Producers nowadays can make a beat, upload it, and get five seconds of fame before even making their first brew of the day. Nice as that might be for the ego, it doesn’t often result in music that stands the test of time. Detroit native MGUN (a.k.a. Manuel Gonzales) knows this, and for that reason the tracks that make up his excellent debut album, Gentium, range from a few months to nearly 10 years old. It is an approach that fellow Motor City prodigy Kyle Hall also took on his latest LP, From Joy, and one that similarly pays off.
For many producers, playing such a long game would render much of their material out dated, but not Gonzales. The grainy and lo-fi style he fomented early in his career remains exciting. It manages to be heady, heavy and heartfelt, and that makes it hard to pick apart the old and the new here. There is also a biographical element to Gentium that finds moods shift from carefree and playful to much more serious minded. Buoyant melodies and rolling grooves make way for spitting hi hats and broken beats, maybe as adult life bites.
“Pok” is an icy opener of rainy melodic loops, slithering hats and snares that immediately hook you in. From there thick, foggy house grooves continue: “Half Past 3” is a deep and lonely chugger that Omar S would be proud of, and “Don’t Hurt Yo Self” is the true sound of heartbreak with its wounded chords, machine glitches and nails on a blackboard squeals. Wrong as that sounds on paper, it is so right in practice. And that is part of the Gonzales appeal: His ability to conjure familiar feelings with unfamiliar sounds.
That continues through the haunting, churchy chords of “Past Due,” which is desolate and empty, and could well portray a decaying corner of Detroit. Water drips from bust pipes, warm billows of smog hang in the air and bassy menace percolates up from below. Crunchy trance trip “Bed & Breakfast” is then pumping and party, and “NVR” and “Veyra” are fizzing, drug addled cuts that are more akin to the techno and electro EPs MGUN was releasing on labels like The Trilogy Tapes and Berceuse Heroique before he took a two-year break to focus on family and work. Ultimately, no one track outshines the other here, because Gentium is a coherent work from an artist who is fluid in his own language, no matter when he talks or what he says.
A2 Half Past 3
B1 Don't Hurt Yoself
B2 Past Due
C1 Bed & Breakfast
Gentium will land via Don't Be Afraid on April 1, 2016.