, counterpointed against the squeaking. It’s fantastic, in both senses of the word. The other is ‘All Your Love’, about as downbeat at Hudson gets, based on a pile-driving bass and a high-pitched ecstatic female vocal sample. This is Hudson at his best, shameless, flamboyant, and strangely moreish. A cheeky intro, ‘Octan’, showcases a ludicrously crunchy beat that sounds like a motorbike revving through a series of power chords. ‘Cbat’ is based on an annoying, chirpy, off-key sample that outstays its welcome. But ‘Satin Panthers’ is a satisfying offering, wetting the appetite for the next full length album and helping us to add just a little more neon to our lives.