House of Black Lanterns: You, Me, Metropolis

House of Black Lanterns
You, Me, Metropolis

Dylan Richards (aka House of Black Lanterns, King Cannibal and Zilla) is an extremely talented producer. Having explored deep and dark dancehall flavors (as King Cannibal for indie dance music behemoth Ninja Tune) whilst the rest of the UK was deep into its dubstep addiction at the end of the noughties; Richards, disillusioned with the direction the label that broke him wanted him to head in, went to ground for some time, beginning his metamorphosis into House of Black Lanterns by advancing on his aggressive, dark sound, mellowing out the in-your-face belligerence he became famous for in favor of a more subdued, but no less impactful, techno-inspired sound palette.

This transformation and re-emergence into the spotlight has been partially guided by UK clubbing institution Fabric’s newly minted, artist-led endeavor Houndstooth – a label ably curated by influential blogger and broadcaster Rob Booth that is already punching way above its weight at only six months old.

His latest release, his third for Houndstooth, sees the Berlin-based producer/sound designer bringing together his twisted re-interpretations of Chicago juke and footwork (“You, Me, Metropolis” — taken from his debut album as HoBL Kill The Lights — and the previously unreleased “Worthless”) with stellar remixes of “Broken” and “Shot You Down” by label mate _Unsubscribe_ and experimentalist Breakage respectively.

Kicking things off is the aforementioned album track, “You, Me, Metropolis”, a kaleidoscopic joining together of Vangelis-edged synth work, relentless, pounding footwork-inspired drum work and stimulating melodic work that deftly weaves in and around the dark, harmonic backdrops, juxtaposing both light and dark emotions in fine style.

The _Unsubscribe_ remix that follows sees UK techno legend Dave Clarke, along with his partner in crime Mr.Jones, get their grubby mitts on the moody banger that is “Broken”. Clarke and Jones transform the original — a hefty, gloom imbibed 4×4 number — into a stripped-back electro tune, replete with Ghettozoid’s mutilated, hermaphroditic vocals and some serious techno bass weight. It’s not too far removed from the original, but different enough to warrant inclusion on this EP.

Experimental studio wizard Breakage takes the lush “Shot You Down ft Leni Ward” straight down the rabbit hole, through Wonderland and into hell — not something you would generally think possible when playing with source material composed by Richards. Breakage is probably most famed for his exploratory drum and bass and dubstep music, exemplified by his work on Shy FX’s Digital Soundboy label amongst others. Yet despite this well-earned genre prestige, Breakage does not cave into expectation by taking the tune down into the territories he usually patrols. Instead he pays homage to House of Black Lanterns’ own reinvention as a techno author by twisting the vocal track and herding the track into dark, throbbing, minimal territory – surprising, but so, so good.

The previously unreleased “Worthless” – an extremely apt companion piece to “You, Me, Metropolis” – finishes off the EP with a melodic juke workout that unites the almost now patented retro synth work HoBL has employed since his transformation from King Cannibal, with heavily modulated vocal utterances and a keen ear for harmonic progression and sound design.

Once again, Houndstooth bring another future classic to the table, with the four tracks included on this release all primed and tested for both club and home listening use. At only six months old is it possible for the label to keep up with its impressive, prolific start to life? My guess is with Booth at the helm absolutely anything is possible for Fabric’s newest and possibly greatest asset.

RATING 7 / 10