Keeping all the solo-act white-dude knob-twiddlers in town straight can be tough, and trying to assign them a fitting genre is tougher, but we’re confident in calling Hylidae’s debut what it is: dance music. Jon Burkhart has an irrepressible drive for rave-up rhythms and sparkling melodic filaments, even when they are buried beneath what would otherwise pass for well-manicured noise.
Take the slow-burn opener of his debut album Intransitive
: The bristling, clangorous “You Don’t Say” gradually reveals its sing-songy, melodic core under layers of pneumatic pressure-drops and bit-crushing fuzz. It’s a gradual, tidal groove, but one that is hastened by Burkhart’s vocals, which transmit a kind of serene bliss, particularly when he pushes into falsetto range. On “You Don’t Say,” the lyrics don’t go much further than the three-word title, but they go a long way toward altering the tenor of the song.
Elsewhere on the eight-track album (available on cassette and digitally), Hylidae doesn’t hide his dance floor pretensions but skips right for the pleasure center. “Eulogy” mixes darkwave dub with nearly Caribbean textures for a wobbly, increasingly unhinged track. Some of that unease creeps into “NTHE,” the album’s longest song and its centerpiece, as a simple drum-machine pattern intensifies amid ominously pitched synths. As the patterns lock into a grid, Burkhart’s falsetto — buried under delay and placed deep in the mix as to make his words obsolete — gives the track the feel of a yearning, utterly sincere Hot Chip offering.
It’s moments like these where Hylidae shows Burkhart’s devotion to a certain retro strand of synth-and-sequencer dance-pop, but his sense of classicism is always paired with real-time manipulation and experimental strains. To wit, a certain moodiness permeates the album’s final moments. Closing cut “Sorghum Syrup” revisits the clanking, rusty-chain rhythms of the album’s opening moments and sets them against a slow-blooming synth pad. It’s a quiet, pensive end to a record that has no trouble finding bright and effusive moments amid the noise.
Stream the album in full below:
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