Back when Hudson Mohawke was crafting bombastic synth-scapes in his mom’s Glasgow basement in the 2000s, the idea of him collaborating with Lil Wayne and Pusha T was but a left-field electro nerd’s distant fantasy. Years later, the producer born Ross Birchard, 29, sits in a rarefied space: He’s signed to Kanye West‘s G.O.O.D. Music as a producer and British electronic indie Warp as an artist, and seamlessly marries those sounds and many more on his excellent sophomore LP, Lantern.
In some ways, it’s actually a reboot. One of Mohawke’s biggest recent successes was as half of TNGHT, along with Montreal producer Lunice. The duo, now on hiatus, skyrocketed to EDM-tent headliner status after its self-titled 2012 EP, which helped redefine trap for the festival set. But the pair’s rise in the dance world never seemed to sit comfortably with the restless producer, whose 2009 full-length debut, Butter, was a giddy mixed bag of rave, chiptune, rap and even ’80s R&B and electro-funk. With Lantern, Mohawke transcends any pigeonholing once and for all, offering a polished vision of his genre-agnostic world.
Rather than TNGHT’s id-driven bangers or the campy synth freak-outs of his early solo work, Lantern is a beautifully restrained — by HudMo standards, that is — concept album that mirrors a full day, yawning awake with palate-clearing drones and ending ecstatically in the wee hours of a club utopia. There are no rappers here; instead, Mohawke enlisted soul vocalists like Jhene Aiko and Irfane. It’s an unexpected turn, and occasionally misses the mark, like when Miguel gets lost in the murky psychedelics of “Deepspace.”
But the instrumentals are where Mohawke’s grandiosity shines brightest. “Ryderz,” with its dusty sample from D.J. Rogers, heroically scuffs up West’s old chipmunk soul sound. Even further from Mohawke’s brash trap is “Kettles,” a sparkling, drum-less synth exploration in miniature that borders on classical. It’s a welcome deviation, and a clean slate, for a guy who doesn’t like to stay in one place too long.
This story originally appeared in the June 20 issue of Billboard.