Rating: 6 / Format: CD/LP / Label: Warp
If nothing else, Butter is consistent. Right down to the colours of the record’s cover – so synthetic they look polluted; toxified by neon – the debut album from Glaswegian hip-hop producer Hudson Mohawke deals in DayGlo, plastic sounds; tacky timbres that recall the most artificial parts of ’80s yacht rock, soul and pop like some evil, glistening P-Funk ghost. Vocal samples are cut up to stutter nonsensically, but rather than emote like Todd Edwards’, they buzz around tracks like flies, talking high-pitched and saying nothing.
The earbleed guitar solo on opening track ‘Shower Melody’ is only the beginning. Listening to this album in its entirety is like suffering through a high-definition fever: the nightmarish percussion – often recorded live and spliced with software afterwards – batters your inner ear, while the "cocaine treble", as The Wire described it, pricks and pokes the far corners of your brain. Even the moments of redemption are far from easy listening (ironically, Butter is about as un-easy a listen as something this indebted to ’80s pop could ever be): ‘ZOo00OOm’ is beautifully sad in the same way Quarta 330’s influential remix of Kode 9’s ‘9 Samurai’ is. The previously released ‘Allhot’ and ‘Star Crackout’ are incredible, but they’re bonus tracks in all but name, sharing little with the rest of the LP’s aesthetic. ‘Black n Red’, Butter‘s closer, features marching band melodies, handclaps and more of those cut-up vocals, ending with a vaudeville cacophony of organ.
Positioned half-way through the album, ‘Acoustic Lady’ is maybe where it all makes sense. Over a loop that slowly rotates like a roasting pig, polished to the point where you can barely hear it for the glare, a voice laughs at you. It’s a nasty laugh; high-pitched, mocking and distant, you can’t make it where it’s coming from and it continues to frustrate you, until it stops with the track, giving way to ‘Rising 5’, the next taut, painfully vibrant piece on an album full of them. Does Butter even want to be enjoyed? Or – like Kevin Drumm, Khanate and similarly minded drone sorts – is it designed to be a provocative, testing listen, but trading those acts’ traditional long-form pieces for pop song-sized ones that rely on sharpness and angle rather than depth? At the start of ‘Just Decided’, Olivier Daysoul advises that "you really need to think about what you’re doing here." I have been since I first got a promo of this album, but like a bad horror film or a two-day old half-joint in an ashtray, I frequently find myself coming back to it.