By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Checking in under 40 minutes, Datahowler's full-length debut, Slowdrifter, stands as a rich exploration of a sound that's distinctively hip-hop at its core, yet simultaneously runs away from many of the formalized conventions of the genre.
With a decidedly sci-fi tone dominating the release, Datahowler crafts a soundscape that stands firmly in that tradition of forward-thinking hip-hop production, which, at its core, has always been about the exploration of where genres collide. In this case, the music ambles along smoothly against a background of emotive synthy vocals, spaced-out blasts of atoms, and hazy lo-fi strums and splats, all held up against a framework of haunted tribal and at times tropical drumming. The subtleties reveal themselves repeatedly with each listen, opening up a narrative between Datahowler and the listener, Datahowler and the future, Datahowler and the past.
The choice to play all the instruments himself shows not only a depth of musical knowledge, but also an extreme self-awareness that allows his performance to stand in for higher thematic tropes—not only in the young genres of hip-hop and electronic music, but also in the important and lightning-fast cultural shifts that have been taking place all around us since the infancy of each. This album looks both forward into a future of experimentation as well as giving generous nods to the past.
Trends all run their course and come back around eventually, and Datahowler is savvy enough to have timed such a release as Slowdrifter with perfection. It's an album that can serve as a point of reference for future artists to revisit as they try to trace just what good music sounded like in 2011.
It sounds vintage. It sounds like the future.