"Real rockin' raw shit from the streets for the clubs" is how Glasgow's Dixon Avenue Basement Jams' label describes itself on Facebook. How many times have you read a blurb like that these last few years? There's certainly no shortage of real rockin' house sides at the moment—enough that DABJ's pitch and handstamped aesthetic might be enough to make you pass on principle. (You could nearly blow your whole paycheck each month keeping up with L.I.E.S., after all.) Yet mystery man Marquis Hawkes' Cabrini Green EP, the label's second release, proves that not all raw shit is created equal.
Sound design doesn't come much greasier than what Hawkes commits to wax here, but the "raw" tag belies his compositional polish. The blown-out thump that opens "Housing Project" doesn't do much to distinguish this music, either. But once Hawkes lays down a nervy half-melody and gives you precisely the number of zaps you need, you know you're in good hands. With helium-enriched vocals and dub chords that vanish into the void, "Marvin" thrusts all those tough drums into space.
Each tune is solid, but once you've discovered the B-side, you may have a hard time flipping this one over. I'm tempted to call bullshit on "Teetotal Acid"'s sobriety, but after repeated listens, its slow-rolling 303 line and ecstatic whooping sound less wacked-out than clear-headedly considered. "Sealion Woman," blisteringly paced and melody-free save a sassy rendition of the American folk tune, is likely to turn the most heads. That music so avidly old school can still feel innovative, though, is the real trick.
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Tracklist: Marquis Hawkes - Cabrini Green A1 Housing Project
B1 Teetotal Acid
B2 Sealion Woman