Jason Hogans - Mallet Creek (Sound Signature, 2021)
One of contemporary electronica's most versatile and deeply engaging producers makes his debut outing on Sound Signature with a beautiful saunter through all manner of grooves, vibes and feels.
Versatility is often paired with creativity as a means to describe someone who is capable of adapting a way of thinking to a wide variety of genre stylings, and more often than not we find ourselves becoming joined at the hip to their varied discographies. Its an approach that is old as time itself, not just serving up musicians with opportunities for the sublime but those operating within other creative mediums, from art to film to culture in general. Smashing down the preconceived boundaries is only achieved via innovation, through exploring the morphologies that can occur between genre tropes and being able to technically apply a wide variety of wondering fancies into something concise. There are a number of artists who we find inhabiting these fringe spaces, occupying an environment that has many elements flowing into it which help to continually inspire and tantalise the possibilities which come with the territory, with the end result something very special indeed. In a world where all manner of sounds are available at the drop of a hat, there is seemingly so much to feel excited by and inspired by as to make sticking to your guns seem plausible, and yet there is much to be praised about producers who strike out on their own, eager to discover how their sound can give something back to the swirling audial environment that yearns for innovation and forward thinkingness. In all shades of dance music in particular, these kinds of steps forward persist through the hands and minds of the versatile, often by their morphing together of sounds that operate on similar wavelengths to craft sounds that are defined largely by their propensity to provide something fresh and invigorating. Experimentalism through sonics and instrumentation can often led to similar results, with artists who engage with these mediums producing highly memorable moments that transcend one singular field of vision and engage us to the utmost, with the musicality serving from left to right and up and down. We get caught up in the infectiousness of it all, a deep swim within a vast ocean of possibility and thought, desperately attempting to make sense of these new concepts we come across as our emotional and musical investments become overwhelming in the most positive of ways. Music requires those who showcase their versatility and creativity to a significant degree, as with the over saturated market we find ourselves within today the need for steps forward are always welcomed, with each release pushing the boundaries onwards just a little bit to ensure a continual sense of momentum onwards. It adds volume to the narrative, it nurtures the perimeters of sound, it explores the intersections and crossroads that extend along the ground plain from the spot we stand in to the horizon lines and beyond.
Certainly one of those artists who resides at the top table of forward thinking and innovative musicians is Detroit's Jason Hogans, who since his debut back in the late 90s has cut out one of the most compelling journeys for himself. Hogans' style is hard to pin down, with its dexteriteus nature not confined to a singular form of expressionism but instead occupying an expanded universe that is filled with far flung gems and differentials in tone, mood and melody. Hogans' formal background and vast competency in a number of instruments has certainly helped in expanding his horizons beyond one form of making music, with this knowledge and experience applied to each and every project he has embarked on. Its fair to say that Hogans has embraced his inner exploratory nature with his releases, with the sounds found within touching on a whole plethora of styles, including House, Broken Beat, Future Jazz, Leftfield, D'n'B, Downtempo, and so on, and so forth. Hip Hop also is an important genre found within his works, particularly under the :Brownstudy alias, which sees Hogans pick up the mic and deliver some flawless performances over some excellent instrumentals that would be worthy of appearing on any other iconic record of the genre. Its fair to say that whatever Hogans applies himself to he nails completely, and this all ties into both his capability to make music but also a vision for how that music will sound like. On the Planet E website, his profile lists a quote that touches upon his formal background and instrumental ability, but it finishes with Hogans saying that when making music he is 'ultimately relying on my ear & heart - just feeling it out...', and this statement has a large amount of significance. It means that rather than getting bogged down in convention, he sees music making as taking that training and setting it free, which ultimately helps to make the music come naturally, intuitively and perhaps most importantly, helps it unravel in an innovative manner. When freedom persists in the mind of the music maker, where the heart leads and the ears respond, the process becomes highly enjoyable and in turn the music created feels joyous and wonderfully diverse, and that pretty much sums up Hogans' sound to a T. His works are all highly enjoyable and do a fantastic job at capturing that essence of forward thinkingness, starting off with works from his own name that include the fantastic 'Detroit No Hype' LP, that showcases Hogans at his most dynamic and cutting edge, with the record arriving early last year; the bombastic and seriously groovy tones of 'The Age of Scrap' mini-album, that arrived in 2017; the superb 'Peter And The Rooster' EP from 1998, that put Hogans on the map as a game changing musician; and the exquisite 'Tails, Feet, Guts' album, that is everything you want it to be, with the album arriving in 2014; and finally, the iconic 'Peter and the Rooster' EP, that remains one of Hogans' most defining works and a real highlight of Carl Craig's Planet E label. From his :Brownstudy name, some records to sink your teeth into include the superb 'Life Well Lived' LP from 2013; the fantastic instrumental record 'Papa, turn it up' from 2017; and finally, the wicked rhymes and vibes found on the 'Tell Me More About Bubbles' EP from 2004. Hogans' sound truly is a universe, a statement not just alluded to in his music but fully released within each record from start to finish, an encapsulation of his talents, techniques and capabilities all wrapped up in a neat little bow. Hogans seems completely at ease with the creative flows that unravel from within his mind, the synergy between the natural flows and the compositional undertakens one of the same, and its this relationship that abounds with glee from every single track he has ever made. There's a little bit for everyone here, and when you do find that piece you're looking for there's a heft amount of motivation to get involved in the rest of the record, devouring all that jumps out with a ravenous appetite. We cannot sing his praises enough, so why not go check out his works for yourself, trust us when we say you won't be disappointed!
And now we flow right onto his latest release, 'Mallet Creek', that arrives via Theo Parrish's Sound Signature record. This record brings together a lot of what Hogans has achieved with records under his own name and via :Brownstudy, with the tunes found within the release a mixture of tempos and tones to suit a morning saunter through the emerging sunlight. Filtering between Broken Beat, Future Jazz and instrumental Hip Hop with an absolute ease, the music is bound together by beautiful instrumentalism and razor sharp beats, all of which work together as a unit to deliver a bountiful experience that reflects all that Hogans is. Versatility, creativity, they both make an appearance on this delightful recording, which in many ways is to be expected from Hogans and his music. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this beautiful blend of all things groovy and melodic....
Up first comes 'A Daydreamer and a Clown', and this one begins with the chirpy rising key line and the deep set rhythmic structure. The melodic section quickly develops into a vibrant top end, with shifting chordal lines moving through the gears with a steadfast determination, their chuggy nature acting as a perfect balance to the clean cut beats. The shifts between the lead key line and the dense interactivity is a welcome one, providing us with two vibes to get deeply involved within as time passes by. The way in which the track is set out is delightful to the ears, with the drums shifting across the pan as the bass piles its way through the mid section, with the melodics on top binding us to the ebbs and flows. The cut keeps going onwards, with subtle variations in the narrative providing a feel thats both pleasant to the touch and blissful deep within the heart, and as the track sees itself out we feel a very warm afterglow indeed. A perfect opener. Up next comes 'Favourite Coffee Mug', and the tone relaxes itself just a little bit here. Whereas the opener was a bit more expansive, this one contracts to keep the instruments close to our peripheries, as the drums tighten themselves around a central pivot as the keys gently embrace the top ends of the track with a real certainty. The feel is intimate and welcoming, as if we are swirling around that coffee mug towards the liquid at the bottom, the sounds coming through the window breezy and care free, filled with optimism and belief. Beautiful. Up next comes 'Do This Proper', and this one begins in a very textured place indeed. The hats do a great job at introducing us to a very vibrant scene indeed, with the distant keys doing their job at indicating a shift in energy, with this occurring as the drums arrive just in time to achieve lift out, as the kicks lift us off our feet to arrive somewhere in the clouds above. The rhythmic swing is beautiful, inviting us deep within its structure to be able to shift around and get to know all the elements that make up this beautifully considered soundscape. The bass rises above to give the composition an ooft, with the intermingled key lines manipulated to create a sense of scale, their presence looping but never not catching us by surprise, such is their buoyant character. The shifts into phases with no hats is transitioned very well indeed, and its a feature that will last long in the memory. Gorgeous.
Up next comes 'Blue Blessed Rider', and this one arrives to us fully formed. The drums shift through the underbelly as they support the sultry guitar riff on top, with a higher end line capturing the attention at first but our ears catch onto the light single note line that slides around underneath, which injects a level of dynamism into the mix. The groove is delightful, with each passing stanza seeming slightly different than the last, as we forget how the drum loop used to sound and how it feels in the present moment, with Hogans' ingenious touches helping to maintain our focus as the track flows onwards. We could listen to this all day, we really could. Instrumentalism at its finest. Up next comes 'For My Solids', that begins with a hefty amount of energy to get us going within the daily grind. The drums crash and catapult into life, with a flickering key line maintaining a sequence through the structure and before long we arrive at the key melodic crux of the track, with jazzy chords aligning themselves with the bottom end of the cut as the swings never stop going. The resulting soundscape is utterly infectious, seemingly building from the bottom to the top with each passing bar, never content in standing still but merely abounding further, with the transitions between densities helping to achieve an unstoppable sense of momentum. The way in which the track picks itself up as the keys arrive warms the heart strings, a reassuring sense of energy that flows right through us from our fingers through to our toes. Glorious! to wrap things up, we have 'Kitchen Hype', and this one feels just right to end a record filled with inspiring looping goodness. The tone is low slung and swinging with all its got, the drums assured underneath a smooth as hell chordal line that lavishing lays itself within the top ends, never faltering in its quest for to move us one final time. It might just be a snapshot, but its one that leaves a big impressive, and perfectly wraps up one of the most feel good and musically intriguing records you will listen to all year.
There's a lot of life in a Jason Hogans record, a feeling that is reflected in the instrumentation and the direction that many of his tracks take. Be it a looping melody and drumming pattern that could last into the cosmos, or a delectably complex composition that keeps you always coming back for more, Hogans captures a real sense of spirit and feel in his music, and this record is absolutely no different. From the off we are treated to his signature drumming patterns and beautifully toned melodic touches that shift in presence each time, with the collection as a whole providing an enriching narrative for us to involve ourselves in, with every transition in density welcomed with open arms. You lose yourself in the intricacies and depth that invite you in for what feels like a lot longer than the track lengths might suggest, and that in itself is an achievement. A beautiful record for the down time, in more ways than one.
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