While no Francois K., James (“The”) Hardway (nee David Harrow) has been around a mighty long time. Hell, Alec Empire refers to him as “The Godfather of Techno.” But a damned near 20-year career in the music biz teaches you a lot of things — good and bad. Fortunately, Hardway keeps the bad to himself and provides us with nothing but delicious goodness.
Living in London and having been a long-time resident of Berlin, Hardway seems to hover somewhere between France and Germany for his current sound. French house meets nu jazz with dashes of dub effects thrown in for good measure.
It is his spectral jazzy sound that haunts this album and captivates the listener. Big Casino is a mesmerizing journey into a unique vision that is Hardway’s own. While there are some cuts like “People Getting High,” “Time to Go” and “See Through Me” that may transfer to the dancefloor (if you can keep up with them), the album is delightfully cerebral. The man puts a lot of care, attention and detail into his craft, and this album shows it. This is a project to contemplate and revel in rather than a purely hedonist foray into the sweat-soaked libido. It’s a thing of beauty to be truly appreciated (especially the ironic toe-tapper “Worms and Weasels”). While so many artists who’ve been around awhile prefer to stagnate in their all-too-familiar signature sounds, James Hardway continually broadens his and his fans’ horizons with remarkable inventiveness and incredible music.