The first track on Reset The Warehouse, “A Reflection of the Times”, starts off with a series of bloops that sounds like a machine booting up and checking its programming. Random vocal bits float around, traveling from one headphone to the next before disappearing completely. All this happens in the first 10 seconds, a warning system to let the you know one thing: John Hughes has returned.
Hughes’ unique brand of electronica has been around for quite a while. Although he only has three albums under his own name, the artist has worked under various handles for more than a decade now. Reset The Warehouse represents the next step in that journey. The result is a mixed bag of good ideas interrupted by needless noise. If you’re a fan of this style of music (think Animal Collective but less focus on melodies), then you should enjoy the record. If not, it probably won’t win you over.
The rest of “A Reflection of the Times” displays both what works and what doesn’t throughout the album. After the intro, wind instruments accompany a tribal drum groove that form a nice backbone. Tiny, incomprehensible voice samples appear throughout, adding to the rhythm rather than creating a melody. While this creates an enjoyable foundation, Hughes veers off the tracks a few too many times. In these instances, the rhythm and most other audio drop out, replaced by noise vignette that feels out of place and ruins the flow of the song. It feels like it was put there simply for the purpose of experimentation and doesn’t add anything constructive.
The second track, “Waukee Wallop”, shows how Hughes can experiment and add different sounds to his work without destroying the experience for the listener. The sound of crashing chimes kicks things off, followed by multiple layers of piano, guitar, and hip-hip drums that stutter along the track. The amount of instrumentation found here is very deep and can offer something new on every repeat listen, but can also be enjoyed strictly on the surface level as background music.
Possibly the best talent Hughes displays here is his ability to create songs that take the listener on a journey. Several tracks conjure images of a different location you can lose yourself in. “Another One” sounds like an underwater jazz club, with horns and flutes burbling beneath the surface. “Reset The Warehouse”, with its bouncy beat and airy flute, brings up images of frogs hopping from place to place in a lake full of life. As for “Pterodactyl Piano Bar”, Hughes manages to create an environment that matches the odd yet awesome title. A submersive piano is accompanied by the sound of hollow sticks clacking against each other and unrecognizable, possibly artificial animal noises.
The best songs on the album are those built around a theme of sorts. The best example is “You Don’t Love Me”, a three-minute fest that creates a juxtaposition between paranoia and a sense of calmness. The piano’s melody displays the influence of Japanese culture and music on Hughes, a common occurrence throughout the record. Rhythm is created by what sounds like a balloon slowly being deflated. Police sirens, short gasps, warped giggling, and sampled audio (title comes from clip saying “You don’t love me. You don’t even know me”) all create a foreboding atmosphere above the light, underlying melody. Hughes truly shines on this track, adding random noises in a way that compliment the music rather than take away from it.
While there is much to like about Reset The Warehouse, it’s a flawed album. Experimentation outweighs creating an enjoyable listening experience several times, making you basically wait until the melody returns. The best songs are those that either avoid inputting random noises or those that use samples to build on the underlying structure. If you’re on the fence about this brand of experimental electronica, then this record isn’t for you. If you already love the genre, then it may be worth picking up.