Mr. G's sad recent losses have very much been our gain. Colin McBean's well-received last album, 2012's State of Flux, was inspired by the passing of a close friend, and this new one was produced in a 10-day period sometime after the death of the Londoner's father. And it shows: even though much of his work over the last decade has been focussed on tough, dusty, and elongated house, Personal Momentz feels even more expertly distilled and positively storied than anything he has released before.
In someone else's hands, 12 tracks of ostensibly similar basement tracks would surely grow tiring. Mr. G, though, who is known, and celebrated, for giving up a little piece of himself in each production—particularly in his always personally poignant titles—makes sure to imbue each one with a little something that keeps dancers hooked: a bit of cute drum EQing here, a devastating vocal sample there, or a kinked drum pattern underneath it all is always enough, and never too much.
His tried and tested formula combines thick and heavy bass (picked up from Studio One records and the reggae sound system he worked for as a youth) with the headier, long-form hypnosis of techno (which he made as part of The Advent back in the '90s) to expertly economical, yet efficient, effect. McBean captures the essence of humid and intimate backroom clubbing like few others, and isn't afraid to leave in the occasional bit of oddness, so long as it feels right to him. Opener "Faith" is actually one of the new LP's wilder cuts, thanks to the evangelical call-and-response vocals that dominate a grubby, barely restrained bottom end. Elsewhere, there is fat, lazy beatdown on "Hip Flexer" and a nod to his Jamaican roots on the dark and militant stomper "Thingz and Stuff (Mango Boy Red Eye Mix)."
Reading into, as one must, the track entitled "Dad," which starts with far-off keys and lonely drums, we can assume Mr. G has dealt well with his father's passing. Crushing as the track is to start, some warm-blooded bass and spinning jazz synths soon appear, slowly transforming the mood into one of optimism. There's even room for a joke, as a sampled comedian speaks of death, wonders why people complain about the cost of funerals, and laughs at the fact that people say, "Didn't he look like himself?" to a stiff body in a casket. Moody, deep, and heady as this album often is, then, these rays of light are what stop it from being too depressing on the whole.
After that point, some of the grit and dirt disappears. It's as if McBean has shaken off a somber cloud and is ready to face the outside world. As such, things get progressively cleaner and more colorful, and by the time the heavenly xylophone chords and spiritual female cries of "Angels (Ascending)" creep into earshot, things have gotten positively uplifting. Uplifting in Mr. G terms, that is, because there is still a firmly rooted bottom end that keeps listeners entrenched in his heavyweight grooves. What's more, the closing "Dark Heart," with its monstrously skewed lines, ghoulish tech overtones, and darkly futuristic robo-vox, certainly hints that menacing mental demons are never too far away.