Brendan Whitney's latest Alias collection, Fever Dream, suggests that he's kept his ear to the ground, absorbing sounds from the UK, LA, and elsewhere, in the three years since his last album, Resurgam, appeared. As one listens to R&B vocal samples threading their way through aromatically thick fields of buckshot beats and wiry synth melodies, it becomes clear that the new album's material has as much in common with the soul-drenched sounds of Hotflush Recordings artists such as Sepalcure, Scuba, and Mount Kimbie as it does the off-kilter psychedelia of Flying Lotus (one could easily imagine the trippy mix of synths and beats that is “Tagine” as something issued on Hyperdub as easily as Anticon, for example).
The admirably unfussy and direct Fever Dream is anything but ponderous or overthought; instead, there's a splendidly loose and spontaneous vibe to the recording, as if Whitney opened himself to wherever inspiration took him and simply laid down the tracks with purposeful dispatch, and the album's at its best when Whitney takes the fullest plunge into the more soulful side of the equation. Four minutes of blissed out future-funk, “Wanna Let It Go” blends soulful vocal elements, a toy-like synth melody, claps, and beats into a dizzying fireball that argues powerfully for Alias's particular brand of hallucinatory hip-hop, and the heady crunk-funk excursion “Lady Lambin'” is almost as good. But make no mistake, Whitney hasn't forsaken his hip-hop roots, as the tribal funkster “Boom Boom Boom” and deep bangers “Revi is Divad” and “Sugarpeeeee” make evidently clear. An occasional track, such as “Feverdreamin,” reins in the intensity slightly, as if offering brief respite from the euphoric pitch of a track like “Wanna Let It Go.” In the release's dozen songs, the beats are tight and the melodies rich in tripped-out splendour (in what largely comes across as an improvised beat workout, “Dahorses” gives Whitney a chance to exercise his drum chops).
His music has undergone many twists and turns since Muted appeared in 2003, including collaborative albums with his younger brother Ehren (Lillian, 2005) and singer Rona “Tarsier” Rapadas (Brookland / Oaklyn, 2006). Once again ensconced in his native Portland, Maine after living on the West Coast for several years, Whitney also recently became a father, and the event would appear to have had a correspondingly invigorating effect on his sixth full-length Alias recording. The album's concise forty-three-minute running-time leaves one wanting to hear more, not less, and “Only a fool would ignore this,” the drawled voice sample that pops up throughout the radiant swizzle and flow of “Goinswimmin,” is a sentiment one could apply to the release as a whole.