FaltyDL – Hardcourage review

There’s always an air of uncertainty that hovers around a fresh Falty DL release before you set it off and submit your ears to it. Drew Lustman has adopted a chameleonic trajectory since first emerging just five years ago in the midst of a dubstep scene he didn’t really fit in with. More than anything his output has always seemed indebted to the free spirit of beats (as in that wholly insufficient catch-all term for the likes of Flying Lotus and Prefuse 73), as hip hop-mannered sampling collides with contemporary club dynamics across all kinds of tempos. There’s no denying that the UK hardcore heritage comes to bear in many places too, and now this latest offering for his more recent home of Ninja Tune makes some sizable nods to the past.

The cheeky old-skool stylings of a Ninja Tune sleeve last seen on a release back in 1993 give a fairly clear pointer of where this release is headed, and “Hardcourage” as a track is certainly not short of back-in-the-day reference points. Once a deceptive 4/4 thud lead in gets brushed aside, the centrepiece of the EP emerges; a rattling, metallic snare that seems so light as to buffet on the thermals given off by the immersive sub. Said snare is an instant evocation of early breakbeat, and when it works in conjunction with that domineering bass you can almost hear the light bulbs pinging for the inception of jungle all over again.

Meanwhile, the main drop of the track features some direct organ stabs with that meandering register between opposite ends of the octave as yet another prime rave signifier. What makes this concoction so much more than a simple revivalist track is the way Lustman treats and deploys these elements. There’s none of the brazen, in-yer-face ugliness that characterized, say, Skream’s attempt to revisit early hardcore on last year’s “Hats Off”, but rather a staggering amount of delicacy and even temper which draws you into a lull of rolling rhythms and moody blues.

“Our House Stab” works itself up to being a marginally more forthright beast, although the submerged strings and measured jack of the start of the track would have you thinking otherwise. Again the sub bass is king, pulsing with a shapeless quality that only accentuates the dreaminess that permeates this EP. Some spicy stabs do work their way into the mix for a mid-section of fist-pumping euphoria, but it’s not long before they melt away to leave that hypnagogic funk working away undisturbed.

There’s plenty of meat in both “Hardcourage” and “Our House Stab” to get them working on a peak time dancefloor, but to limit these tracks to those hours would grossly sell them short. While the source material is instantly recognisable, you simply can’t argue with the care and grace with which Lustman uses it, giving the music a greater purpose than simple rave fodder.

Oli Warwick


Tracklisting:

A. Hardcourage

B. Our House Stab