The five best artists to catch at SEMIBREVE 2019
While a successful album-oriented label, it’s easy to forget that like most dance imprints, HYPERDUB is first and foremost still about the single. Whether it’s label founder Kode 9’s Black Sun or Darkstar’s Aidy’s Girl is a Computer, 12”s are still its bread and butter. You could of course just wait for them to roll around on the tenth anniversary compilation but Hyperdub’s recent two-trackers have been some of its best and most varied, pointing to Kode 9’s interest well beyond Dubstep to Funky, House, Techno and Grime and, as ever, producers who blur it all together.
DVA – Natty/Ganja
DVA aka Scratcha was always respected if underrated in Grime circles but in Funky he’s become one of the most singular. Coining ‘Funkstep’, a more serious, if still dancefloor-aimed strain of the sound, tracks like Natty and Ganja are some of the knottiest tracks to come from the scene. They’re also some of the toughest Hyperdub has ever picked up. Save for a strangely loopy birdcall that makes it twin to Roska’s Squawk, Ganja is pure rhythm but rather than mile-a-minute Funky, constantly shuffles tempo with the genre’s usual rhythmic matrix getting stripped out to forge a moodier, more minimal take on the sound. Flipside Natty is even more spare, almost like a halfstep equivalent for funky – deceptively stiff and stuttering, all staggered lop-sided drums and simmering tribal loops that never get brought to the boil. Scratcha has said that he never considered his tracks ‘experimental’ enough for Hyperdub, but Natty achieves that aim without labouring the point.
Terror Danjah – Acid/Pro Plus (featuring DOK)
Though you can hear echoes of his micro-detailed approach in tracks like Crazy Cousins’ Extortion, Terror has so far steered clear of house and funky. But the Berlin-via-Bow breakdown of Acid is the closest he’s ever come to straight 4/4 terrain, something Kode 9 in the past has said he’s never been fond of (which might be why Terror stuck it near the end). One of the Aftershock boss’s most abstract outings, his fussy mid-00s finesse is still there, but there’s a new danceability in his 2010 revamp, and along with Bipolar, Acid is probably the best example of that. Featuring long-time collaborator DOK, Pro Plus continues along a similar tract, giving grime’s angsty tension a playful, technicolour makeover and making Terror a model for all grime producers making a comeback. Someone should make him drag Wiley back.
Kyle Hall – Kaychunk/You Know What I Feel
Symbolic of Hyperdub’s new global reach and how the house takeover in London clubland has meant a reconnection with dance music’s Chicago and Detroit roots, Motor City resident Hall (INTERVIEWED HERE) joins Samiyam, Martyn and Quarta 330 to boost Hyperdub’s international roster. While barely out his teens Hall has talked about making dubstep when he feels like it, this isn’t it – it’s deep Detroit House in the tradition of Theo Parrish and Moodymann. Lush, introspective and gently melancholy, it’s the Hyperdub of Digidesign and Aidy’s Girl transported to techno’s homeland, though for all its maximal glow both sides can get soporific with so many layers of comforting, soothing warmth bedded on top of one another. You Know What I Feel sends the thick Agent K-style synths of the a-side to the fore, though its luxuriant jazzy quiet-storm techno makes the “Kyle Motherfucking Hall” comic book artwork on the label seem like it belongs to another record entirely.
Ikonika – Idiot/Idiot (Altered Natives Remix)
Funky reimagined as Megadrive Techno, Idiot is one of Ikonika’s most perfectly constructed tracks. Altered Natives presumably disagreed though, giving it a virtual inverse print, erasing Ikonika’s high-end emotionalism for a surprisingly austere makeover. Scattering chiptune shards over the same sort of falling-down-the-stairs-in-slo-mo bass as Rass Out, if ‘Contact, Love, Want, Hate’s’ Lil Silva-cribbing Psiorasis made you wonder what a Funky producer might do to Ikonika’s own version of the sound, here’s your answer even if it does do away with a lot of the original’s best features.
LV and Quarta 330 – Hylo/Dong – Suzaran (remix)
The result of its makers meeting at the launch party for Hyperdub’s ‘5’ compilation last winter, Hylo is fittingly like a summary of the label’s recent output distilled into one 12”. Drunken arcade FX, weeping synths, almost upright sounding bass, all allied to a surprisingly breakneck pace, it’s like a combination of Ikonika, Darkstar and Burial seeing how manically they can essay 2-Step with LV and Quarta sounding little like their usual selves. Continuing the Hyperdub-in-miniature theme, Suzaran (a remix of Quarta’s own remix of Japanese group Dong) features a swirling Kyle Hall-like intro, cutesily haunting childlike vocals and low placed Zomby-style melodies, picking up on the more songful direction the label’s been going in lately via King Midas Sound and Darkstar. Like Hyperdub-on-Hyperdub.