FALTYDL // YOU STANDIN’ CERTAIN

  • FaltyDL - You Stand Uncertain

    Reviewed by Simon Docherty Source: (Always Everything)

    <b> FaltyDL </b> - You Stand Uncertain

    “[LTJ Bukem’s] ’Atlantis’ showed that speeding up the beat until it bypassed the body altogether could transform hardcore into relaxing music; rhythm itself becomes a susurrating, soothing stream of ambience, a fluid medium in which you immerse yourself, while the body responds to the half-speed, heart-murmur bassline.” [Simon Reynolds, The Wire, 1994]
    After writing some fairly extensive thoughts on Drew Lustman’s music for Sonic Router a couple of weeks ago, an offensively under-thought and under-researched review of his new album in the new issue of Vice (I know, I know, it’s Vice, but still, there’s no excuse for lazy journalism) prompted me to offer some more thoughts on the subject. It’s particularly related to his sudden flurry of new tracks, in the shape of new full-length You Stand Uncertain, the Hip Love EP on Ramp, ‘Regret’ on Hotflush and remixes of Kotchy, TEETH and Maddslinky.

    Lustman’s music as FaltyDL has always walked a tightrope line between complexity and danceability, influenced by a love of UK electronic music’s shattering intensity and sudden pinpoint turns. In that sense he’s tied far more closely to predecessors like Luke Vibert, Aphex Twin and even Boards of Canada (his music often shares their aura of fuzzy, nostalgic warmth) than to most of his contemporaries in the loosely defined ‘bass’ scene. When I interviewed him last year, I compared the development of his music to the biological process of convergent evolution, whereby two unrelated genera acquire similar physical traits through similar selection pressures, despite being separated genetically and geographically. Looking backward now, that feels a little simplistic, given that the internet’s all-pervasive growth over the last few years has made it increasingly difficult to believe any individual sound could truly evolve in relative isolation.

    Instead, his recent material has served to confirm the mongrel nature of his music. While the Phrequaflex and Endeavour EPs last year explored UK-centric two-step and US house influences respectively, this latest raft of music throws the floodgates open and avoids separation in favour of active integration. Like friends and New York contemporaries Sepalcure, his is ostensibly a US take on a UK sound, which itself developed from early US influences; a kind of trans-Atlantic connection squared, passed through filters of distance and memory. But Lustman’s music feels somehow more instinctive, less conscious in its appropriation of elements from either end of the spectrum (which isn’t at all to detract from Sepalcure’s own music; their recent Fleur EP was a rather beautiful listen in its own right).
    That’s partially down to its dreamlike sense of narrative drive, and the way every element, down to the tiniest percussive click, appears to leave a trail drifting lazily in its wake. Over the course of You Stand Uncertain, the most obvious development since his debut Love Is A Liability is the sheer amount of space locked in its structure. Tracks are liable to drop out for what feels like seconds at a time, before bursting to life in a renewed flurry of percussion – a trick most obvious on the appropriately titled ‘Open Space’, where the same three note motif underpins several drastic changes in percussive heft, from sparse drift to tuff programmed breakbeat, to a rattling two-step groove that appears to accelerate as it gathers momentum before dropping away to almost nothing.

    That astral glide, driven by dream logic, underpins most of the album – it’s far less immediate and far less dancefloor-easy than its predecessor, but is impressive in its careful melodic consistency and sense of rhythmic instability. Despite the weight of feminine pressure running throughout, easy listening this ain’t – it’s a record that rewards repeated, focused listens. That the Vice review elected to deride You Stand Uncertain on grounds of it fitting neatly into some loose modern canon of ‘nostalgic dance music’ – this time, apparently, for the coke ‘n’ bubbly dayz of Twice As Nice – is pretty depressing. For a start, it’s such a dramatic step away from the glassy two-step of his debut that comparisons to UK garage appear to miss the point almost entirely.

    Still, beyond genre-isms (and what’s proving so fun about Lustman’s music is that it’s increasingly difficult to slot into any particular genre bracket), one aspect of his music has tangibly developed since Love Is A Liability: a latent connection to the same balance between muscle and meditation that underpinned the rolling grooves of LTJ Bukem or Source Direct. The quote at the top, taken from Simon Reynolds’ essay on ambient jungle in The Wire (which then found its way, slightly edited, into his excellent dance music tome Energy Flash) perfectly describes, far better than I could without paraphrasing, the way in which accelerated breakbeats can reach a point at which they exceed the pace of the body’s metabolic processes, literally blurring into a whirl of sound so consistent it approaches Zen-like sensory deprivation.

    The best of Lustman’s new music deserves to be viewed alongside those pioneers in its ability to delicately balance these apparently opposing elements. On his new single for Ramp, ‘Hip Love’ a swung but intensely complex garage beat is used to generate a rolling rhythmic backdrop within which to suspend separate elements – voice, hits of brass – like droplets of oil in water. It could hardly be considered a dancefloor track, in the sense that its groove is so fiendish you’d probably need a couple of extra sets of limbs to do it physical justice. Instead, the sheer onslaught of drum and cymbal hits blurs into a rhythmic singularity, not so far from the rippling New Age backdrops of James Ferraro’s Marble Surf in psychosomatic effect, even if not in sonic aesthetic. His remix of Kotchy’s ‘Getaway’ operates with a similar sleight of hand – a manic rave tribute in the vein of Lone’s Emerald Fantasy Tracks, it bursts from the starting line at such intense speed – and buoyed by such lazy drifts of ambience beneath the surface – that dance becomes secondary to total mental submission.
    The best of Lustman’s new music deserves to be viewed alongside those pioneers in its ability to delicately balance these apparently opposing elements. On his new single for Ramp, ‘Hip Love’ a swung but intensely complex garage beat is used to generate a rolling rhythmic backdrop within which to suspend separate elements – voice, hits of brass – like droplets of oil in water. It could hardly be considered a dancefloor track, in the sense that its groove is so fiendish you’d probably need a couple of extra sets of limbs to do it physical justice. Instead, the sheer onslaught of drum and cymbal hits blurs into a rhythmic singularity, not so far from the rippling New Age backdrops of James Ferraro’s Marble Surf in psychosomatic effect, even if not in sonic aesthetic. His remix of Kotchy’s ‘Getaway’ operates with a similar sleight of hand – a manic rave tribute in the vein of Lone’s Emerald Fantasy Tracks, it bursts from the starting line at such intense speed – and buoyed by such lazy drifts of ambience beneath the surface – that dance becomes secondary to total mental submission.

    Most sophisticated of all, and among the best tracks he’s yet crafted, is ‘Regret’, his upcoming contribution to Hotflush’s Back & 4th compilation. Despite being locked at one tempo throughout, its essential narrative – from silence to cacophony and back down again – is so convincing that it literally appears to accelerate as it builds. Gradually ascending from a distant whirr of muted synth, a lone shattered jungle break builds in volume and intensity like the opening stages of parabolic flight, gradually generating a sense of total rhythmic freefall, above which trace elements dart like birds on the wing. As it reaches the top of its arc, it peaks at complete weightlessness, spending a few seconds at zero-gravity, percussion entirely lost, before it begins its slow descent downward through svelte two-step, and the pull of the earth once again makes itself felt. It’s a fucking exhilarating, adrenalising listen, one which has the same physical effect as a track like Bukem’s ‘Atlantis’ or Source Direct’s ‘Secret Liaison’, leaving the body securely grounded while the mind drifts between inner and outer space.

    And then at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got something like his remix of TEETH’s ‘Shawty’, due for release on Oneman’s 502 Recordings, which retains a rugged connection to the dancefloor through its pendulum-swung motion. Alongside You Stand Uncertain tracks like the slo-mo vocal tryst of ‘Brazil’ and the NY garage pulse of ‘Tell Them Stories’ it moves with an earthy, urbane cool quite apart from the space cadet atmosphere of ‘Regret’. Proof, perhaps, that it’s possible to have your head both off in the clouds and rooted in reality at once. Or, at the very least, that the cross-Atlantic ether Lustman taps into is proving ripe fodder for inspiration.

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