These days, there seems to be two distinct types of electronic music artists that make it big. There are those who dedicate themselves to a unified sound, or one of electronic’s myriad subgenres, and stick to it with dogged persistence: The Field with his stuttering minimalist samples, or Burial’s ghost-led drum fits (although, to be fair, Burial has slowly been mutating his sound over the past five years). Then, there are the polyglots, recent producers such as Flume who come bursting out of the gate with a track for every occasion, a toe in every sound. On Hardcourage, Drew Lustman, better known to the world as Falty DL, falls directly in the middle in a stunningly pleasing way. It’s an album that offers a great deal of variation across its 50 minutes, but in a very deliberately assembled and sequenced manner.
Calculated assembly and meticulous sequencing aside, it’s the pulsing warmth and sense of intimacy that truly elevates Hardcourage. Lustman’s synths don’t stab or jump out as much as they lightly cry out, or drizzle down from above. When things do lean towards the more raucous, such as the wobbling bass on opener “Stay I’m Changed,” or the near-stomp of “For Karme,” it’s still done in a tasteful, mid-volume manner, which comes as a welcome respite from the maximalist trends of the past couple years.
The album as a whole is a straddler: the line between consciousness and dreams, the human and the mechanical. A squelchy, cartoony funk romp like “Kenny Rolls One” can exist next to the contemplative bass swells and skittering percussion of “Korban Dallas” without it seeming jarring. Friendly Fires’ Ed Macfarlane shows up contributing bedroom mutterings and falsetto on the aptly titled “She Sleeps,” while Lustman layers the track with breathy vocal samples and a synth that blips itself in and out of existence as if it isn’t sure whether or not it truly wants to come into our world.
Hardcourage is an album that seems to exist in a perpetual state of having its bed covers drawn all the way up to its nose. It offers warmth, intimacy, a strange sense of whimsy, and a veritable buffet of hooks. In taking a slower and more deliberate approach to his craft this time around, FaltyDL is responsible for one of the more purely enjoyable albums of the still-young year.