Hrdvsion: Where Did You Just Go?
Wagon Repair

That Nathan Jonson's Hrdvsion debut album is titled Where did you just go? is significant beyond the fact that it was inspired by the question his girlfriend pesters him with when he drifts off. His music exudes a similarly unpredictable and easily distractable quality, a tendency to wander and an occasional need to be reined in by its creator. The Victoria, Canada-born producer (and younger sibling to Cobblestone Jazz member and Wagon Repair manager Mathew Jonson) began working on the collection following a 2009 move to Berlin when he sorted through his archives of completed and half-finished songs and elected to bring a smattering of them to releasable form.

After a twenty-second salvo of brain-addled warble and voice distortion (“Orange Juice”), Jonson digs into the first of many glitch-funk cuts, namely “842 Colours,” a slinky mix of skittish and stutter-funk beats. The TT mix of “Own Risk” builds itself from a panning core of fragmented Amen yelps into a steamy acid-techno throwdown, while “Claustraneonia” could be classified as glitched-up booty-bass. The album includes frenetic vignettes and more fully developed pieces, with the latter more inclined to relaxedly unfold. “Captivated Heart” only gradually reveals the house-tinted heart at its center, in part because the wildlife noise chatter that surfaces throughout provides distracting cover. Jonson can certainly deliver straight-up material when the mood strikes, as “Kiss Yesterday Goodbye” confirms when its bumping, bass-heavy funk-house groove rolls out. And the sweeter dimension of his music comes to the fore during the synthetic sparkle of the electrified house epic “Cause I Love You” and the gentle outro “I Wish I Could Directly Affect.” As the album heads home, it slows down with a downtempo exercise in glitchy textures and IDM synth melodies (“Amsterdam at 4:47”).

The Hrdvsion sound is unapologetically computer-oriented, as Jonson expresses little care for humanizing his sound with ‘natural,' acoustic sounds, though organ and drums—even if synthetic in origin—add to the album's acidy, glitch-funk vibe. He's not shy about radically abusing his material either, as the melodic twists scattered through “City Girls” attest. Such tunes also, however, show that no matter how much a given track gets mangled, it won't be subverted so much that the head-nodding underpinning is completely derailed in the process. Even “Bonker Brains,” which seems to flirt with a new tempo or time signature every few seconds, manages to retain a semblance of stability and coherence. Sometimes the tendency to mangle a track goes too far, as “Summer's Beds” proves when its rhythms constantly flirt with collapse.

To his credit, the uncompromising Jonson doesn't settle for conventional tropes but challenges the listener with tracks that deviate from the kind of straightforward presentation other producers might settle for. Underlying the music is a kind of defiance on Jonson's part, as if by sabatoging the direct impact the tunes could have as straight-up club tracks, he's spitting in the eye of mainstream techno and house (the amateur psychologist might diagnose the behaviour as reaction formation, a defense mechanism that finds the insecure individual rejecting what he/she most desires). As a result, the material inhabits an uneasy midway point between dance and experimental realms; nevertheless, there's lots to dig into, as Jonson squeezes seventeen tracks into a one-hour running time.

May 2010