KMFH, The Boat Party

[Wild Oats]

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From his earliest efforts, composed while still a teenager, Kyle Hall has been widely hailed as a next-generation savior of Detroit dance music. In the years since “Plastik-Ambash,” the crusty 2007 debut single he made with tapes and a Casio keyboard, Hall has by and large lived up to this hype. Still, there have been a few detours between then and now. His records, alternatively lush and rugged, have been marked by drastic shifts in fidelity — “Plastik-Ambash” is miles away from the luxe sheen of “Must See” and “Kaychunk.” Additionally, he has partnered with a variety of collaborators, namely MGUN, Kero, and Funkineven, each of whom seems to have imparted something foreign on his sound. At this juncture, Hall is known more for his proficiency than any particular signature, other than perhaps dextrous drum programming.

The Boat Party, the artist’s first full-length, offers him a chance to consolidate those assorted aspects. Even before pressing play, though, one feels Hall’s playfulness is going to remain intact. The record’s cover is a photograph of the artist seated on a dilapidated powerboat, itself resting amid other debris on a dingy, snow-covered lot. It’s an ironic gesture that hints at both his home city’s financial destitution and Rust Belt dance music’s migration toward sunnier climes. Although Hall avoids making any such grand statements in the music itself, there is sometimes a sense he is displacing feel-good club jams to grimier zones.

Hall is slow to reveal even glimmers of warmth, however. The record’s meat-and-bones are a series of blunt, grayscale, hiss-saturated pieces that call to mind his associate MGUN’s material. On “Dr. Crunch,” sinewy synthesizer is stretched tight between pounding kicks and rattling snares. It feels fit to snap, and at one point it does, momentarily collapsing in on itself. On “Flemmenup” and “Finnapop,” Hall interprets ghetto-house in similarly high-octane strokes. The radically stripped-down former is especially impressive — its skeletally spaced skip is a bit like RP Boo doing disoriented electro. “Spoof,” meanwhile, is his take on the squashed, post-Actress house that’s been doing the rounds, but coarse, spitting drums choke out its low pads’ potential warmth. Respites come in the form of “Crushed” and its aquatically filtered-down party music, and the euphoric “Measure2Measure.” On the second, which closes the record, Hall deploys a series of choppy edits that are equal parts French Touch and Anthony “Shake” Shakir, while a burning diva wail echoes over the entire piece.

Even these mellower tracks are thick with grit. If Detroit dance music was once famed for its futurist escapism, The Boat Party is thoroughly grounded in reality. It’s a concise, spur-of-the-moment effort that neatly summarizes the shades of Hall’s young career. While not a humble effort by any means, it prizes the artist’s strengths over grand ambitions, and is all the more immediate as a result.


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