Review Summary: Back alley cinematics and purple smoke ballin' from a dream production duo
Upon listening to TNGHT's debut EP, it's hard not to ponder why this collaboration didn't happen sooner. Granted that this fascination with "trap rap" hip hop is a relatively recent phenomenon (in the grand scheme of things anyway), and sure it's certainly easy to draw parallels between its recent championing and the explosion of edm in the United States, but with all the components lying around for a few years now it's interesting to note that it's taken until now for it to really take off (outside of the blogging elite anyway). Recent twitter posts showing Sonny Moore and ASAP Rocky in the studio reveal a vested interest from the outsider looking to tap into what has already become a lucrative market, and in many ways the pairing of the rampant Glaswegian beat-maker Hudson Mohawke with the more blunted-out trap productions of Montreal-based Lunice could also be seen as yet another form of mere exploitation. What sets this duo apart though is that they approach the sound from the outside; both artists firmly embrace their ties to the past, and while their creations tend to rely on ghoulish spectacle they're still polished with a fine rave sheen. However it's still an uncompromising affair, brutal yet still strangely intelligent beat making that shakes under its own ruthless low-end. And while their debut release might feel a little stunted - with only five tracks it clocks in at around 16 minutes - there's still enough bite and jaw-dropping ear candy to satiate those desperately seeking out a little thought behind their favored chaos.
Generally collaborations can be a somewhat tiresome affair, a single product caught amidst dual identities where the sum of its parts might be of interest but where the parts are still wholly separate and easily attributed to one or the other. TNGHT
represents that rare yet perfect duality, where we can still see what each producer has on display but when entwined together it becomes impossible to discern where one ends and the other begins. Amidst a battlefield of dusty rave, the 1-2 punch of boom-bap, a litany of candy-eyed synths and the tumbling spirals of percussion loops it's hard to not get just a little excited by what's on offer here, especially when the duo make it so easy to just get up and move. Which is something of a feat for an instrumental product, especially when that product seems to have been designed with certain artists in mind to contribute at some point down the road. So while the bulk of the material here is certainly of a showcase nature, it also fails to deflect the obvious technical proficiency of its core conspirators, to the point where one has to question would adding vocals of any kind actually diminish the quality of the music? Does it even need anymore elaboration, or is it simply volatile enough to piledrive its way through and knock the taste out of the mouth of the brostep community?
'Higher Ground' seems custom fit to make mincemeat out of that particular jockular set, with its Southern swagger and bounce, the flagrant ghetto house vocal repetition and the audience-participation hand claps. It's a sinewy yet chunky slab of 808-brilliance, repetitive despite its runtime yet perfect in its almost immediate familiarity. And while that dirty horn section might feel like a leftover tidbit from Hudmo's recent Satin Panthers
release, they're integrated seemlessly into the fold to the point where the entire beat seems to hang onto their anthemic persuasion like a nebulous hinge.It ends up becoming the center piece of the release, though its victory comes at the end of a hearty struggle; 'Goooo' arrives in full foot-stomping fashion, parading its 8-bit obsessions over a rumbling underbelly of monolithic proportions. It's a lowrider that scrapes its belly across the city it seems to draw upon; its sound is a clash, a mutation, the rubbing together of two very different sticks.'Bug'n' drops the juke tropes, choosing instead to carve a path through the hearts and minds of drink-sippin' half-time grime, mapping out, as they do in full catalogist fashion, a line in the sand that balances the bombastic tendencies of later day urban stylization with the mythic underworld of golden-era electro: the underwater nothingness of Drexciya is a clear influence on the bubbling and rippling undercurrent of the track. 'Easy Easy' is similarly bruising, though its claustrophobia stems from an assortment of (at times) hilarious samples - windows are smashed and broken, the sound of a car crashing is looped into a never-ending spiral of destruction, the percussion is the sound of a gun being cocked - yet for all the sensory overload, it's still a poker-faced marriage of sound and borderline incredulity; it's rough and menacing, though never by default.
There are flaws however; it is only a snippet of the imagination that this duo displayed at their debut at SXSW, and at 16 short glorious minutes it ends before it's even really begun. And as an intro 'Top Floor' is every bit the game-starter that it needs to be, but it is only an intro; it's simply far too imaginative for it to be just the taste tester that it is. But all in all, TNGHT
is a tremendous and kaleidoscopic introduction to a dream production duo that has already turned heads (HudMo has spent the last few months keeping Kanye on point), and it shows that TNGHT has only just begun.