Kind of like Hudson Mohawke‘s career, his second solo album Lantern (Warp Records) opens with a wall of fuzzy, distorted synth noise. Born Ross Birchard, the 29-year-old Scotsman rose to prominence with Lunice as the production duo TNGHT, who released their 15-minute EP in 2012 and almost overnight began headlining EDM stages across the world. Since then he has also signed to Kanye West‘s G.O.O.D. Music as an in house producer and he played a large part in the production of YEEZUS, West’s last album.

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Birchard does borrow a classic Kanye production trick in the chipmunk-soul sampled “Ryderz” but for the most part Lantern is an enigma in that many times it doesn’t feel like a cohesive album as much as a collection of recent work from the HudMo catalog. Birchard is going out of his way on almost every song to showcase the range he’s capable of as an artist. For all of his impressive hip-hop credentials, no song features a rapper and only five out of the 14 total tracks have vocalists. Miguel guests on the expansive plea to a lover “Deepspace” and Jhene Aiko whispers the history of a doomed relationship on “Resistance” but neither artist takes the primary focus from Birchard’s production.

Following “Resistance” is the deceiving “Portrait of Luci,” chiming you into believing that there might ever be a break from a punishing low-end bass while it’s followed by the sure to hit the clubs “System”; a mess of chiming synths ride into an incessant kick drum hammer. Even closing track “Brand New World” closes out with computer keys darting around a foot stomping guitar churn.

Hudson-Mohawke

“Scud Books” may be the most familiar place for fans of TNGHT to enter the album as Birchard presents a sort of vision of what it might sound like if Owl City had gotten into a really heavy EDM phase. “Indian Steps” uses Antony‘s delicate vocals to tip toe around his slumbering lover while video game pixelation is the name of the game on “Shadows.”

In all the album is a savvy move by Birchard – by side stepping the hip-hop elephant in the room, he has managed to show he’s far more than a one-trick pony. The album does stumble at some times – “Kettle” is a drumless instrumental that toes the line of classical music and will not appeal to all – for the most part, it is a solid outing that juggles a wide range of influences and ideas largely to success.

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