House of Woo – Maxmillion Dunbar

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For Maxmillion Dunbar, the road to the dance floor is rarely ever a straight line and House of Woo is proof of how much fun can be had while traveling down that road. Even while the loop reigns supreme throughout the album’s selections, there is a nervous and excitable energy that touches each piece with the subtle effect of butterflies within a lover’s stomach. The jacking tendencies of house and the high tech soul of techno are both held in capable hands, but Dunbar’s background in hip-hop plays a significant role on this release as well, reminding all within earshot of the three-way flirtation that these musical styles have engaged in for decades now.

“Woo” naturally serves as the album’s title track, offering airy splashes of color and in-your-face thumps that surround swirling, synthesized melodies and intermittent bass buzzes. Cuts like “Ice Room Graffiti” and “Loving The Drift” are more indicative of Maxmillion’s unconventional approach to floor-filling material. The former track features an incessant hi-hat and snare drum pad combo as its foundation and deep bass patterns acting as a shadow to the main keyboard riff. It isn’t long before tempo changes begin to change the mood, shifting down to a snail’s pace before gaining ground again and reemerging as a mid- tempo version of itself. Dunbar gives “Loving The Drift” more room to grow, allowing an uneven drum sequence to sprout from ambient washes, the smashing snares more reminiscent of gunshots and popping firecrackers heard in the distance. As a menacing low-end acid line lurks in the background, the song teeters somewhere between wishful thinking and creeping paranoia.

“Coins For The Canopy” is the album’s greatest surprise, combining go-go drums with robotic shuffles and various percolating sounds over bass rumblings and sparkling tones. It’s one of those songs that shouldn’t work on paper, but the end result is why headphones were created. Some of the most intriguing moments on House of Woo occur when Dunbar’s hip-hop tendencies take over, resulting in the slow motion house of “Peeling An Orange” or the cavernous ticks and seductive punch of “Inca Tags.” The latter track is a heavy head nod cut doused in earthquake bass frequencies that crack the song’s foundation underneath syncopated jingle bells and synth horn patterns. “Kangroo” closes the album on a joyous and experimental note, its deliriously happy squelches dancing and morphing within an endless abyss of ambient chords.

Yes, Dunbar has decorated the House of Woo with loops aplenty, but he’s wise enough to treat the locked groove as a blueprint and not an ironclad document. This release is not only a great argument for the power of repetition, but also serves as a welcome bridge between discerning dance floors and contemplative listening rooms.