Hudson Mohawke has been relatively quiet on the production front since the release of his debut full-length, Butter, in late 2009. Although less than two years have passed, the musical landscape for bass music has certainly shifted, with many producers who were similarly weaned on dubstep and hip-hop moving in a more house- and techno-oriented direction. Even those who continue to dabble in hip-hop and R&B tempos seem to have migrated toward the increasingly abstract and experimental sounds being championed by the so-called beat scene and the extended Low End Theory family. So where does that leave Hudson Mohawke, the former turntablist with a penchant for crafting oddball, bass-loaded tunes that nonetheless slap hard in the club?
If the five tracks on Satin Panthers are any indication, it appears that the 25-year-old Glaswegian is doing the same thing he's always done, only better. Butter was a fine effort, yet the 18-track album undoubtedly suffered from some bloat. Satin Panthers finds Mohawke operating in a similar sonic space, only now his focus is razor-sharp. From a percussion standpoint, the EP is strongly rooted in modern hip-hop and R&B with its punchy, club-ready drum patterns and thick low end. That said, HudMo hasn't gone mainstream, as Satin Panthers is full of head-turning moments and melodic eccentricity. The beats on "Thunder Bay" hit hard, but the song is propelled by a menacing, almost-alien horn melody and filled out by dramatic synths and expertly chopped vocal snippets. "Cbat" is even weirder, a stripped-down tune with little more than standard boom-bap and a simple melody, which Mohawke repeatedly twists, turns, and tweaks over the song's three minutes. "All Your Love" might be the best song here, a hyperactive number that flips early-'90s piano house into an infectiously percussive pop track. Opener "Octan" is the only drum-free selection, although it features some sparkling synth work, while "Thank You" closes out the EP on a similarly synth-heavy note, albeit one flanked by some frenetic beat work.
Overall, Satin Panthers is an excellent new entry in the Hudson Mohawke discography, a case in which an artist stayed the stylistic course and improved on an already-successful formula. Most importantly, while Butter tended to drag, Satin Panthers leaves the listener wanting more, which just might be Hudson Mowhawke's biggest achievement of all.