Whilst Justin Martin’s sophomore album is in many ways simply part two of his debut (2012’s ‘Ghettos & Gardens’ on Dirtybird), it offers more than just a compilation of carefree party beats. Unlike the aforementioned LP, this release isn’t solely dedicated to feed Martin’s DJ sets. The record’s nature and sounds are recognisable – there’s the same bulging squelch synths of old that gurgle away throughout the record – only now they’re tamed by a sheath of luxurious production.
Bar the stomping and climatic ‘Wet Cat’ and ‘Back To The Jungle’ - made for nothing other than intoxicated raves - ‘Hello Clouds’ is characterised by its dynamic ability to be enjoyed equally in both candle-lit bedrooms and bustling underground house venues alike. The producer marries his trademark house with a surging wave of (whisper it) future garage – the now defunct sub-genre spearheaded by nocturnal bass acts such as SBTRKT, Four Tet and Jamie xx. Late interlude ‘U R HERE’ and concluding track ‘Hold Them’, for instance, bind pitch-bent vocal samples, reverberated piano prods and stealthy bass hums in a way that Mercury-nominated album ‘In Colour’ would pride itself on.
You could even mistake Mohna’s haunting husks on the latter to be those of the xx’s Romy Croft. However where ‘In Colour’ features steel pan melodies, ‘Hello Clouds’ has acidic bass belches firing away.
It’s all about creating a colossal, otherworldly atmosphere here, and ‘Dive In’ achieves this from the off. In defiance to its cutesy, fluffy cover art and title, the murky opener plunges about as deep as house can feasibly reach into an Atlantic-sized ocean of sweeping bass rumbles. ‘Hello Clouds’ doesn’t take itself seriously, and is playful while maintaining a neatly executed concept throughout.
After digesting its sugary coating, enriched by dainty vocals from FEMME, Lena Cullen and Charlotte OC, its sense of complete isolation resonates. “Hop upon my cloud / Far up off the ground / Floating in mid-air / I ain’t ever going back down there / Flying way too high to ever want to go back down there” murmurs FEMME in the album’s title track; the message is clear - solitude is serenity.
Although there’s no seismic departure from Martin’s back catalogue, this outing is ultimately less abrasive and more polished. Not squeaky-clean enough to reach Disclosure-style success - but enough to continue Martin’s upward momentum. Although you get the feeling you’ve heard some of this before, it doesn’t take away the craftsmanship in creating a dreamy and multi-purpose house hit. They say every cloud has a silver lining; this one has several.
Words: Jordan Foster
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