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White Noise: Hobo – Iron Triangle

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Hobo – Iron Triangle

Label: Minus

Canadian producer Joel Boychuk, aka Hobo, has been making Techno for a long time but has thus far slipped under my radar. Having split his youth between Canada and Detroit (perhaps two points of the symbolic Iron Triangle?), he shows a varied array of influences in these tunes, implementing clipped vocals and melodies atop curious mechanical beat patterns. The end result is a series of sinuous Techno grooves carved out of dark, well-tuned elements that remain surprisingly accessible considering how purpose-built they seem for gloomy dancefloors.

There’s a strong sense of mood across the album, with Boychuk particularly excelling at crafting more threatening atmospheres. For example, before opener Blackwell bursts into life it spends almost two minutes menacing at you with growling synths and horror-movie effects, which gave me genuine chills on first listen. Add to this how damn satisfying the beat is when it comes into play; heavy and precise, accompanied by a noir-ish synth twinkle, and you’ve already got a great tune. The sounds that come into play across the board are uniquely rich and varied; from the curious sci-fi bounce of Here Comes Everybody to the Burial-esque beats and textures of Ipperwash Dusk. Throughout the sounds are subtle and intricately applied to the tracks, making for an impressive listen as well as an enjoyable one.

The one thing that stood out to me with repeated listens is the excellent sense of pacing on display here. Every layer is exciting, and crucially, Hobo never frontloads his tracks. Take for example Camlachie, an early album highlight which bursts open powerfully with a savage sub-bass loop and tight beats. Only towards the half-way point do we begin to hear the rising synths that establish a stronger groove, accompanied by bursts of Electronic static and all manner of nuanced details, and you have to get a good five minutes into the track before a suffocated vocal sample emerges and a few more percussive loops finally complete the tune in its full glory. Because he spaces everything out perfectly, each track is worth listening to the whole way through, providing a consistently exciting and enjoyable experience as a listener.

Iron Triangle is a remarkably consistent listen throughout, with rarely a disappointing track to be found. But its consistency in some ways is also a flaw, all of the tracks are have a similar length, construction and tone, resulting in a slightly demanding listen that doesn’t relent or change that much across its course.  By the end of its lengthy 75 minute runtime you might find you’re not taking it all in as much, which is a shame because while the latter half of the album is not quite as remarkable, with a few missteps like the dreary clichés of Shadowz, it also bears a few real gems like the phenomenally powerful title track and head-bobbing closer Sundown which are really worth catching. My other issue is that the tightness and precision of these tracks can occasionally over repeated plays feel a little clinical and sanitized, and while this can sometimes result in a truly hypnotic effect, you might find yourself wishing some of the edges were a little less clean.

Despite these minor gripes, Iron Triangle is a surprising success, and Hobo quickly establishes a strong sound while offering a myriad of satisfying variations and detailed nuances. If you’re looking for a moody soundtrack to a walk at night or some late-night Techno to slot into a mix, you definitely won’t be disappointed by the fine craftsmanship and powerful grooves on offer in Iron Triangle.


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