First Listen: Maxmillion Dunbar "House of Woo"

And there it could have been: The first contender for the album of the year 2013. Andrew Field-Pickering aka Maxmillion Dunbar – house DJ and Future Times label owner from D.C. as well as one part of Beautiful Swimmers – will release his sophomore effort “House of Woo” on RVNG Intl. next week. I am going to say some harsh things about this album, although it is pretty good. But it could have been so so great, had he only done it right.

He has it all – rich production, a sharp, hard bass and dark synths. Then some tribal percussions, a pan flute, glistening synths and an ear for melody. I would describe his style as being between John Talabot’s balearic percussion goodness and Fatima Al Qadiri’s dark vision atmosphere. He can peel beautiful melodies out of experimental settings, has a feeling for the right timing and can build some awesome tracks, as he proves on this album. And it starts out great, with an interesting intro properly called “Slave To The Vibe”, transitioning perfectly into the title track “Woo” – the thumping, glistening highlight of this album. He then shows his experimental quality on “Coins For Canopy”.

But (and this is a big BUT…) shortly after that, the problems begin. He messes up endings and transitions, loses concentration and coherence and breaks the promise he implicitly makes at the start, the promise of an hour of blissful deep house hypnosis. Dunbar told Dazed Digital, who are streaming the album below, that he was “surprised how quick it came out of me. It was very surprising, and very awesome…” And you can find that sense of ease in the album. But he really should have put it back up on the shelf, let it rest for a while and come back to it with a clear head, to give it a structure and a dramatic composition. It is like a badly edited book, full of great writing and imagination, but the storyline is bugged.

I feel like I will return to this album over the coming months, enjoying its playfulness and arbitrary sounds. The album made me angry, which in the end is a very good sign, because it shows that it got me emotionally invested right from the start. Maybe it will make it to my top list anyway. But I won’t recommend it to anyone who is less inclined to love it for or despite its randomness though. If you want to find out if you do exactly that, listen to it below. (For some reason there are two tracks missing, you can listen to them on NPR, if you like.)

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