Published Jun 16, 2015For Glaswegian neon-electronic producer Hudson Mohawke, today (June 16) is release day for his second full-length, Lantern, his first since 2009's Butter. And though he says that the wait "was never intended to be that long," it's at a point now where many are mistakenly referring to this as his first solo project. Mohawke, born Ross Birchard, isn't irked — he sees this as an opportunity to show his full capabilities.
"I've been releasing music for the better part of the last decade, but I feel like a lot of people will have just become aware of me because of the TNGHT project," he tells Exclaim! "I want to introduce those people to my wider musical taste."
Listening to Lantern, that wide musical taste is evident. There's an elegance to a lot of the songs — the sparkling synth symphony "Kettles," the tender "Indian Steps," even "Ryderz" has a certain soulful tenderness — and a sense of restraint, too, a word that could hardly be applied to Mohawke's earlier work.
"When I released the first record, I was coming out of my turntablist stage, when I was DJing and stuff, so with a lot of the stuff, I was trying to make the most complicated music possible, like, 'How can I make this most complicated, more fucked up?'
"With [Lantern], it's more stripped back. All those elements were in the songs, but I thought, 'Do I really need this part in the song? Is this really necessary? Does this need this weird arpeggio flying all over, left to right?' It was more of a case of making the songs and then stripping them down."
Mohawke says that his goal this time around was making music that was "less beatmaker-driven and more song-driven. That's what I really was trying to accomplish. The first record and the subsequent EPs have either been almost entirely instrumental and/or dancefloor-focused. I wanted this to be a listening record, rather than a mosh pit record or something like that. I wanted to make a record I knew I'd be happy with in 10 years' time."
Mohawke was helped toward that goal by a host of collaborators, many of whom are singers and songwriters: Miguel, Antony Hegarty, Jhené Aiko, Ruckazoid and Irfane. Together, they helped showcase the breadth of Mohawke's ability without crowding him out.
"The guests I picked for the record were people who I really admire, but also… It would be easy to put a bunch of A-list celebrity vocalists, rappers, whatever, on the record, but it might actually take the focus away from the fact that it's my record. Working with Antony, or Jhené, Miguel — we're all in such different worlds that they're not going to overshadow the record. If you put an A-list artist on there, it becomes their song."
Mohawke's new collaborative mindset is the product, he says, of "being thrown in the deep end" of working with others, on projects such as TNGHT and Kanye West's Yeezus.
"I feel like I've learned a lot from working with people the last couple of years. I kind of felt like this was the right time to release it. For the first record and the EPs, they weren't really collaborative records; they were just me working on my own in the middle of the night. This record is much more about bringing in other musicians, bringing in extra sets of ears of people I respect, whose opinions I respect."
Mohawke has been hard at work, and the sessions for Lantern were fruitful, so he expects to release more music soon that might not have fit into his full-length.
"The songs that I kept were the ones that I felt sat next to one another and fit into the aesthetic of the album. The songs that I didn't include, it's not like they weren't included because I didn't like them. I just didn't feel they necessarily worked for this record. It's more likely than not that they'll surface at some point."
Listen to the single "Scud Books" below, and pick up Lantern now on Warp.