ALBUM REVIEW: Hudson Mohawke, Cry Sugar
Hudson Mohawke is an artist who’s been on the heavier side of the electronic genre for quite some time now. Collaborating with Lunice as TNGHT, he defined the “festival trap” era that was such a blast in the early to mid-aughts. Bangers such as “Higher Ground” and “ACRYLICS” still stand out as the best songs of that wave, with DJs like Flosstradamus and Dillion Francis paling in comparison with their efforts. TNGHT had remained frozen until last year, and in the meantime Mohawke began working with people like Kanye West and ANOHNI, as well as producing OST for the video game Watch Dogs 2. Truthfully speaking, the sound that he broke out with was one I was obsessed with in high school, but it’s not something I gravitate towards in the present day.
The three full-lengths he dropped in 2020 attempted to shake things up, but none of them could find the sweet spot between experimental and danceable. Each of them just sounded more directionless and baffling than the last, really solidifying that Mohawke’s sound was just not hitting like it used to. With his newest LP Cry Sugar, I was hoping for a meaningful change of pace. I’m here to report mixed results, although I will say I’m liking more tracks than I’m not. “Intentions” is a bombastic, soul-sample infused distortion fest that brings back the style of his Lantern record without sounding outdated. The ravey bump of “Bicstan” reminds me of something off a happier Machine Girl record with even more detailed loops and synth-work. “Dance Forever” takes classic rudimentary hip-hop drum patterns, tweaks them and adds drills and female vocals from Mette Towley. It’s a bit repetitive, but considering the title I believe that’s the point. “Tincture” steps more in the realm of UK garage but subverts its typical trappings with warm, cinematic synths. Overall, Cry Sugar is warped, wacky and has its peaks and valleys for sure.
With a real AntiArt album cover like that made by Wayne Horse and used for Cry Sugar, I would’ve expected to be in for more of an interesting ride. While I will say that there are many standout moments and an impeccable flow to it all, the hour-plus of happy hardcore and experimental electronic trap here begins to lose some steam on its journey. At about the halfway point, I felt like I was in a colorful sonic vortex with lots of interesting sounds that weren’t particularly sticking to me. The overall vibe is memorable but individual songs just aren’t, and paring down the track listing would’ve really helped with that issue. I’m still happy to see Mohawke making boundary-pushing music this time around, but I don’t see a lot of this retaining its flavor in the months to come.