Local Artist - Expanding Horizons / Jack J - Opening The Door

  • Mood Hut returns with two LPs that showcase how far the Vancouver vanguard has evolved.
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  • For a label like Mood Hut, which has maintained a notoriously sporadic release schedule, dropping two LPs within a few months feels like a statement. When one of those records is the long awaited return of Jack Jutson—whose last release was the era-defining Thirstin'— and the other is from fellow cofounder Ian Wyatt AKA Local Artist, it moves from mere statement to as close to a blockbuster event as you'll find in this corner of clubland. On the one hand, both Opening The Door and Expanding Horizons are unlike anything the label has released before, with only traces of the whimsical deep house the label made famous. On the other, both albums sound like the culmination of what Mood Hut has been building up to, bringing together everything from SoundCloud rap to album-oriented rock. Taken together, the two records are a second manifesto for a label that has (unwillingly, perhaps) defined cool for the past decade. Opening The Door and Expanding Horizons sound like two artists in conversation. The Spanish-style guitar and Sade-like beat that starts Jutson's "I Saw Fire" weaves its way across Expanded Horizon, just as the Hassell and Eno fourth world hand drums and dubby low-end in Wyatt's "Rif Kibdani" call back to the digi-dub groove and delayed claps of Jutson's "Clues (Pt. II)." At the same time, the two albums are a bit like rival siblings vying for the last brownie. Jutson narrows in on '70s soft rock with the occasional shade of deep house and dub. Wyatt, while sharing Jutson's love of adult contemporary (and Arthur Russell) ventures further into R&B and hip-hop territory while leaning more heavily on New Age tropes. For those hoping for an album of "Thirstin'" follow-ups, there are still traces of the Jack J of yore on Opening The Door. "If You Don't Know Why" is funky deep house, for example. But the album seems more informed by Jutson's history in pre-Mood Hut bands like No Gold, where he shared the stage with fellow fellow Pender Street Stepper Liam Butler. As Jutson recently explained to Shawn Reynaldo, "The new album is kind of an amalgamation of my trajectory over the years through indie pop, folk, ambient, house, techno and disco. I've learned so much about music, and somehow, I've found a way back to making something like a pop song through the lens of the same influences that led me to making dance music." Of the two records, Wyatt's is more of a surprise. His ambient Slow Riffs project was a chance for him to excise his experimental demons, where his work as Local Artist has always been straight-up house. With the sole exception of the wah-wah chords and slap bassl of "Distance Calling," Expanding Horizons is unrecognizable. From the moment the "Say My Name" guitar lick and trap snares hit on opener "Head Right," the LP is in uncharted waters. "Head Right" is like a slowed-down Girl Talk mashup of Destiny's Child, sad boi SoundCloud rap and, thanks to the loungey trumpet at the end, Yoshinori Sunahara (the guy who made ambient music in homage to Pan Am airlines). In spite of their differences, both records share a certain kind of vulnerability. Mood Hut has always been unironic in their appreciation of yacht rock, street soul and New Age music. When Jutson intoned, "Everything you've ever needed in your life is here with you right now," on "Looking Forward to You," it was like hearing an intimate moment between your neighbors through the wall. Opening The Door develops this intimacy in unexpected ways. At first pass, the album comes across as lighthearted, almost innocuous—it's easy to get lost in daydreams when the melody of "The Only Way" kicks in. But then Jutson sings, "I can't remember when such a simple thing could make me fall apart" over his Toto-esque guitar. On "Clues (Pt. 1)," Jutson's lyrics are replaced by the forlorn saxophone of Linda Fox. Lest things get too real, a quirky synth line replaces the sax for the song's final third. Expanding Horizons likewise slides between emotional registers. The chiming arps and melodramatic emotion in Wyatt’s voice on “Without You” call to mind '80s soap operas (even if the drum programming might be too hip-hop for Dallas), but then it leads into one of the record’s most subtle and beautiful tracks, "Neo Wise," which reminds me of Levon Vincent at his prettiest. Wyatt can pack layers of feeling into a single song: the hazy hip-hop beat and fragile melody of "Give You My Love" is offset by Wyatt's best Lonely Island impression as he raps, "We need that adult time alone tonight / So suave, so nasty." A less generous listener might see this back-and-forth as the artists hiding behind pastiche, but that's never been the Mood Hut M.O. Opening The Door comes across as a beautiful and poignant break-up album, while Expanding Horizons is even more complex. Written while Wyatt's father and partner were both battling cancer, the album encompasses the emotional switchbacks of watching someone battle a terrible illness. Joy, despondency, tears and laughter are all here, all the time, like on "Self Healing," where Wyatt's ascending chords emerge from liquid textures and his vocoder opines, "Listen up man. It’s time to loosen your grip." These records feature some of the best music in the Mood Hut catalog. Jutson's "The Only Way" is right up there with "Thirstin,'" while I've listened to Wyatt's "Self Healing" to start the day every morning for the past month. But together, they create something much bigger than the sum of their respective parts. Both album titles start with the present participles of verbs, "Opening" and "Expanding." At the risk of leaning too far into literary analysis, the verbs, like the albums, are complementary. They are focused on a very specific sense of doing. It isn't about building from scratch, but about working with existing material to build the new from the old. This has always been what Mood Hut has done best and these two albums take it even further to reimagine the future from the past.
  • Lista de títulos
      Jack J - Opening The Door 01. If You Don't Know Why 02. Opening The Door 03. The Only Way 04. Only You Know Why 05. Clues [Part I] 06. Clues [Part II] 07. I Saw Fire 08. Closing The Door Local Artist - Expanding Horizons 01. Head Right 02. Expanding Horizons 03. Without You 04. Neo Wise 05. Rif Kibdani 06. Self Healing 07. Good Enough 08. Give You My Love 09. Distance Calling