Given how prolific Maurice Fulton has been over the last two decades, it’s almost surprising that he is still a relatively low-key figure in the underground scene, despite being hands down one of the most innovative dance music producers. On closer analysis this can be attributed to his disaffection for the music industry, refusing to actively push his releases or play by the rules most adhere to.
His digital Bubble Tease Communications label was set up purely for the virtual crate diggers to discover the music that Fulton’s close affiliates and he himself are making. Such was the lack of promotion, I hadn’t even realised that this LP had existed until two weeks ago at Wire in Leeds, when my friend informed me that the ‘face melting bongo techno’ track that Running Back’s head honcho, Gerd Janson had just dropped was taken from the notable The Hydrangeas Whisper album. Janson is seemingly on a mission to save Fulton’s releases from slipping off the radar, as the Running Back imprint has been the main provider of disseminating Fulton’s prolific catalogue over the past few years, providing a secure platform that is much needed in a time when the internet is overloaded with new releases that lack any form of quality control.
Fulton’s music has never been conventional, whether with his early releases as Eddie and the Eggs, his collaborative releases with his equally as eccentric wife Mutsumi Kanamori, or more recently the eye-popping machine funk of his Syclops moniker. Binding all his work is unrelentingly powerful drum work, an inescapable groove and a manic eclecticism that keeps the listener continually guessing where the track is going to lurch next. Considering Fulton’s penchant for roller coaster antics as seen in previous LP as Syclops, the restraint shown in The Hydrangeas Whisper is as surprising as it is welcome.
He sets out a very measured tone, indulging heavily in melodic musings on the piano, guitar, bass guitar and synths, but still maintaining new direction as the album drifts back and forth between jazz-funk and techno undertones. Numbers such as ‘Solar Eclipse on a Friday Morning’ and ‘Backlash’ are no-nonsense techno stompers awash with delay and reverb, showing off his impeccable drum programming skills, and a more industrial side to Fulton that hasn’t really been seen before under his Boof alias.
Things get better still with ‘Pete Found His Z’, a stark throwback to the Syclops track ‘Where’s Jason’s K’, which employs a similar organ solo that somehow dances playfully on top of the moody groove. At the other end of the spectrum ‘Birgit Boogie’ and ‘Cat Soulcat Strut’ are joyous funked out delights, full of the wiggly basslines and hands-in-the-air organ frills that are very much typical of the disco that Fulton has become revered for dropping in his sets. Another stand-out is ‘Emi’s M’, a straight-up jazz track, recalling Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ but with Fulton’s own psychedelic twist.
Strikingly, The Hydrangeas Whisper’s dystopian feel is what ties the LP together; menacing pads and analogue patches hiss softly in the background on even the funkier and upbeat tracks, whilst they rumble and growl in the darker techno pieces. This is exemplified in the Belearic beauty of ‘Tomoko’s O’, and also my standout track of the album, ‘Intro To It’s Sunny S Outside’. Rolling along with dubbed out pads, cosmic effects and sparse percussion, it bursts into life with a lo-fi guitar lead that cuts through the heavy atmosphere like butter.
The LP’s playful use of instrumentation, juxtaposed so elegantly against a futuristic atmosphere, is just another sign that Fulton is not content with merely sitting back and letting his reputation proceed him. Instead, he is pushing his own limits with how creative he can be, putting a modern twist on the retro school of house and funk that he was raised in.
The Hydrangeas Whisper LP is out now on Bubble Tease Communications.