Hrdvsion HrdvsionWhere Did You Just Go?
Mathew and Nathan Jonson are brothers, as we can deduce from their having the same llast name. But they have more in common than that: they get along well, and the younger has ended up recording on the elder’s label, Wagon Repair. Another coincidence (or maybe just eccentric planning on the part of the marketing team) has led them to put out their debut albums barely two weeks apart. In reality, “Where Did You Just Go?” isn’t the first album from Hrdvsion (that is, the younger brother, Nathan Jonson; in 2002 he put out “25 Cents” (Parlour Shop Electronic Rock), which was a strange recording—so strange that it’s like it never existed. With this new album, as if it were the first, he will have greater visibility and impact, and achieve more staying power. The porject also has something of greater value: it looks to be the total confirmation of Hrdvsion as a voice of authority on neo-IDM with sharp rhythms and baroque construction which confirms what we've already seen on EPs that seemed to stay at that frontier, separating what is freaky from what is widely accepted by the electronic community—the beautiful melodies of “Gary White,” and the progressions toward techno dementia in “Sick Memory.” But now this has been extended to 17 hard-to-classify miniatures that are sure to do one thing: to make you really dizzy. That was the idea.
Nathan will never have the ability to turn his mastery of production hardware and software into dance songs as his brother Mathew did some years ago. Even when he tries to move towards the constant pounding bass drum and explore some sort of vague trance, like in “Closed Eyes,” or the suspicious “Cause I Love You,” which seems so much like Mathew Jonson’s “Marionette,” what the Canadian gets is non-Euclidian geometric/sound figures—an abstract sketch or a Cubist curve comes out. It seems like he’s trying to get rid of that label as “the weird guy who doesn’t let you dance,” as much as possible, domesticating his rhythmic basses and leaving them smoothed, without any beat being saved from the grid of four beats. But Jonson is like a cat: however much you scream at it, try to teach it a lesson, and chase it, you will never be able to master it, and it will go wherever it wants to, without looking for approval or permission. Is the title of the album a reference to this inability to give a normal structure to a music that inevitably goes off course? “Where Did You Just Go?” is what we imagine that he asks that scale of notes that loses itself in the distance, never to return (if they wanted pop, that’s just too bad)—or maybe it’s what he demands to know of those rhythms that may turn skweee ( “Captivated Heart”) or schaffel ( “Making It Home”), or which are articulated through crumbled-up samples of guttural voices ( “Bonker Brainss”), or the ones that seem like they are about to materialise into a hardcore-breakbeat hit, only to become a Deadmau5 hit remixed by Aphex Twin – “Own Risk (TT Mix).” There’s no way to get a hold of him, and precisely for this reason, because the album is slippery and unpredictable, it should really be given its due.
Understanding that Hrdvsion is more of a bother than a solution for the DJ circuit, he himself has wanted to shape himself to the IDM circuit since his Wagon Repair phase. For five years, he has been the unruly child of intelligent techno who's taken a few swerves towards electro, drum’n’bass, and skweee, always maintaining a sense of logical rhythm. We could identify him with the long history of robot funk, but also mistreating it to illogical heights: sequences of bleeps, helter-skelter beats, and piano notes like those of “Amsterdam 4:47” or “Home” could be either a IDM response to dodecaphonic music, or a translation of musical impressions of a drunken night of in the middle of the winter with snow on the street. “Where Did You Just Go?” manages to be all of the experimental electronic albums in one: it is lovely and impressionistic, like the old indietronic of the Morr label ( “I Wish I Could Directly Effect”), or grotesque and expressionist ( “Summer’s Beds” or “Before Than After”). It is noisy and quiet, chaotic and organised, futuristic and revivalist. It could be an album by, for example, the latest DMX Krew, and that makes it a perfect Rephlex album that the Rephlex label won’t be able to put out now. Richard Ellmann