In today’s growing landscape of artists moving from towards DJ-producer-label head triple threats, it can be difficult to ensure strong output in all categories, especially given busy travel schedules. Those that can juggle all responsibilities are often times the most veteran, with years of experience to their name.
This may be why it’s no surprise that Claude Vonstroke is currently conquering all three. HisDirtybird family has soared to new heights in 2013, while his live shows still have the same flawless mixing we’ve seen for years. This combination has catapulted label nights from humble San Francisco beginnings to an Ibiza summer residency, where Claude gives the spotlight to growing talents like J.Phlip, Kill Frenzy and Justin Martin before manning the decks himself.
As with his previous two albums, Urban Animal shows a depth to Claude VonStroke (a.k.a. Barclay Crenshaw) that isn’t always obvious in his party-friendly singles. On 2006’sBeware of the Bird, club anthems “Deep Throat” and “The Whistler” contrasted with “Lullaby”‘s spooky washes; for 2009’s Bird Brain it was “Aundy,” named for his wife, that provided the calm amongst the bassy brashness. These are tracks that probably don’t see much traction in a Claude VonStroke DJ set, where he focuses on free-wheeling party sounds, but they do show him to be a producer who, for all his associations with a very particular style of low-end thud, isn’t someone who can easily be pigeonholed.
This week marks another milestone for Barclay with the release of his third studio album,Urban Animal. The 10-track offering is based around a concept of a city dweller that seeks refuge not in the serenity of the outdoors, but in dark and smoky warehouse dancefloors. Both the cover art and music reflect this vision, though fans expecting a medley of club-ready Dirtybird flavour might be thrown a curveball. This full-length allows VonStroke to explore melodies that vary from downtempo electronica to hip-hop interludes, not unlike experiments from Justin Martin’s Ghettos & Gardens EP. Still, the tracks carry a clear VonStroke signature, toying between sexy and gritty with a heavy dose of west coast bass.
Urban Animal‘s standout moments arrive when there’s less going on. Downtempo loops on house albums don’t come much nicer than “Plasma Jelly,” whose understated digital funk gives way to another highlight, “Can’t Wait.” The eight-minute cut is VonStroke at his grooviest, with long bass notes and a bouncy kick drum. It’d be the perfect warm-up selection if it wasn’t for a series of grandiose breakdowns, which render it suitable for peak-time only. While there may have been a time for the no-holds-barred approach that Dirtybird epitomises, it seems that time has passed. It’s only in its more subdued moments that Urban Animal comes close to the high standards the Bay Area native once set for oddball house.
01. Urban Animal
02. The Clapping Track
04. Sugar & Cinnamon
05. The Bridge
06. Oakland Rope
07. Lay It Down Re-Smoked
08. Plasma Jelly
09. Can’t Wait
10. Lay It Down Re-Smoked (VIP)