I was first introduced to MGUN’s music in November 2013 when he was booked for a party at the now-defunct Lift Place on Cambridge Heath Road. In the intimate space, his direct DJ style meshed a plethora styles in a way that felt neither forced or invasive. It was no surprise to learn he’d already visited the UK with Underground Resistance as part of their Fugitives collective before returning for this debut show. I’ve been a fan since that night, hoovering up the 12″s he’s done for The Trilogy Tapes, Wild Oats and Don’t Be Afraid.
What’s immediate about his album, Gentium, is just how playable the whole record is—not playable in a tech-house easy-to-mix fashion, but playable in that these are tracks intended to move people; it’s visceral music to lose yourself on the floor to. In an era of forgettable noodling and laptop-friendly mid-range waft, this record thumps. To listen to it on a laptop is to ignore half of each track. The production is crisp but far from sterile, and distortion is used as seasoning rather than an excuse for a lack of ideas. There are washes of musicality, but only in restrained quantities that serve to enhance the rhythms rather than distract from them.
If I had to pick a favorite cut from the album it would probably be “Half Past 3”. With its plaintive chords and wiggling synth line, the track sounds like a classic Theo Parrish cut if Dettmann had snuck in and swapped the kick drums in Theo’s MPC. It’s noisy and emotive, but the groove bangs hard. Other highlights: “Don’t Hurt Yo Self” goes deep and heavy with a bruising drum track that sounds like Vex’s making dub house; “Veyra” does machine funk in the most physical way possible; “Bed & Breakfast” gets all uplifting and 5 a.m. sunrise about things. Some of the tracks take one listen to get, others require more patience but get better with familiarity.
The brief descriptions in the above paragraph don’t really do the record justice. Listen to it. MGUN has succeeded in creating an LP that’s dance floor friendly but detailed enough to keep on giving each time its played; a record that nods to Detroit’s heritage but utilizes weighty production for maximum effect. It’s a simplification, but for my money MGUN’s record fuses Detroit’s dusty cabinets with techno sensibilities that could light up Berghain. I’d like to hear more records like this. Give it a go.
Kowton’s own LP, Utility, dropped earlier this year. Read Hodge’s recommendation here.