Drew Lustman’s music as FaltyDL bubbles with a very distinctive energy, a result both of his sample source material and his own idiosyncratic approach to arrangement.
On debut album Love Is a Liability and 2011’s You Stand Uncertain, both released via Planet Mu, diced fragments of house, electronica and old-school UK rave were whipped up into rhythms that recalled two-step garage, but swung to the point of near-disarray.
Crucially, the unstable nature of the resulting tracks preserved the essence of Lustman’s source material, making even their most laidback moments feel exhilaratingly anxious.
Hardcourage, Lustman’s third album proper and first for Ninja Tune, follows on from a string of EPs and 12″s that followed his muse alternately into Theo Parrish territory (last year’s Our House Stab), spaced-out Afrobeat (the Mean Streets EPs for Swamp81) and slinky garage (the Atlantis EP).
Fittingly for a producer who tends to flit from idea to idea – usually with very successful results, it must be said – Hardcourage represents something different again.
Significantly, it’s much calmer and more measured than most of Lustman’s music to date: opener Stay I’m Changed might, halfway through its length, blossom into a throbbing house pulse, but it’s stripped of impact by the drawn-out tendrils of synth that coil between beats.
Similarly, advance single Straight & Arrow – one of the more nakedly lovely pieces of music he’s released for quite some time – barely breaks a sweat as it slinks along for five hazy minutes.
It’s all exquisitely produced, delicate and beautiful stuff.
However, something’s also been lost along the way. The handcrafted, collage-ish feel of his earlier recordings is often absent, leaving far more smoothly defined compositions that lack the thrilling chaos that’s typically a FaltyDL hallmark.
The best moments here are those that keep the tension ratcheted up to breaking point – the Moodymann-ish jazz chords and jitterbug house shuffle of Finally Some S***/The Rain Stopped, the rough-and-tumble funk of Kenny Rolls One. But they’re largely found in the album’s second half, making Hardcourage a frustratingly slow-burning listen.