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In a press photo, Dean Blunt's face peeked out from behind Drake's crudely cut-and-pasted frame. He was one half of Hype Williams, a London-Berlin electronica duo who released music with little notice, rarely granted interviews and is not to be mistaken for the music video director of the same name. ("The missing link between Ariel Pink and Aphex Twin," The Guardian said.) Three albums and several EPs, 7-inches and live rarities later -- granted, with less than 1,000 copies pressed each -- Hype Williams gained a cult following.
Now on his own, Blunt continues to show how even recluses can make themselves heard. Here's five things to know, going into his new album The Redeemer.
1. In Hype Williams, Shit Got Reel (Weird)
The duo's debut EP, High Beams, began with a man explaining the pros and cons of ejaculation: "Her mind isn't good, her mind is insane." Especially with their low profile in mind, Hype Williams' lo-fi recordings felt sinister and, like the music video director, initially toyed with distortion. In Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite and Start Gettin Reel, "Untitled"'s entrancing beat remains steady, only to warp at the last moment -- as if a ghost had passed by.
2. Hype Williams Loved Them Some Pop Culture
Their "Rescue Dawn II" video featured Britney Spears' "Every Time" video, and their live London 2012 set manipulated Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" so the No Doubt ringleader kept spelling "bananas" incorrectly. "Ooovrrr" chops up Drake's "Over," while the rhythm and sentiment of "Rescue Dawn" sounds inspired by the same song. (Of course, Hype Williams was speaking of Pokemon -- "Gotta catch 'em all.")
3. Just When People Started to "Get" Them, Hype Williams Split
From 2010 to 2012, Hype Williams released three albums (Untitled, Find Out What Happens... and One Nation) with little notice. Like with any frequent visitor, Hype Williams' habits became known. Their songs are often "Untitled" and often felt like entering a dark room, waiting for our vision to adjust. Then the duo released Black Is Beautiful not as Hype Williams but as "Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland." After years of obscuring personal details, Hype Williams no longer seemed mysterious.
4. Dean Blunt's Collaboration With James Ferraro Was a Break-Through
The common thread running through Dean Blunt's first solo LP The Narcissist II was film dialogue illustrating a domestic dispute; as a result it felt like a more violent Hype Williams EP. However, his recent collaboration with James Ferraro on a new track called "Watch the Throne" was a revelation. Recorded at the bustling Soho House West Hollywood, the song finds Blunt singing and Ferraro playing the piano while overpowered by sounds of chatter and clinking glasses. Turns out, it's an oddly gorgeous primer to Blunt's new album.
5. Dean Blunt Is Probably Human After All
"You bring out the best in me," Blunt insists in "Papi," the first single off his new album The Redeemer and a song that sounds lifted from Beach House's Devotion. While The Redeemer still bears an edge -- throughout a woman leaves bitter voice mails, implying infidelity -- Blunt actually sounds romantic, his gritty voice set to keys and guitar melodies. Whether his name is real or not, Dean Blunt's existence is clearly human.
Dean Blunt's album The Redeemer is out May 1 via World Music/Hippos in Tanks.