- Not long after its inception in 2005, Claude VonStroke's Dirtybird label became one of the most significant outposts for house music on the US West Coast. For most of the San Francisco imprint's lifetime, a small roster of artists have been responsible for the bulk of its output, with VonStroke leading the charge. The Dirtybird sound, like its founder's, is tried-and-tested, rarely deviating from the bass-heavy style that originally won over its fans. On his third full-length, which is also Dirtybird's 100th release, VonStroke offers up ten cuts, most of which fail to recapture the spark of his, or his label's, finer moments.
A solid intro kicks things off, making use of thick low-end and a broken beat. "The Clapping Track," one of album's previously released cuts, sets the tone for Urban Animal's remainder. Unfortunately, it's not a good one. What starts out as a loopy, percussive house track ends up a mess of crowd noises and melody, ultimately destroying any sense of groove that its tidy drums had created. This happens several times over the course of the next 45 minutes, with tracks like "Dood" and "Sugar & Cinnamon" in particular falling victim to an overactive sample-trigger finger.
Urban Animal's standout moments arrive when there's less going on. Downtempo loops on house albums don't come much nicer than "Plasma Jelly," whose understated digital funk gives way to another highlight, "Can't Wait." The eight-minute cut is VonStroke at his grooviest, with long bass notes and a bouncy kick drum. It'd be the perfect warm-up selection if it wasn't for a series of grandiose breakdowns, which render it suitable for peak-time only. While there may have been a time for the no-holds-barred approach that Dirtybird epitomises, it seems that time has passed. It's only in its more subdued moments that Urban Animal comes close to the high standards the Bay Area native once set for oddball house.
01. Urban Animal
02. The Clapping Track
04. Sugar & Cinnamon
05. The Bridge
06. Oakland Rope
07. Lay It Down Re-Smoked
08. Plasma Jelly
09. Can't Wait
10. Lay It Down Re-Smoked (VIP)