It was probably a few months ago when I heard the first rumblings of a possible Paul Hazendonk album. The Manual Music label boss is just 32 years old and he’s already had a very fruitful production career that has spanned a full decade now. When Paul’s debut album ‘Adapt’ was eventually announced it was incredibly exciting to the entire electronic music community. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect but my hunch was a very broad range of styles and unique themes that somehow all makes perfect sense together. Paul has accomplished that with ‘Adapt’ and so much more. He’s brought in a hugely impressive list of collaborators for the album which includes Sian Evans (Kosheen), Lazarusman, Alice Rose, Patchy and Noraj Cue. So you when you look at the impending collection on paper you do expect something brilliant and that’s exactly what Paul has delivered here.
The LP’s opening cut ‘In The Dark’ seems like the ideal piece to kick it off. The beats have a delicate punch that just sound meticulously tailored and the vocals of Alice Rose have a unique flair which is quite captivating. It’s one of many pieces on the album which has been produced in conjunction with Noraj Cue whose cool melancholic elegance is quite evident here. This leads to the wonderful intricacies of ‘Duclos Lasalle’ also in conjunction with Noraj Cue. The electronic inner workings of this piece are so complex and expertly processed that it makes for an incredible listen. The warm, wavering swells provide a subtle amount of tension before a short break reveals a more involved melodic theme. This develops wonderfully with lovely harmonic cascades and tastefully executed piano accents. It’s one of my favourite compositions on the album and it perfectly sets up the lead single from the collection ‘You’re My Habit’. This was everyone’s first glimpse at how brilliant this album could actually be. ‘You’re My Habit‘ was released the second week of March and it was a romantic ode to the love of Paul’s life. The emotional depths of this particular piece are really something that takes a few listens to fully appreciate which is always the sign of a track that will stand the test of time. There’s something about the way the quirky electronics and pianos work together during the break and eventually lead to a shimmering harmonic haze that’s just absolutely brilliant. One of the albums standouts without a doubt.
There are many things that are unique about this album but one that really stood out to me was that it didn’t begin with an ambient or electronica composition. In fact we don’t hear the first experimental piece until track four ‘Falling Sky’ which comes at the perfect moment. After the three musically rich tech house / deep house constructions to lead the album off the more exploratory ‘Falling Sky’ really hits the spot. Although it’s still a deeply musical composition it’s the broken beat rhythms and looser sounding grooves which really make this so mentally stimulating. The next selection ‘Urban Suitcase’ was written with Paul’s many travelling adventures in mind. It’s definitely one of the dance floor standouts on the album with its chunky foundation and big, punishing beats. The break in particular is really cool with a backdrop of washed out vocal elements and tension building beats. Look for a massive reaction on this one when the groove finally does drop back in. The spoken word vocals of Lazarusman feature on the next cut ‘Story Of Something’. A lazy, laid back piece which for me really serves as a transition or setup for another one of the albums biggest (in a dance floor sense) tracks ‘Ugly Smacker’ which was written in conjunction with Furrr. It boasts one of the most powerful dance floor grooves and still jives with the musical themes that the album has already built. The lead piano is tastefully epic and when you combine that with some deadly bass stabs and wicked vocal loops you’ve got dance floor magic waiting to happen. I’d love to see this get a single release with a few new remixes as there is some big club potential on this piece.
The album’s eighth selection ‘Primate’ is it’s most straight forward techno construction and it was in fact written as reference to Paul’s love of grimy techno. It stands out on the collection as it’s certainly one of the darkest compositions with its sinister vocal elements and deadly electronic hooks. This leads to another one of the showcase pieces on the album ‘Canyon’ which features the vocals of Kosheen’s Sian Evans. Again written in conjunction with Noraj Cue ‘Canyon’ is without a doubt one of the LP’s most memorable compositions. It can’t be overstated how intensely beautiful Sian’s vocals are and the backdrop of cascading textures showcases them perfectly. Just a magical creation from Paul, Noraj and Sian here. I would suspect and hope this will see a big single release with a great complement of dance floor worthy remixes but let’s see what Paul and Manual Music have in store for us.
The final quarter of the album begins with ‘Hazy Echoes’ which features the vocals of Patchy. The UK producer / singer has been a big part of Manual Music with 3 singles and her excellent ‘Illuminations’ LP all being released in the last year. This is another one of the many productions here that have been co-produced with Noraj Cue. The meandering melancholia that Noraj has become so loved for is particularity evident on this piece and the esoteric nature of Patchy’s vocals sound perfect set against it. The collection’s second to last track is a solo production from Paul and it’s also one of the biggest dance floors pieces on the album. The records foundation is immediately impressive; loaded with rolling undulation and cool textural qualities it’s going to sound amazing on a proper system for sure. The complementary rhythms and ragged percussion just add to the building momentum that the groove continually generates as well. Sometimes it’s rare to hear such a big sounding club record on an artist album but it sits really well here and it just makes the album that much more appealing in my opinion. The album is closed out with ‘Fortress of Solitude’ which Paul has written in conjunction with fellow Dutch producer Olaf Stuut. It’s cool, quirky nature mixed with a somewhat warped melodic sensibility makes it one of the most ‘feel good’ pieces on the collection. The second half is truly epic with a barrage of super processed electronics and melodic hooks melding together for a shiny wall of harmonic bliss. It’s a fitting close to the album which does exactly what you hope for. It takes you on a journey that is both mentally and emotionally stimulating and it does so using an abundance of truly authentic ideas which is a rare thing today. I whole-heartedly recommend this album to anyone that loves electronic music. If you’re passionate about contemporary electronica then Paul Hazendonk’s ‘Adapt’ is something that belongs in your collection.