Saturday, 17 October 2009

Hyperdub – 5 Years of Hyperdub [Hyperdub]

Like a virus spread by bass and mutating into different strains all the time, Hyperdub is a force to be reckoned with and I don’t think there’s a cure. This 5 year celebration compilation is two discs of low end bass transmissions from Hyperdub’s past and as they always have at least one eye on the future one whole CD of fresh upfront material. Every side is explored and every artist on the label gets a look in along with some very special guests. From the doom and dread of the first releases that helped shape the sound of early dubstep, drenched in dub roots, garage gone insane and something all together more sinister, all the way to the ‘Wot Do U Call It?’ newer releases that’s really gone viral and spread into corners of hip-hop, funky, house, grime and beyond with twisted synths leading the way.

5 opens with the new up front material and King Midas Sound’s lovers dub ‘Meltdown’ which also happens to be a taster for his forthcoming album. It’s a spooky laid back, spaced out and loved up rootsy affair and shows that through all the twisted synth smears that Hyperdub still know how to keep things old school and fresh all at once. Kode9 & The Spaceape step up with a re-tooled version of ‘Time Patrol’ with added vocals from Cha Cha, this track kind of serves as a bridge between the new and old sides of Hyperdub, its got that dread dub feel but with twisted synth motifs. LV’s contributions fit into the digital dancehall roots end of things too.

I’d love to talk about all of the tracks but that would be far to epic, plus you can read about the fantastic ‘Aidy’s Girl is a Computer’ by Darkstar here

The hip-hop contingent turn in some quality tracks, Samiyam’s ‘Roller Skates’ is so hypnotic and funky, while Flying Lotus makes one of the best tracks of the comp in ‘Disco Balls’ with a lilting buzzing 303-like bass line and swaggering groove. ‘Purple Smoke’ by Black Chow is a dubbed out J-Pop meets Tricky in Bristol sort of sound and also one of the many Kevin Martin aka The Bug/King Midas Sound productions here.

The labels breakout artist, Burial brings his first new solo material since Untrue in the form of ‘Fostercare’ and it’s pretty much what you’d expect from him. Dark and spaced out, a half step garage mutation with plenty of groove and atmosphere. It’s closer to something from his debut album than it is Untrue, or maybe somewhere inbetween with its darker sound but with ghostly R&B vocals. You can tell he’s been honing his skills, it’s a fantastic, subtle return.

Hyperdub’s constant mutating has already explored the fringes of dubstep and hip-hop and this doesn’t stop when things drop to a house pace with contributions from Cooly G, Zomby and Martyn all clocking in at around 130-ish. ‘Weekend Fly’ has a really skeletal dub feel to it but with a skipping funky groove, plus vocals from miss G its dark and mesmerising. The prolific Zomby drops ‘Tarantula’ a mad hybrid of Detroit-P-Funk infused house and his own brand of freakery, it’s some bumping twisted funk. Martyn ups the groove and lowers the bpm with a bleeped out, dark, driving house anthem.

Mala makes a rare appearance with the brilliant ‘Level Nine’ with his unique sound, a dark and soulful meditative soundsystem shaker. This is maybe the most space age track I’ve heard from Mala in some time, the synths give of a melancholic sci-fi like look at the not to distant future and maybe one of the top picks on the comp. LD’s ‘Shake It’ comes off like a mutant robotic techno beast made for huge soundsystems, full of percussive excursions and gnarly bleeps, its full on but has a deranged kind of funk.

To finish disc one the twisted synth come out in full force with Quarta330 who arguably had a big hand in the proliferation of this sound, ‘Bleeps From Outer Space’ is a bubbling 8-bit dancehall tune that Mario might be set to in a hidden level where he gets stoned with Sonic. Ikonika drops a taster for her forthcoming album early next year with ‘Sarah Michael’ and its so addictive, like a mixture of Terror Danjah style grime and her own blend of dubstep and energetic, twisted electronica, she makes me move. Joker & Ginz the Bristol wonder team drop ‘Stash’ with a swaggering G-Funk/Crunk number, at first I wasn’t sure it was up there with Re-Up and Purple City but its really grown on me, they work so well together.

The second disc is the older more familiar Hyperdub transmissions, its bookended by the two versions of ‘9 Samurai’ the original and Quarta330 Remix. This pretty much sums up the direction Hyperdub has gone in, when they first dropped on 12” one side took in the doom-fuelled dread and the other twisted it into an insane smeary, 8-bit synth tweak out and was described as Kode9 as circuitry crying. This opened the doors, along with the likes of FlyLo’s off-centre hip-hop experiments to a whole new sound that’s really taken off.

So here you get stone cold classics, rarities and un-released bits. Burial’s now pretty hard to get hold of ‘South London Boroughs’ from his first EP sounds as fresh and ghostly as ever. The Bug and LV’s dancehall excursions point to the roots in fine style. The two Kode9 & Spaceape tracks are both un-released gems from the archive, ‘Ghost Town’ yes that Ghost Town by The Specials gets shaped into a laid back dark as hell bass pulse ballad not unlike the first Hyperdub release ‘Sine of the Dub’ the beatless version of Prince. Then comes ‘Fukkaz’ which The Bug covered for his London Zoo album last year, an angry shout to all the fukkaz out there.

The rest are fairly recent releases including the amazing ‘Need You’ by Darkstar with its skipping vocoder garage soul and Ikonika’s twisted, bending ‘Please’, which I still can’t get enough of. Zomby drops a couple with Rusitie’s rendition of ‘Spliff Dub’ and his insane hypnotic wonked out arpeggio grooves of ‘Kaliko’. The soulful vocoder almost Dr. Dre-like pop of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ and Joker’s Digidesign, which I still get in my head all the time bring things to a close with the aforementioned Quarta330 Remix.

As an overview of Hyperdub you can’t go wrong with 5 it showcases all their talent and just brings gem after gem to your ears. The new material is as fresh as hell and there is nothing tired about the rest. There really isn’t a track that I don’t love here I’d love to be able to slag them off a bit but it really is all killer, Hyperdub are one of the most consistent and interesting labels around, there transitions continue to push dance floors into new directions. I’d like to say the future is bright but with the sound of darkness and dread along with the twisted glowing nuclear mutations, we’re more likely to have a meltdown and be destroyed, which will be equal parts exhilarating as it will be terrifying but the good thing is Hyperdub will still be sound tracking it.

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