Claude VonStroke

Urban Animal

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Detroit house and techno producer Barclay Crenshaw aka Claude VonStroke has long straddled the mainstream and the underground, offering up big floor-filling monsters like "The Whistler" while being remixed by the likes of the revered reverb and dub group Echospace. Add to that his sense of humor and he's been easily explained as Benny Benassi for the more restrained or "tasteful" crowd, but compare the cover art of this 2013 release to his early efforts (there were birds, either strangling the producer or pooping on his head) and it's a visual representation of how that doesn't fit here. Not perfectly anyway, as "Dood" is the silly, Green Velvet-styled cut its title promises, with slowed-down voices acting stoned as spaceships launch in the background, but there are serene and sane moments on Urban Animal, including the title cut, which is actually small and artful. Late-album highlight "Can't Wait" is a smooth slice of house music where pianos and a woman's voice create a late-night dream world, and then there's the sound of Boards of Canada going hip-hop on the quirky ruler called "Plasma Jelly." Two more highlights come from the tried-and-true VonStroke style, as "The Clapping Track" does what it says in an ever more clapping manner and "Lay It Down" turns the simplest of samples and the smallest of basslines into something big and funky. With VonStroke spreading his wings a bit, Urban Animal is a satisfying mix of the jokey old and the more serious new, adding up to the most headphone-friendly album yet from the bird lover and beat master.

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