Marquis Hawkes Higher Forces at Work
Berlin-based producer Marquis Hawkes announced himself last year with Cabrini Green, an EP which, if the title didn't give it away, depicted an artist deeply influenced by Chicago's house legacy—particularly mid-to-late '90s ghetto house. Tracks like "Marvin," however, with its slow-burning, filter-laden groove, were a little more considered than most ghetto house, a genre that usually succeeds on bluntness. Higher Forces at Work, his follow-up EP, confirms the producer has talents beyond simple throwbacks.
That said, the unhinged pitch-sliding that runs throughout "Higher Forces" is straight out of Steve Poindexter's playbook. Rather than coupling it with a frantic rhythm, however, Marquis Hawkes drops the drums to around 115 bpm, which serves to draw out its abstraction. The pace is similarly sluggish throughout the record. The compressed pads that highlight "Automatic" could easily appear on one of Jochem Peteri's records, but the raw, old-school house drums and squiggly bassline come from another place entirely. As on its predecessor, its odd combination is accentuated by its rhythm's lurch. "I Want You" opens the flip with the record's most festive arrangement. Like the other tracks, it thrives on a simple combination, but its sample-driven disco-house swerve is less incongruous and more functional. One of the EP's strengths, though, is this kind of mismatching. "Divine Intervention" again capitalizes on the tendency, as its measuredly rattling, Poindexter-esque rhythmic skid is coupled with quaveringly compressed strings and taut acid lines. Marquis Hawkes utilizes the more experimental elements of ghetto house, but smartly discards much of the attitude. He is less a copyist than an experimenter, taking a long view of dance music and melding Chicagoan motifs with an array of other influences. Higher Forces at Work is not as riotous as Cabrini Green, but its pared-down, measured approach is welcome.
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