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FaltyDL - Hardcourage

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Artist: FaltyDL

Album: Hardcourage

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Jan. 28, 2013

The word on Drew Lustmanís new album is that the tracks were created under the influence of love getting serious, and that he didnít intend to share at first. Itís easy to take that info and look for hints of light rhythms and downbeat chimes. Despite those downtempo cues, this record is neither soft nor sad. Itís engaged, even turned on, clearer than his past work. The chattery patterns and foggy keyboard washes of U.K. bass remain fundamental to his sound, but he wrings out something thatís steady rather than kinetic, and itís hardly ever lonesome. If most of the music on Hardcourage doesnít aim for a crowded dance floor, itís not coming from a solitary bedroom, either.

Thereís more focused production, yes, but measured sensuality was also on display with his last full-length, You Stand Uncertain. So perhaps this record isnít as revealing as it seems at first. Buoyancy is what Lustman does. While very much a part of the international DJ world, heís got a feel for R&B thatís less detached than his peers. Hardcourage doesnít feature the raft of female vocalists that made Uncertain an arty parallel to U.S. chart pop. This time he reaches further back. The low-light keys could come from a midnight Quiet Storm broadcast, and the final track, "Bells," is built around sax samples from the age of pink blazers with big shoulder pads. These tones tempt the retro-kistch gods, but the lapse doesnít happen.

Part of it is that Lustman has a strong control of melody, even when working with short loops. "Kenny Rolls One" starts and ends with dubstep basics: a puffing snare and seething chords. As it accumulates layers, darkness is pushed aside for an electro-jazz bump, a la Herbie Handcock. This is still clearly the work of one guy ó funk emerges from the pileup, rather than players playing off of each other ó but he sure gets a liquid flow from sharp edges.

Lustman has been branching out of late. Hardcourage the album was proceeded by a single of the same name, not included here. Goblin techno along the lines of Magda or Raime, and driven by haunted echoes over 4/4 click, it would have spoiled the mood. Unfortunately, that happens anyway on ďShe Sleeps,Ē the one track here with vocals. Ed McFarlane of indie-discoers Friendly Fires delivers indie emoting, without compensatory disco boldness. The aim is passion, but the results are squishy ó a lot of glowing string sounds, like hammering at a grand piano harp, embellish a melody delivered without charisma. Itís the one bummer on the record.

Overall, FaltyDL is becoming reliably fascinating. He works in a middle ground, neither minimal or elaborate, making strong impressions by getting pushy. Thatís what follows seduction.

By Ben Donnelly

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You Stand Uncertain

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