Over the course of six years, FaltyDL AKA Drew Lustman has jettisoned between refined uk garage, roughed-up jungle and a rugged, hybrid sort of house music. He has actively avoided genre pigeonholes – even outright rejecting claims that he ever produced UK garage in the first place (see here).
The New Yorker now drops his third album, this time on that steady British institution Ninja Tune, channeling all of his accrued eclecticisms into one beautifully honed house record.
Opener ‘Stay I’m Changed’ announces itself with a bold intro: the first minute sees sporadic drum rolls and half-crescendos tailing off into nothingness, before the track unexpectedly leaps into an overdrive of wiggling, wavering synths.
Lustman’s last album was peppered with guest vocalists, here however the only appearance comes from Friendly Fires’ frontman Ed McFarlan on ‘She Sleeps’. McFarlan’s by now familiar, blissed-out croon perfectly matches the track’s ambient shuffle – resulting in an otherworldly shimmer.
The most obviously enticing entry is ‘Straight & Arrow’, Hardcourage‘s first single, with its splintered male vocal and satisfying medley of moist clicks and clacks sitting atop a rumble of deeply-buried bass. It’s arguably the most poppy production of his career.
Elsewhere, Fatly DL serves up a more ambient soundscape, found in the ethereal hum of ‘Uncea’ or the flickering sonics of ‘Bells’, although the coarser 2-step elements of FaltyDL’s previous outings are still vaguely discernible in the brittle high hats of ‘For Karme’, the rattled percussion of ‘The Rain Has Stopped’ and the snappy rhythms of ‘Re Assimilate.
The album really takes off in those moments Lustman casts aside Burial-esque soundscapes and opts for cheekier, off-kilter buoyancy, mixing melancholy with bright colour. ‘For Karme,’ for instance, tempers a dancing piano loop with skittery dubstep percussion, a strange but enthralling concoction, whilst ‘Kenny Rolls Away’ does away with any pretensions altogether and unfolds rough, chunky beats of pure electronic funk. And, despite a lightness of touch throughout, Lustman’s signature beats are as tough and sturdy as ever (and this was always what made him stand above those so-called ‘future garage’ purveyors back in 2010).
Before I sat down to write this review I had resolved to give the album an unduly three stars, but I’ve found its rich and dulcet tones grow on me with each listen. Don’t dismiss this on your first sitting; give it some time and thought. But for those seeking the more immediate gratification of upbeat house, you could do worse than the first five tracks on Hardcourage.
Ninja Tune | Released: January
01. Stay I’m Changed
02. She Sleeps
03. Straight & Arrow
05. For Karme
06. Finally Some Shit / The Rain Stopped
07. Kenny Rolls One
08. Korben Dallas
09. Re Assimilate