Young American producer Woolymammoth (Jason Wool) has an intriguingly twisted take on the interface between hip-hop and electronics. Originally from San Francisco but now LA-based, in the space of four years he’s made a name with his rugged, scraping beats and undulating bass tones, somewhere on the frequency dial between glitched-out IDM, the unique experimental hip-hop sound of his adopted city, and modular synth-crafted sound design.
If his early EPs such as 2015’s Tricks on Buygore and 2016’s Come Wit It with Graves on Artist Intelligence indicated a skill for beat-making and an individual outlook, Filling Spots, his debut album for Alpha Pup, sees him experimenting and broadening his sound. There’s more than a smidgeon of San Francisco’s experimental electronic history sprinkled into this record, from Kid 606’s manic glitchcore to DJ Shadow’s restructuring of samples. On "Nofknway  UMTME," with Bleep Bloop (who releases on Shadow’s Liquid Amber label), Woolymammoth teases with a house beat, before dropping into snaking Sheffield techno patterns and nightmarish stretched bass elements, over buckled drums and weird effects. "The Comeback" has MC Legoon delivering ill raps over a stripped beat, with scuffed record hisses and scattered jazz samples appearing suddenly, only to disappear like mirages in the desert.
The opener "Discovering Inspiration/Release" is a rare moment of gentle reflection, as a cascading Rhodes keyboard accompanies a sampled torrent of water in the background, before "Whyuthinkurdiffrnt" snaps us out of it; it's the kind of roughneck and leftfield jam that would detonate the floor at LA’s Low End Theory, the club co-founded by Alpha Pup label owner Daddy Kev. Its fractured beats stumble and trip over vibrating sub frequencies and spaced out reverb. "Shadeslove" is an ominous buzz of dark side synth, with a menace you can imagine appealing to UK outfit Ivy Lab.
Woolymammoth’s growing sophistication as a producer is clear on this record. Older cuts, such as 2015’s "Tricks," were immaculate in their crafting, but more conventional in their choices of sounds. "Riddim Fix," with Yakoze, is an example of Woolymammoth’s new palette, with its hints of footwork rhythms, submerged blips, and eerie dub effects that interject. His experiments with a Eurorack modular synth system contribute to the record’s plethora of oddball and compelling noises, like the tinkling, smashed glass sounds of "Maktar" or the stiff mechanoid reverberations of "4THACULTURE/Wegotadubsgame." These kinds of experimental elements framed in accessible beats align Woolymammoth with local beatsmith Eprom, and also outlier Amon Tobin.
On the whole, Filling Spots is an engaging record, though in pursuit of a recognizable sound, at times it can be a touch samey. Those moments when Woolymammoth goes off-piste are the most gripping, such as his nods to footwork on "Riddim Fix" or straight up rap on "The Comeback." When he combines his heavy beats with further flights of fancy, he’ll really be onto something.
01.Discovering Inspiration/Release (feat. Cast)
06. Riddim Fix (feat. Yokaze)
07. Filling Spots
08. Mouthbreather Returns/Interlude
11. What's Next..?
12. Mustard (feat. Yokaze)
13. Riskybidness (feat. Tsuruda)
14. Nofknway UMTME (feat. Bleep Bloop)
15. The Comeback (feat. Legoon)
Woolymammoth'sFilling Spots will land on March 23 via Alpha Pup Records.