As so frequently happens in these situations, within a few minutes of taking in the warped symphonies and staccato synth tones I found myself thinking “How on earth did this slip under my radar for so long?” and proceeded to listen to almost the entire album non-stop.
Sifting back through some of Howie’s earlier releases, it would seem that Down With the Dawn is a fairly eclectic collection of tracks compared with earlier works, drawing on a wide range of (electronic) musical styles and influences. Listen carefully and you’ll pick up elements of old-school electronica, glimpses of techno and post-dub musings, all served up with a generous helping of trip-hop beats and a meticulous eye for detail.
Howie B’s been a big name on the electronica scene since the 90’s and he knows (thank god) that you don’t just slap some dubstep sound effects over a few tracks that were ‘big’ last year and call it an album if you want be viewed as having any sort of musical integrity at all. Each track possesses an individuality that at times could be seen as hard to follow, but ensures that the listener is never bored and, more importantly, proves that they weren’t created automatically on a dance machine by someone who thinks they are the next David Guetta.
Howie gets things started with the bass – heavy and ever so slightly in-your-face Frankie’s City before slowing down a little for Run Always, which harks back to the disco/electro era of the mid 1990’s. It’s here that listeners who have been accustomed to the easily-digestible dance music of the last few years will have to put a little more effort into persevering than normal, as the tracks are a touch more elegantly crafted than your standard drum and bass offering. This makes them a touch harder to get into, but ensures the end result is much more impressive.
This doesn’t however mean that there’s not more than enough bass to go around, and the razor sharp synth present in tracks such as Ganzi complements it perfectly and ensures that sections of Down With the Dawn would be as at home in a crowded nightclub as they would be on a home speaker system.
Overall, choosing a favourite would be tough, but I think the top track for me would have to be Night Nice with its air of introspective dub and understated synth effects, but really the entire album deserves to be played, in full, at 11.
Review by Phil Hatfield