Following a previously well-received full-length on legendary experimental imprint Planet Mu and seemingly incessant live appearances and touring, it’s probably not much of a stretch to say Ital is presently the most visible outcropping of New York’s now-rambunctious experimental dance music scene. Daniel Martin-McCormick has appeared in magazine features and on their covers; his music generates consistently strong press response, and his indie pedigree on 100% Silk, Not Not Fun, Dischord, Thrill Jockey, and more as himself, Sex Worker, or a member of Black Eyes and Mi Ami alone says quite enough for him to be taken seriously. Maybe it didn’t matter on his debut album Hive Mind that it sounded as if he was trying to figure out exactly what he was doing with his new project; the colorful, fragmented mini-album still stood out for personality alone even if it rubbed some purists the wrong way. Arriving scarcely 10 months after the predacessor, Dream On goes farther by tapering track lengths and bringing a broader sound palette over its 42 minute run time.
Although his recent live shows have gone far out on the industrial branch of things, for the most part the ingredients of his new album are familiar even if their context has evolved. Compared to the sluggish tempos of Hive Mind, things move quite a bit more briskly here, and it makes the rhythmic elements more convincing as dance tracks to keep things moving as the many layers of the pieces overlap messily. Although the pop samples he’s known for remain front-and-center on the album, it’s easy to spot Martin-McCormick’s roots in noise and experimental electronics. There’s a seeming unconcern for conventional dance music structures and a gleeful willingness to smear hypercolored tones over a bare-bones rhythm track; this is perhaps best demonstrated on the could-have-been-deep-house of Eat Shit (Waterfalls Mix), a 3-minute fragment of a jam where the simple rhythm track gets completely overwhelmed by messy electronic outbursts before it all simply fades out. It would have been easy enough to make a house track out of it and he’s got the record collection to know how, but his interests lie elsewhere. On comically-titled efforts like Housecapella or What A Mess, he’s certainly deliberately playing with genre conventions; the former is a Theo Parrish-influenced throwaway, and the latter a collision between the titular mess and a suggested house beat that stares wide-eyed into shimmering noise.
Ital is certainly influenced by dance music, but listening to this it makes more sense to place him in the line of New York psychedelic noise experimenters and terrorists like Excepter and, previously anyway, Gang Gang Dance, groups who willfully made collisions of repetitive electronic elements with more abrasive sounds. The overdriven synthesizer that crashes its way through the middle of closer Deep Cut (Live Edit) might be the best example of this idea, but nearly all of the longer tracks feature sudden electronic overloads that put them over the top, if only momentarily. It’s also prudent to remember that the monomania for specific micro-genres in clubs is a relatively recent thing that would be alien to audiences from the beginning of the machine music era; it’s doubtful that clubgoers in the ’80s would bat an eye at hearing music like this, or they would write it off simply to a DJ making a messy mix of two tracks. After watching contemporary audiences in New York respond to these sounds, it’s clear that the time for such unconcerned combinations has certainly returned, and Dream On does a lot to confirm Ital’s place as a gifted producer and someone deserving of notice in this contemporary climate. To quote Moodymann, an artist whose records Ital is known to play in his occasional DJ sets, “You can dance if you want to…”