Rating: 8 / Format: CD/2×12" / Label: Planet Mu
Like a lot of people, I find myself a bit irritated by the the idea of "wonky" as a genre, but unable to get away from increasingly using the term as more and more gloriously psychedelic and off-beam beat music appears around the world. Likewise, "future garage", though it does describe post-dubstep sounds that Martyn, Kode 9, Whistla, Brackles, Joy Orbison, Untold and co are all to some degree operating within, doesn’t really feel satisfactory as a genre either. But maybe it might be possible to see these two terms not as fenced-off areas, but as poles or attractors within the much broader flux of current synth-funk? Certainly recent releases like Zomby’s One Foot Ahead Of The Other, and this mini-album of new material from New Yorker Drew Lustman, suggest that there are plenty of artists able to traverse between both poles, and further abroad to boot, without losing their identity.
Bravery kicks off with the undeniably "wonky" technique of untethering the drums of ‘Make Me Feel So Right’ from quantised patterns, allowing them to slide out of kilter slightly differently in each bar. But this is not just IDM wanking: play this track as loudly as it deserves, and you realise that it is still a club track, its irregularity being a very purposeful and effective form of disorientation, and that the warm subs and diva vocal snippets that knit the whole thing together being far more than just signifiers of a rave/garage past (although they are that too), but are there for their instant and powerful effect on the listener’s nervous system. The album ends with ‘Discant’, a lovely piece of analogue boogie not so very far from what DâM-FunK is doing at the moment, with the added crunch 909s that could come from an early 90s Eddie Fowlkes or Blake Baxter track.
In between, the tracks veer between hip hop swing and a zippier style that concertinas the whole history of disco through house into UK garage. Whatever the tempo though, the funk synth interjections and tricksy shuffle sound like what Luke Vibert might be capable of if he dropped his insistence on whimsical elements in favour of more of a city swagger. There’s a rich soul gloss to the production, not quite the terrifying 80s cocaine-soul/Steely Dan sheen of Hudson Mohawke, but certainly in a way that shows no interest in the lo-fi = underground equation. Despite the tempo shifts, the record is extraordinarily coherent, and alongside DâM-FunK, Hud Mo, Dorian Concept and others suggests that maybe we need to start thinking more broadly for our genre terms: yes there are wonky and garage elements here but ultimately it’s great 21st century computer funk, so who’s got a catchy genre name for that?