Hudson Mohawke has never been afraid of the cinematic. His triumphant productions have, over the years, regularly had an air of movie soundtrack to them, bringing to mind glorious filmic sequences in vivid colour.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that his soundtrack for new open-world video game Watchdogs 2 is a record that not only meets the brief, but that further cements Ross Birchard’s place as one of music’s most versatile, consistent, and interesting producers.
The game itself revolves around a central storyline of anti-establishment hackers, attempting to take down San Francisco’s advanced surveillance networks. This futuristic and somewhat Orwellian premise gives HudMo free reign to explore the glitchier, more experimental and less melodic aspects of his music. Avenues that he has not been afraid to explore in previous work, but that can now firmly take centre stage with the absence of any necessity for pop sensibilities, choruses, or traditional song structure.
This overarching theme and atmosphere means the album is packed with robotic beeps and whirs, and a pervasive sense of tension and unsettling paranoia. At its most discordant and uncomfortable, tracks like ‘Burning Desire’, ‘Cyber Driver (Opera)’ and ‘Eye For An Eye’ instantly put the listener on-edge; a feeling that would undoubtedly be heightened when playing the game that they are designed to accompany.
That said, several of the tracks maintain the instantly recognisable sounds of Hudson Mohawke’s production, from triumphant chimes, synths and horns to rolling hi-hats and hard hitting rap beats. Tracks like ‘Shangahied’, ‘Cyber Driver’, ‘Robot (Finale)’ and even the 54-second ‘Burning Desire (Hacker)’, for example, are absolutely vintage HudMo, exhibiting the stylistic tropes that have more-or-less seen him carve out a one-man musical niche.
Ultimately, DedSec would not raise too many eyebrows were it simply a new Hudson Mohawke studio album — albeit a more experimental one than his last record ‘Lantern’ with its soulful samples and plentiful guest vocalists. It transitions seamlessly from beautifully orchestral pianos and shimmering string arrangements, to dissonant glitch and forceful trap, in a way that elevates the project beyond mere background music.
It may be primarily a video game soundtrack, but DedSec is unquestionably deserving of its independent release of Warp Records, and it further exhibits Hudson Mohawke’s insurmountable talent and versatility.
Words: James Kilpin
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