- Kris Wadsworth enjoys conveying messages through his music. An outspoken personality by his own admittance, his work has often had a heavily sardonic current running through it, made by a man unafraid to poke fun at himself or the world around him. His latest stab at the scene arrives in the form of his second studio album, Popularity. Speaking recently to RA, Wadsworth outlined the project as a satirical critique of the music-making masses, a reaction to producers who "wake up and think: 'Fuck creativity, how can I be famous?'" The upshot of such a comment is that a mirror is held up to Wadsworth's own musical credibility. In the case of Popularity, the Detroit native's reputation for keeping it real remains largely intact.
Since he started releasing records in 2005, Wadsworth has formed relationships with a range of labels, including Morris Audio, One Records and Get Physical. It's his bond with London's Hypercolour, though, that has remained constant throughout his career, from 2008's Deport This EP right through to Popularity. In a show of gratitude, Wadsworth dedicated the LP's opening track, "Hypercolour Theme," to label managers Alex Jones and Jamie Russell. It's a move that almost backfires, thanks to a seemingly endless loop of the word "boys," pitched at various grating degrees. Only when the track's robust, chugging groove takes hold does the gesture live up to its intention.
Quickly dusting himself off, Wadsworth launches straight into the kind of guttural club tracks that have long been his trademark. Stockhausen's musings work well over the propulsive growls of "Hot Karl," while the mean 303 swing of "Cock Soup" charts Wadsworth's recent dip into darker moods (as seen on his vinyl-only label, URANUS). It's on "Neo Nasty," though, that the first half hits its apex, treating the listener to one of the most supple and captivating basslines in the producer's catalogue.
Bar "Public Relations," whose jittery gait feels at odds with the album's roguish techno core, all of the tracks on Popularity are keepers. "Evolove" is techno at its smooth and sultry best, while the title track hammers home its point with buff acid licks and a muffled yet audibly didactic sample. Even "Common Knowledge," which sees Wadsworth sign off with a slice of moody, well-ventilated jungle, is executed with a conviction that was lacking on his 2012 debut, Life And Death. Though it had a few decent cuts, there was something about that one that never quite felt right (the big-room appeal of Get Physical always seemed a strange fit for Wadsworth's louche personality). But in Hypercolour he's found a label that suits him. Popularity is a record made by a man comfortable in his surroundings. That, above all else, seems to be its main message.
01. Hypercolour Theme
02. Hot Karl
03. Cock Soup
04. Neo Nasty
05. Public Relations
10. Common Knowledge