The video for FaltyDL’s “New Haven” begins with a woman waking up in a startled state. Her eyes shift around her bedroom wildly before she sits bolt upright in bed and slowly stares at her hands. There’s a sense of troubling confusion that hangs over the scene. The woman can’t seem to tell if she’s actually woken up; it’s as though the processing ability of her mind is still muddled and murky, covered in haze. Whether it was purposeful or not, those opening few moments of the “New Haven” video sum up FaltyDL’s newest album In the Wild perfectly. This is an album that feels shaky and stumbles often, unable to find even ground from song to song, leaving the record without cohesion or a sense of purpose.
The aforementioned “New Haven” is the single spot of excellence on the album. It feels like classic Endtroducing… era DJ Shadow, all clacking percussion, breathy vocals and a quietly placed swagger that makes the whole thing stroll along at an enjoyable pace. It feels as though FaltyDL found something special for the all too short “New Haven”, with its rustling synths and mesmerizing rhythm. It’s infuriating, then, to find that nothing else on the album has the same fun and hypnotic DNA. “New Haven” is a tight package, alternatively dense and spacious. Most of the work on In the Wild falls on the spacy side to a fault. “Nine” has a promising and jittering percussion line that rambles through with manic energy, but any interest is sucked away by the dreary keyboard that hums in a bland loop for the song’s first half.
The colorful chimes that start “Untitled 12” could have carried a lovely song, but FaltyDL soon replaces them with a molasses-like synth and what seems to be a rather long sample of whispers and sighs, adding unneeded and confusing fluff on top of the song. “Untitled 12” isn’t unpleasant, but it does point to one of In the Wild’s main flaws: so much of this music simply disappears into ether. “Grief” has a gorgeous and poignant piano outro, but it takes three minutes of ambient noodling that seems to go nowhere to get to that point. “Do Me” is mostly made of a sample intoning “Do me-do me-do me-huh” ad nauseum over a barren background that makes the already grating vocal line that much more frustrating. “Frontin” has similar issues with vocal samples, as the front of the song is taken up by a repetitive voice saying “bullshit”, cut up in differing, but uninteresting ways.
At its core, In the Wild lacks any sort of substance. There are ideas tossed here and there that could have formed great songs, or at least been solid samples — the shimmering intro of “Heart and Soul,” the pulsating synths of “Danger” and the flutes that carry “Nine” to its end are the first ones that come to mind — but FaltyDL either side tracks them with pointless extra samples or doesn’t evolve the music beyond its opening seconds.