In 2005 Justin Martin released the first record on Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird label. Since then Martin’s name has become synonymous with Dirtybird as well as Ben Watt’s Buzzin’ Fly label in the UK. Given that background, Ghettos & Gardens, Martin’s first proper artist album, is something of a disappointment. The title is clearly a reference to Martin’s tendency to mix dirty funk and lighter, summery sounds, sometimes within the same songs. But where previous EPs and singles offered plenty of highlights, very little on Ghettos & Gardens really stands out. The title track encapsulates the album, for better or worse. Starting out with some pretty, swelling synth pads and winding up as wobbly dubstep, it comes across as two separate songs that happened to meet in the middle. The Pac-Man-sampling “Riding Spaceships” is a fun excursion in sub-bass electrofunk. Unfortunately, it’s the exception on this mostly serviceable album.
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