Available on: Alpha Pup LP
The question mark affixed to Coventry producer Young Montana?’s name immediately arouses inquiry. Why the punctuation? On the one hand it appropriately denotes the head-scratching beauty of this 20 year old’s post-hip-hop music, on the other it sounds like a graffiti tagger’s scrawl – also apt since much of Limerence sounds like an intricate aerosol mural. Or perhaps he feels the same obsession as young Tony Montana in Scarface, in this case shooting his way to the top with intricate, sample-heavy beatmaker music. With “Limerence” defined in psychology manuals as “being obsessed with someone, usually involuntarily, with a strong desire for reciprocation,” the title may offer a clue to Montana?’s creative instincts.
Limerence’s glitchy, hyper-styled instrumental beats do sound like the output of an obsessive. Songs are relentlessly chopped up, reconfigured and mutating in arresting and pleasing ways. Like his peers Salva, Onra or Take, Montana?’s songs are grounded in sly soul, blues and funk samples layered with bright, fluorescent synth chords and swerving drunken rhythms. ‘Dreamhome’, for example, is android r’n'b built with fidgety drums, processed and pitch-shifted vocals and woozy melodies. It’s complex and gorgeous. Elsewhere, ‘Bad.day’ is the album’s most Dilla or Madlib styled track: soul samples (Stevie Wonder maybe?) punctuated with slack handclaps evolve into a darkly cerebral groove with atonal synths and a kick-drum heartbeat. The five minute epic ends with dissolving 8-bit video game noises, like dropping LSD at the arcade. The album’s definite highlight, however, is ‘Sacre Cool’, a smooth electro boogie tune in three movements: intro, body and outro that bubbles with tightly woven samples.
Obsessions aside, Young Montana?’s music ultimately poses a lot of questions, and even after multiple listens, you’re likely to be unsure of your answers. Are all those rhythmic hand-brake turns too much, or are they ultimately what make the album work? When is a challenging rhythm too challenging, and, in this context, how far outside the box is too far? Limerence may provide answers eventually, but they’re steeped deep in questions and will only reward lengthy investigation of this remarkable and fascinating, if occasionally frustrating, record.
Tomas A. Palermo