Mophono and Salva are searching for the future beat
One of the outcomes of this recording process is the dizzying song "Cut Form Crunch," extracted from multiple sessions with Flying Lotus and later edited into a condensed can of musical psychosis. Thick-bodied synth keys vibrate over muddled bass thumps and compressed percussive claps as if dubstep's basic components were thrown together into a washing machine, cycling in rotation. "Electric Kingdom" maneuvers through dubstep's signature helicopter wobble, curdling an off-kilter rhythm with sequenced claps and blips. In "Cut Form Crush Groove," Illgen reworks the early disco breaks that established the basic framework of hip-hop in circa-1980s South Bronx. A Vocoder-dissimulated MC channels the cosmic frequency of Afrika Bambaataa, calling us to respect the foundation. But even these more conventional drum patterns and familiar vocal refrains wisp away into static and gurgling fuzz.
What Illgen emphasizes in his recording technique is a preference for textural environment over the clarity and crispness often associated with quality. "I see experimentation as an open-minded direction to making music," he says. "I don't know what I'm going to find, but if I open my ears, I'll find something. And I'll let that dictate where the music goes."
Paul Salva takes a similar improvisational approach to music production. "Without all the theory and formal training, I have to relish this time where I'm feeling out the instruments and learning what to do with them," he says. "As amateurs, and coming from a place of ignorance, kids are doing amazing shit — by accident."
Despite his Chicago upbringing, Salva initially gravitated to West Coast backpacker hip-hop and the East Coast stylings of the Diggin' In The Crates (DITC) crew before taking an interest in his hometown-bred house and its ghetto-tech offspring. "Record store culture really helped solidify my eclecticism," he says. "Through working at Gramaphone Records in Chicago and also in Miami, I got into IDM, drum 'n' bass, and whatever else caught my ears." Recently, as genre allegiances have begun to dissolve among young musicians and listeners, Salva grew comfortable with the idea of consolidating his diverse tastes and producing a record on his own terms. Although Complex Housing takes influences from a flux of emerging ideas and sounds across the spectrum of today's future bass and beat scene innovators, it finds an enduring coherence in being, very simply, a well-crafted dance record.
"Wake Ups" has Salva showing his chops on the synthesizer and the drum machine, layering lush boogie-funk chords over a skittering rhythmic grind. In "Keys Open Doors," he anchors dirty disco arpeggios with poly-percussion pilfered from the odd-shuffle of UK funky and grime. In these songs, the gritty underside of club music — recalling its many places of origin and evolution in abandoned warehouses and neon-lit bars, juiced from electric outlets in public parks and now the outer zones of the Internet — emerges from layers of shimmering production. The record reaches toward its apex with "I'll Be Your Friend," a future-funk rendition of Robert Owens' early '90s house classic of the same title. Salva edits Owens' longing hook into a repetitive chant, spliced around a minimal rhythmic knock and atmospheric washes of sound that delicately grow and just as softly decay.