Hudson Mohawke – Cry Sugar

A triumphant return from a maverick electronic force...

It’s oft-repeated that dance music isn’t suited to the album format; most producers who specialise in dance floor moments find themselves struggling with the space of a full-length project. As a result, a complete dance album can feel particularly special; your own lighting-in-a-bottle moment you can keep relying on, playing on repeat, at home, on the bus — wherever. 

Hudson Mohawke, the Glaswegian producer famous for his co-credits as TNGHT and collaborations with Drake, Kanye, and A$AP Rocky, has been relatively quiet for the past few years. He’s released a handful of standalone singles but mostly laid low, having decamped to East LA, seemingly happy to soak up its sun-kissed decadence, a major vibe shift from the cloudy grit of his hometown Glasgow. 

Hudson Mohawke – Cry Sugar

The duality of those two locations colours the producer’s latest album for Warp, ‘Cry Sugar‘: the grimey UK, with its endlessly pillaged history of rave and niche underground sounds, and the shimmering hedonism of Los Angeles. ‘Cry Sugar’ may take the cake for dance record of the year; that lighting-in-a-bottle moment we’ve all been waiting for. 

Although any given rave might have a few chin-stroking heads near the back, judging every twist of the dance floor, their endless negativity and piety for insular genre belies what is actually true of much of the best homegrown underground music; that it frequently pulls in many directions, copying and sampling its way to something great, legitimately fun, and frequently weird. The same is true for the rap music that has long inspired Hudson Mohawke’s productions: Kanye-style speed gospel beats; negative space The Neptunes productions; early 2000s Clipse; any big Just Blaze sample beat. It’s all music that thrives on surprise, on bombast.

‘Cry Sugar’ veers between these styles with awe-inspiring ease, finding and maximizing their shared DNA. Where ‘Bicstan’ is an ecstasy-fuelled hardcore classic and ‘Intentions’, a PC-Music indebted bass explosion, ‘Behold’ is a gospel-trap production that Drake would do well to hop onto. ‘Bow’ might be the best tune on the album, a tour de force Pusha T-wobble beat that creaks and bangs like a haunted house. ‘Dance Forever’ and ‘3 Sheets to the wind’ are pitch perfect 80s electro, with rave stabs in tow, while ‘Redeem’ recalls the highs of Kanye’s zany detours with vocoder.

What’s doubly impressive is ‘Cry Sugar’ manages to traverse these styles and genres whilst flowing with the emotional weight of a DJ set and a score to a new age picture; ‘Stump’ is clearly indebted to Vangelis’ soundtracks, for instance, as are the opening and closing tracks. Mohawke is a jack of all trades on ‘Cry Sugar’. It’s a timely reflection, especially when viral soundbites around sampling rage on; who should credit who, who stole or interpolated something without proper clearance. It’s important to remember the best producers have bitten hard and copied lovingly. If you need to be reminded, go listen to some De La Soul, Madlib, Daft Punk, J Dilla, DJ Rashad, Masters At Work, Dillinja, or Dego. Hudson Mohawke follows on in that lineage; ‘Cry Sugar’ pulls from everywhere, all at once, swimming in the old and celebrating ecstatically, the new.

9/10

Words: Louis Torracinta

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