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Justin Martin / Various

Ghettos & Gardens

Justin Martin / Various
It's been seven years since San Francisco, CA DJ Justin Martin created Dirty Bird's first release, and now he returns with his first artist album, Ghettos & Gardens. There are the typical, playful house tracks marking Martin's jovial style, like the plinking strings, buoyant synths and random breaks in "Don't Go" or the flighty, delicate synths of "Butterflies." Martin's use of strings on opening track "Hood Rich" plays the nostalgia card, reminiscent of his remix of Mike Monday's "Grace." But what moves the album past a fairly average assemblage of house tracks are the wobbly drops and heaviness that find their way into unexpected songs, giving them some weight and substance. From the rumbles that appear in the depths of the title track to similar drops on Goldie's "Kemistry (Justin Martin Remake)" and "Molokini," these surprising songs build on subtle, ethereal vocals and flighty keys that crescendo and split with a fierce crackle, doing away with niceties and piling on the scratches, scrapes and bruises. It's a solid go at moving away from the sounds of standard house on an album that could have gone either way.
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