Justin Martin: Ghettos & Gardens

Justin Martin, co-founder (along with Claude VonStroke) of the Dirtybird imprint, has issued singles and EPs on Dirtybird, Buzzin' Fly, and Utensils, but until now had only one album-length release to his credit, namely Chaos Restored, a 2007 mix compilation for Ben Watt's Buzzin' Fly. That all changes now with the release of Martin's first formal full-length collection, a full meal of thirteen booty-bass wobblers (one a jacking remake of Goldie's “Kemistry”). True to its title, the songs dazzle in deftly grounding the producer's accessibly melodic side with a tougher rhythm attack.

That Ghettos & Gardens will be a fun ride is evident from the album's first moment when Martin introduces “Hood Rich” with rat-a-tat verbal flow (“We gon' hit the spot, we gon' drop the jams…”). But Martin's also an uncommonly inventive tunesmith and talented arranger, things that become immediately clear when a warbly synth hook and strings and maracas surface. Little sonic touches elevate the material throughout, from the trippy harp plucks that make the already hypnotic “Don't Go” (due to the mantra-like vocal treatment of the title) even more so to the synth swirls that flutter so radiantly through the otherwise sputtering jaunt “Butterflies.” Snaps and sleigh bells inaugurate the title track until gradually intensifying synth chords and vocal fragments give way to a moaning bass wobble so deep and cavernous it could detonate a speaker or two. The shift is so arresting, it's easy to lose sight of how much amazing stuff Martin packs into five minutes.

The combination of wacky voice treatments and jacking funk pulses in “Ruff Stuff” and “Molokini” bring his sound into Wagon Christ's orbit, and Martin's a sociable character, too, as evidenced by what appear to be three collaborations, one of which, “Lezgo VIP,” a fabulous floor-filler crafted with Ardalan, recently materialized as an equally fabulous animated video; wind-ups and chopped vocals dominate in what amounts to three inspired minutes of booty-bass brilliance. The momentum slows during the final laps until the headnodding “Ladybug” brings things to a downtempo close, but the album's comparatively weaker closing third doesn't negate the strengths of the two others. In toto, Ghettos & Gardens functions equally well as a party disc and listening album, as one can get as much satisfaction from surrendering to its body-moving properties as appreciating the meticulous production skills Martin brings to it.

May 2012