(February 15 update: This post has been expanded from a stand-alone Harmonic 313 review.)
Polyfolk Dance (Warp, WAP 261)
Hudson Mohawke is like a chipmunk soul on amphetamines. On Polyfolk Dance he not only speeds up the beat, but slams it back and forth, even whipping it up into the cracked-out splattercore of “Yonard.” What turns this 16-minute EP from descending into chaos/nonsense, though, is his clear grasp on R&B, from the slumping bass that rides under the Christmas-y chimes of “Monde” to the deft rhythm at the center of “Overnight’s” computer-melody volley. Still, time seems to fly by as he speeds through six songs, including the lovely 8-bit harmonies of “Velvet Peel.” For fans of abstract beats, Polyfolk Dance is a keeper. But as a teaser for Mohawke’s forthcoming debut album, it’s missing rap and sung vocals — if his work with Heralds of Change is any indicator.
Dirtbox (Warp, WAP 262)
UK producers are notorious for glomming onto the latest hot trend, and it appears that Australian producer Mark Pritchard, a.k.a. Harmonic 313, is no exception. But the truth is more complex. During his decade-plus career, Pritchard has used dozens of aliases to explore electronic dance styles, from the electro bass of Jedi Knights to the Detroit techno of Global Communication. The newfangled “glitch-hop” forms that he experiments with as Harmonic 313 are part of an expansive view towards future music.
For the first and final tracks on the four-song Dirtbox, “Dirtbox” and “Wobbz,” Pritchard plays with dubstep style, layering rude boy chants over ominous computer beats. The former thunders hard with heavy bass, while the latter adds laser-like sound effects and military-style drum machine pops.
The middle cuts are geared towards the amorphous “beat” sound. “Dirtbox,” shuffles along like an Atari joystick shooter during round one. The keyboards whine and rotate in schematic combinations. The most pleasurable cut, however, is “The Returners.” It repeats the keyboard schemata of “Dirtbox,” but occasionally opens up to reveal a nice, warm synth melody, bringing the track into sharp focus. It’s the only one of the quartet that reverberates outside of the confines of a DJ’s mix.