I am not a person who often finds myself listening to electronic music. Half the time I can’t even place the particular beat I’m hearing into one of the multitude of subgenres that seem to exist these days. It is perhaps, then, for this reason that I had never come across the work of Howie B, whose influence and credentials in this realm are more than impressive.
He is credited as a founding artist in the trip-hop genre; he’s collaborated with Soul II Soul and Bjork; he’s produced U2, and remixed a whole bunch of other artists. Down With The Dawn is his first studio album in five years, and along for the ride are Gavin Friday, Joe Hirst and Gianni Maroccolo who helped to put together this collection of tracks of starkly differing character, but with a near-perpetual darkness.
Down With The Dawn also has a certain rawness that I don’t hear in a lot of the electronic music that resonates through the dimly lit rooms of clubs that I occasionally – though often unwillingly – find myself in. This rawness – generated in places by means of the occasional overdriven guitar, hard-edged synths, and even a kazoo – makes the album feel more like an artwork, a real expression, as opposed to a collection of attempted floor-fillers or tracks aimed at radio airplay. That’s not to say though that the tunes aren’t groovy, or listenable – in most cases the opposite is true.
The record does, however, drag a bit in places. One might put it down to my lack of appreciation for the genre, but listening to an eleven minute play on the one idea, with incremental growth, is not something my ears easily swallow. Every one of Howie B’s ideas, though, are intriguing in their own way, from the ominous depths of the opening Frankies City, to the eight minute string arrangement that is Authentication, to the albums whispered closing statements in Summers Flower, the only track with vocals. Maybe that’s what I was missing in listening to Down With The Dawn – some singing – or whatever else – to take a stronger hold on my attention.
Regardless, Down With The Dawn is a strong collection of tracks that is sure to have a certain kind of listener dancing through to dawn and beyond.
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