New York producer Daniel Martin-McCormick made his first overt forays into dance music last year with a series of EPs: one for his own Lovers Rock imprint, and several others for Los Angeles' Not Not Fun and 100% Silk. Martin-McCormick's prior work (in noise/punk/experimental groups like Mi Ami and Black Eyes, and solo, as Sex Worker) was often strikingly raw, and that tendency further manifested itself on his tracks as Ital. Those early EPs were rough around the edges, but they led many to believe that Martin-McCormick would eventually better tool his tracks for dancefloors. Earlier in the year, Planet Mu released Hive Mind, his debut LP, which debunked any such theories (though recent efforts on 12" suggest he's still flirting with the form). The album remains an intense listen, one full of discombobulating house and industrial tropes with a restless, if slightly doom-laden, energy. Dream On, his second LP, is no less challenging a proposition.
Hive Mind opened with a Lady Gaga vocal sample ("doesn't matter if you love him") sputtering away into infinity, its low-slung stumble gradually cluttering with percussion and then collapsing under its weight. "Despot," the first track on Dream On, takes a similar approach. It seems too excited for its own good, plunging almost immediately into a confusion of percussive angles, stammering vocal chops, and crazed synths. It eventually begins to make sense, helped by the sporadic appearance of an odd, Italo-esque bassline. The track may not have the vocal hook of "Doesn't Matter," but it's imbued with a more confident bump. "Despot" sets a strong precedent for the tracks that follow it.
"Boi" follows it up in a slightly more brooding fashion: beginning in industrial ambience, it develops a hurried, recklessly stepping rhythm, its quick-cut vocal samples opened up and expressive. The humorously titled "Eat Shit (Waterfalls Mix)" would not sound out of place next to Lukid's recent work; serrated and broken, it's an estimation of Eric Serra's "Learning Time" played through splintery digital interference. It's the most poignant moment on a thoroughly menacing album, and lives up to its contradictory title. The next few tracks take a more sinister tack. The wordless vocals on the throbbing "Enrique" are molasses-slow, and the track's first half is a sullen prowl in accompaniment. But as is his wont, Martin-McCormick throws a wrench in its spokes, introducing an assortment of shrill bleeps and static for a dissonant crescendo. On the chaotic "What A Mess," the vocals are no longer just a clipped accompaniment—the track is predicated on a warped, metallic monologue about health care, its camp whimper lending it a grim sarcasm. Coupled with a clipped, concrète-leaning arrangement, it suggests total disillusionment via information overload. Dream On does find some resolution in its closer, "Deep Cut (Live Edit)." The track is as close as the record gets to straight-up dance music, and while it's an admittedly frazzled variation, its constant, deep-house organ melody conveys some sort of constancy.
Overall, however, Dream On is an amorphous, eminently disorganized set of tracks. It's apparent that this is also Martin-McCormick's intention; by emphasizing a kind of perpetual malfunction, he tangibly depicts the sensory strains of our age. In one of his early interviews as Ital, it was revealed that he was painstakingly plotting his tracks on Audacity, a free production program. This was a somewhat shocking revelation; given his tracks' tendency to twist and turn, he had previously been grouped with purveyors of live electronics. While he's since honed a live set of his own, Dream On finds him utilizing the computer-processed end of his sound with a newly savage intensity.