Global Goon

Cradle of History

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Johnny Hawk delivers a mostly rewarding sophomore LP, forming a quirky offshoot of the typical Rephlex sound. By sculpting noodley little sci-fi pop instrumentals on the retro-sounding synths of yesterday, Cradle of History has a delightfully organic sound. This is due in part to a formulaic song structure, but also because Hawk doesn't deconstruct things on his laptop like so many of his peers. Global Goon gently stirs songs around like a gurgling stew, rather than shredding them through a blender. Consequently, this 20-song selection doesn't break any daring new ground in music, but it makes for an enjoyable diversion in electronica -- it harkens back to the experimental times of composers like Nino Nardini and Eddie Warner who, when left to their own limited devices, came up with some wonderfully bizarre and inventive pop pieces. Furthermore, you get the sense that the artist is actively involved in the process, performing rather than programming. Most Cradle of History track titles are descriptives rather than riddles; "Funkydrunk" does carry a nice groovy drum loop, while ambling absently through a melody line. "Sloe Intro" subconsciously invokes the spirit of the old Lou Reed hit "Walk on the Wild Side," but, of course, in a much more plasticized way, like an infant robot quietly lighting up in its crib. "Afterlife" reappears here from his previous EP (CAT 057); a welcome addition using a disjointed sample of female vocals to fuel the melody line. This and many others are solidly in line with his lo-fi "chip-hop" approach. The otherwise chilled rec-room mood gets flattened a bit in the near-middle with goofy sample nosedives like "Quirkytill" and "Duck Soup." These tracks illustrate the "goon" of Global Goon and little else. There are still others that keep the album from outright praise, but the redeeming material here is worth the price of imperfection. Rubbery playground anthems like "MIM" and the album's second to last track, "Open Hyhatt," lay down hooks as catchy as any radio charts could offer, and those sliding portamento keyboard lines are as much a signature sound for Hawk as the Oberheim was for Lyle Mays, and he uses it well. Perhaps Global Goon lacks the depth and mystery found elsewhere from influential acts like Boards of Canada or Wagon Christ, but its naïve charm quickly makes up for it. There's something reassuring about those Casio-style presets; it's music of a future left behind, perhaps because you can still tell it's made by a human.

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