Under the Lothario-like nom de plume of Martyn Bootyspoon, Montreal’s Jason Voltaire makes sexed-up club music that’s deliberately tongue in cheek. He got his start under the influence of booty house and ghettotech fixtures like DJ Assault and DJ Funk, Midwestern producers who brought a sly, lascivious spirit to house and techno. When Voltaire discovered them as an impressionable, extremely online adolescent, something clicked: As he told FACT, “Hearing something like DJ Assault’s ‘Ass N Titties’? That’s just gonna stick with you.” But Voltaire, the son of Haitian and Guyanese immigrants, also credits an influence closer to home: the campy sense of humor that’s endemic to his native Quebec. Recalling French Canada’s history of novelty disco and other records “not to be taken seriously,” he approvingly told Radio Primavera Sound’s Line Noise Podcast, “There’s a lot of slapstick and tacky things that happen in Montreal.”
Bootyspoon’s first appearance on record, a cameo on former Montreal producer (and Kanye collaborator) Sinjin Hawke’s 2011 EP The Lights, falls under the category of things not to be taken too seriously. Over Hawke’s rapturous soundscaping, Voltaire imagined swan-diving into the oceanic depths of his object of desire, nasally ad-libbing a libidinal stream of consciousness about his “world of pretense” and “oversexed personality.” But over the past few years, Voltaire’s acumen as a producer has begun to eclipse his antics. On 2018’s Silk Eternity EP, for Hawke and Zora Jones’ Fractal Fantasy label, his heavy-lidded come-ons couldn’t disguise the force of his sternly percussive club beats, and on last year’s No. 1 Crush EP, his production got both beefier and more psychedelic. Lickety Split, for London’s Local Action label, showcases his most assured work yet and confirms that while the Bootyspoon persona is unabashedly extra, his grooves are ruthlessly efficient.
Though he was initially inspired by bare-bones ghettotech, Voltaire covers plenty of ground on these five tracks. The relentless hi-hats of the hard-charging “Lickety Split” recall the drums of the classic 1995 anthem “Flash”—a signature tune by Chicago house ringmaster Green Velvet, whose over-the-top stage presence is an obvious antecedent for Bootyspoon’s role-playing. “Resonant Freq,” though, hops the Atlantic to plug into sounds and textures more closely associated with grime, like brooding squarewave bass and stark, minor-key string-synth stabs, all of it as chilly as a spell in Wiley’s igloo. “KEYGEN 2 MI H34RT,” the record’s furthest stylistic outlier, melts down Bootyspoon’s usual club reference points into a detuned goo of trance stabs and sickly-sounding Auto-Tune.
The glue holding together these disparate ideas is Voltaire’s appealingly gravelly baritone growl. On the title track, he chops up stray syllables, breaths, tossed-off asides (“You know I’m tryna get lit”), and callbacks to the mother of all vocal fry; he’s so seductive, he can make a question like, “What’s in your Amazon wish list?” sound dirty. He’s more fanciful on “Ice Cream Mane,” where he urges, “Think about me in the summertime, because I’m cool on a hot summer’s day/I’m the ice cream man, baby/Cooler than the Atlantic spray.” His voice grabs your attention first, and his production keeps it: With dissonant, 8-bit bleeps drizzled over a slippery electro pulse, the track is as experimental as it is effortlessly propulsive.
The most interesting cut on the EP, “Airdrop,” is largely instrumental, relegating the voice to a colorful strip of vocoded tone. Over a muted 4/4 kick, electronic marimba and synthetic bell tones pulse and clang around scattershot snares. For all the song’s percussive intensity, there are virtually no conventional drum sounds at all; the overall effect is of a kind of weaponized new age, at once bruising and meditative. A swirl of bright, glassy tones, it moves without obvious direction, unpredictable as a weather system. Far from Martyn Bootyspoon’s occasionally slapstick tendencies and typically carnal thrust, it offers a glimpse of the Montreal musician in a headier, more serious mode.
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