Image by Damien Blottiere
It is a reputation for crafting tracks out of only the most raw and visceral of percussive sounds that has seen Blawan sustain his position as one of the most consistently exciting producers around for well over a year now — a stylistic trait that is even better suited to the brutalist 4/4 constructions of late than the garage/dubstep leanings of his early releases. Only slightly less prominent (and certainly no less powerful) are the vocal samples that Blawan has taken to inserting into his releases — from Moodymann’s pitch-shifted motivational address on last year’s “What You Do With What You Have” to the highly-distorted, intimidating refrains that feature on the Long Distance Open Water Worker EP, released on Black Sun Records earlier this summer. His He She & She, out on Will Bankhead and Joy Orbison’s Hinge Finger label, picks up where the Black Sun Records release left off, with Blawan again using vocal samples to devastating effect on both “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” and “His Money.”
Both tracks sample the same track — “How Many Mics” by The Fugees — but are sufficiently obscure lines (the former, at least) that few will recognize their origins without prompts. Blawan disfigures Pras Michel’s original vocal, using similar techniques as with the Moodymann sample, that it comes out like Frankenstein’s monster — imbued with menace and suddenly a perfect fit for its updated context. It’s easy to understand why label owner Joy Orbison, himself renowned for using similar tricks with unexpected samples, might have taken a shine to this track. With both “Garage” and “His Money” using the same source material and tempo (give or take) and sharing many of the same drum sounds and effects, it feels as if they are two variations on the same theme — not dissimilar to the approach taken with the four tracks on last year’s Peaches EP, although in this instance with even more overlap. Both feature the same dark and disjointed drums that have come to characterize Blawan’s progressive take on techno, and both will no doubt be equally as potent on the dance floor. Even after dozens of listens there’s very little to choose between them but for me “Garage” just gets the nod — the haunting vocal harmony lends it an almost unwanted catchiness (be prepared for more than a few looks when you find yourself half-singing along to it on the train), and the track is further fleshed out with added atmospherics, notably the piercing screams that usher in the bridge.
Releases on Hinge Finger are deliberately discreet affairs, and the lack of fanfare that accompanies them should theoretically allow artists to indulge their more experimental sides. “His Daughters” seems to suggest just that — a droning, pulsating four-minute-long cacophony of noise, full of analog crackle and indecipherable vocoding, that pays homage to the likes of Throbbing Gristle. Rounding off the release is “And Both His Sons,” a 4/4 affair that starts out with a skeletal industrial framework, upon which new layers are gradually introduced in the manner of a live jam — perhaps showing the influence of the live recording process that Blawan has increasingly began to favor in his collaborations with the likes of Pariah and Berlin-based Italian duo The Analogue Cops. Even without “His Daughters” or “And Both His Sons” this would be an incredibly strong release, but their welcome inclusion, particularly the former, should give ambitious DJs something extra to play around with.