- The opening moments of 2AM/FM's self-titled debut album proceed as you might expect from a duo (Tadd Mullinix and D'Marc Cantu) with a decade-long predilection for grotty, jacking acid. Somewhere in deep space, metallic clanging noises detune and distort into coarse granules, while laboured gasps expel hot air directly into your ear. It's all uncomfortably familiar, but it's also a fake-out. That thorny outer skin is shed soon enough, revealing the true sound of 2AM/FM: clean, modest, muted and classically deep house.
Although it's only seven tracks, 2AM/FM feels front-loaded, with three beautifully realised, introverted house expressions in its first half. The thoughtful lightness of opener "Dynasty Warriors" is mostly breezy pads, major-key notes and an unobtrusive bassline. "Crux Palm," on the other hand, is more geared towards the body. The bumping percussion makes an impact without overstepping the borders of politeness, while chiming accents and a discrete melody are nearly buried in the mix. "Midnight Social" points towards the duo's Midwestern roots, gently winding through spatial sound design and deceptively simple programming. They do it all with an expert grasp of emotional manipulation, and the results are gorgeous.
From there, the thread begins to fray. "Highrise Games" could be an outtake from late-1990s Glenn Underground, and serves as a melancholy reminder of how outmoded jazzy Latin house could sound to contemporary ears. "The Barber And The Fish" reintroduces some of 2AM/FM's more typical sounds, but it seems bound by the mood of the tracks surrounding it—the combination of insistent high-hats and high-frequency loops creates an on-edge feel that's never resolved. "Excuse Me Miss" is one serving of indulgent fun on 2AM/FM, and it's packed to the brim with post-disco and proto-house signifiers. You'll happily lose yourself in the chattering handclaps, stuttered FX, neon synths, drum-fueled acid, and vocal sleaziness.
"What We Live For" makes a U-turn back to timeless, classy and deep sounds, but the contrast again highlights the album's complacency. These seven tracks don't convincingly hang together as an album. Given the long and beloved discographies of Mullinix and Cantu—both together and separately—it's interesting how they neatly segmented a handful of key influences here. Once 2AM/FM wraps up, though, it's hard not to pine for further voyages into the deep, or a little more of each artist's signature griminess.
A1 Dynasty Warriors
A2 Midnight Social
B1 Crux Palm
B2 Highrise Games
C1 the Barber And The Fish
C2 Excuse Me Miss
D What We Live For