D’marc Cantu and Tadd Mullinix's 2AM/FM collaboration has never had a clear trajectory. From Mullinix's offbeat hip-hop project Dabrye and his acid and techno releases under a plethora of aliases to Cantu’s potpourri of club music, the Ann Arbor residents are known for their constant state of flux. Now, after over a decade of collaboration, 2 AM/FM are releasing their self-titled debut LP on Mullinix's new label Bopside Records, with little regard for any of the sounds they’ve become known for.
Caught between the sounds of Chicago and Detroit, 2AM/FM’s hometown of Ann Arbor is both Cantu and Mullinix's physical base and sonic inspiration. Complicating the expected 4/4 patterns with loose, fluttering analog drums, the album favors ebb-and-flow progressions over tour de force jacking intensity; rolling grooves and spacey synths give way to chimes and waterlogged drum programming. The record never feels empty or boring, but a newfound emphasis on spacing and translucency gives their sound a meditative quality.
Only at one point does 2 AM/FM revert to their old ways: The acidic creep of "Excuse Me Miss" feels a bit out of place with the rest of the tracks, but it is consistent with fact that the record comes from Cantu and Mullinix. They can jump from off-beat drums and stony pianos to acid mayhem with no regard—and even when they’re not being consistent, they’re consistently being themselves.
The duo's willingness to depart from previous sounds, of course, is what warrants an album rather than a series of singles, and this release serves as a statement about 2 AM/FM. Never forgetting about their roots, they’re carving out another sound for themselves and Ann Arbor: a pair of longtime musical transients, finding yet another stride.