Blawan – Woke Up Right Handed
It’s official. Blawan is weird again. There was a point at which it seemed that the UK DJ-producer had switched tactics toward, dare we say, more straightforward techno ambitions. Perhaps the expectations pegged on him following his breakout single Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage? were always going to be a challenge to meet. The sly, humorous horror of that bizarre piece of work and the His He She & She EP singled him out as a distinct voice in techno, and it’s clear now that these expectations were based on the assumption of him as a certain kind of producer. But then again, this wasn’t entirely unfounded. Emerging from the post-dubstep scene and armed with a background in percussion, Blawan’s techno immediately felt different. Amorphous and slippery, the music of early Blawan was fluid in a way that techno wasn’t, rebelling against the form’s rigidity with shuddering, liquid synths and indistinct drums arranged in skittish patterns, just slipping into enough regular time to be dubbed techno (see: His Daughters). It was the sort of unbridled experimentation that saw Blawan remixing Radiohead before the success of Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?. But then over the past few years, he’s slipped into creating the sort of big room techno that’s typical of the form. Austere, sledgehammering, and relentless, albums like Many Pings or last year’s Make A Goose suggested that Blawan had sobered from the acid-trip of his early work. Woke Up Right Handed, his latest EP for XL Recordings, remedies this with a much needed re-dose that time-warps us back to Blawan at his most playful and rebellious.
Easily the most exciting and unique work from him in recent years, Woke Up Right Handed returns Blawan to re-writing the techno rulebook instead of following it. The rigidity of Make A Goose makes way for a return to serpentine, rubbery polyrhythms informed by post-dubstep breaks and fluid shapes, but also for influences from outside Blawan’s usual frame of reference. Would we be amiss to suggest a late 2000’s hip-hop tonality to Close The Cycle? With hollow, popping and tripping log drums, a squelchy synthline, and a repeated RnB hook of nonsense sounds, Close The Cycle sounds like the result of Blawan waking up and deciding to cosplay as Timbaland for the day. The machine funk of Gosk similarity stretches phrases of ripcord synths and clattering, tin-like percussion into a metallic beast that writhes as much as it pulses. Then there’s Under Belly of course, the first single heard from the project earlier this year. The vaudevillian electro jaunt sounds just as wonky, just as utterly and deliciously bizarre, though it’s easily the most left-field on Woke Up Right Handed. No other track on the EP plays with structure and rhythm quite as much, but hearing Under Belly in the context of everything else does point toward the return of something else for Blawan; his obnoxious and kind of impish sense of humour. It’s an energy that gets carried throughout the EP, from the absurdity of Underbelly to the made-up language of titles like Gosk and Blika. On the latter, which opens Woke Up Right Handed, a trippy percussive pattern slithers along a hulking bassline until eventually, a pitched-to-the-abyss voice begins chanting “blika.” It’s comical and wickedly ironic the way Blawan challenges common genre tropes like this and in the process, offers some wonderfully self-aware commentary on his own body of work.
Woke Up Right Handed thrums with a playfulness that not only serves the music, but makes it feel like Blawan is not taking things too seriously. It’s a nice contrast from the headier Blawan of recent years, and shows that when he’s having fun his music can often crossover into the fantastical. It’s unsurprising, considering that he took the past year to retreat from playing big room techno in basements and nightclubs to use lockdown as a time to do something else. In particular, become a dairy farmer. That reset translates into this sort of freedom, music made without the constriction of expectations placed upon him. It’s a shift in perspective that’s perhaps unlocked Blawan’s greatest asset; his desire to play and hitherto innovate.
Listen to Close The Cycle from Woke Up Right Handed below.