Maxmillion Dunbar's recent material has exuded a certain gentle euphoria, almost like he's programmed his synths to emit little blasts of serotonin with each hook or melody. It's a formula that works because each splash of colour is anchored by rugged, hypnotic drums—the rough and the smooth work in unison. By releasing House of Woo through New York label RVNG Intl., the DC-based producer (real name Andrew Field-Pickering) has room to indulge his more esoteric leanings. Whereas Cool Water, his 2010 debut album on Ramp, was at times a little too cluttered, his second full-length is the work of a more assured hand.
Field-Pickering's various musical loves—hip-hop, classic house and dusty boogie records—are manifest throughout the album, although never overbearingly so. In the end it's a new age streak that seems most noticeable, and at times House of Woo seems to reflect a youth spent listening to Genesis and Morgan Fisher records in a smoke-filled bedroom. (Think of the pan flute that comes in midway through the album's opening salvo, "Slave to the Vibe.")
Littered throughout the LP are a number of dance floor-not-dance floor curios—"Coins for the Canopy" shuffles and sparkles, "The Figurine (Nod Mix)" is a tape-saturated melange of clipped vocals and curiously out of time keys, while "Inca Tags" is a nod to Field-Pickering's love of hip-hop. He knows how to program a bassline, too: "Ice Room Graffiti" stands up against the chunkiest '80s boogie tracks, the filtered swells of bottom-end working neatly with the swinging hats.
"Peeling an Orange in One Piece" sees our man return to woodwinds, while "Loving the Drift" injects some drama into proceedings, and with it the grand, sweeping strokes of colour from the record's first half are distilled into a more reflective tone. It's a mood that seeps into "World Taste Sweet (Stuck in the Middle)," which sees smoky puffs of sax rise through a landscape pockmarked with junkyard percussive hits and vocal snippets. House of Woo may be playful and irreverent, but that shouldn't disguise its status as a potent exploration of sound.