Published Jun 12, 2015In the six years since Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke released his debut full-length, Butter, Mohawke's music has gone from a glitch-y, turntablist jitter to a euphoric, multi-coloured trap-hop pound and everywhere in between. On Lantern, Mohawke's long-anticipated followup, the Glaswegian producer eschews the bombast he's embraced these last few years for something more mature, songwriterly and, yes, restrained.
Those moments of restraint, though few, are significant. "Indian Steps," a collaboration with Antony Hegarty, is subtly moving, evoking small celebratory sparklers in place of Mohawke's usual fireworks, but it's midway track "Kettles" that proves particularly special. All flute trills and clarinet stabs at its outset, the song plays like a sparkling symphony piece assembled from parts of Mohawke's discography. The timpani rolls and chimes, although organic, still sound unmistakably like his work, and as it climaxes near the end, it feels absolutely seismic even without HudMo's trademark bass thud. It's alone enough to make the producer's forthcoming soundtrack work even more tantalizing.
The rest of Lantern plays something like a revue, as Mohawke struts out a series of guests with whom he collaborated on more traditionally structured, pop-oriented songs — singer Irfane on the trap-pop of "Very First Breath," sultry R&B crooner Miguel on the appropriately reverb-y "Deepspace" — for half the album's duration, and weaves sparkling synths, hip-hop rhythms and trap horns into bangers for the other. The results are overwhelmingly positive: the stuttering, effervescent "Very First Breath" is the perfect album statement after the intro title track; the thumping "Ryderz" employs a soul sample that allows it to ride the line between emotional and party-starting finely, demonstrating a complexity hitherto unheard from the musician; "Shadows" is a festival-ready, pitch-shifted party anthem with record scrapes that throw back to his turntablist days.
It's not perfect — the slight "Resistance," with Jhené Aiko, isn't as affecting as it aspires to be, "Lil Djembe" never hits like it should, and as an album, there's a lack of cohesion here that could have been solved by laying the album out as two distinct halves — but overall, Lantern's a beguiling collection of songs from an artist whose road to success is made better by the number of detours he takes along the way.