Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ikonika – Contact, Want, Love, Have [Hyperdub]

The Mega Drive generation has been in full effect in recent years, people who grew up with 8-bit bleep tones engrained on their brains from bashing buttons and chasing pixels have been translating those influences into their art. You can hear this ‘PlayStation boogie’ in the ever-blurring fringes of the dubstep scene, its been devouring the bleeps like a ghost chased Pacman and showing it off with pride. Not only that though it’s all being twisted through other influences and that makes it a hard album to pin down, she’s got a unique voice that touches on so much and comes out in directions that are hard to imagine. You get the upfront playfulness of modern R&B and the sweet syrupy bleep funk of Skweee or the aforementioned computer game soundtracks playing off the dark, heavy bass weight of dubstep and a diverse rhythm-scape that seems to feed on anything from skippy garage to tough and rough uk funky hybrids via a hardcore punk sensibility. Ikonika’s debut 12” with the addictive and sinuous ‘Please’ really got me hooked back in 2008 and her debut album in 2010 does the same.

Power up with ‘Ikonoklast (insert coin)’ and before you know it ‘Idiot’ is unleashed on you, this dropped on a 12” recently with a fantastic Altered Natives remix that strips back the hyperactive bleeps and bumps up the chunky house funk vibes, it’s a killer track… The original bubbles with energy and comes alive on dance floors thanks to its bouncy bassline all while it leaves it’s Gameboy hook in your head for days. The epic, sweeping synth lines of ‘Yoshimitsu’ and the slow burning, ‘Fish’ with there subtly shifting melodic patterns feel like your sinking into a sea of neon bliss, the latter especially has been one that always seems to creep into my sets. The drums skip, bubble and roll around the ebbing digital tide perfectly.

The massively heavy and spaced out ‘R.E.S.O.O.L.’, which turns out to be looser backwards is one of those tracks you didn’t see coming. Its got all the hallmarks of her sound but twists them in a way I couldn’t predict, a pixelated Godzilla attach that grinds, growls and swirls with mysterious melody. The dark 80s/90s-esq synth workout ‘They Are All Loosing The War’ feels like grime work its way back in a time machine to a techno rave in a dark warehouse. The next two may be familiar if you’ve been following Ikonika: ‘Millie’ has been a favourite of mine for a while; the twisted off-kilter woozy synth patterns bounce off the deep bass tones perfectly. And the beats go from punchy half step and rock-like to pumping energy fuelled dance floor shakers. ‘Sarah Michael’ appeared on the ‘5’ compilation last year, it’s a track that has grown on me considerably. When the bass drops it kicks a hell of a punch and those Street Fighter-esq melodies really work their way under your skin. ‘Continue?’ really does remind you of the moment in a game where you die and have to choose to reboot or give up, but with this album it’s an easy choice. Keep rolling…

The latter half of the album gets more percussive, taking pointers from uk funky’s hard soca bump. It’s an influence that’s really taking hold in the dubstep scene over the last few years probably thanks to its addictiveness in the dance, and Ikonika takes on this influence with ease. ‘Heston’ bumps hard with digi-snares, claps and kicks that make you want to shake it alongside roller-rink melodies and deep comforting bass, it’s a subtle one. The hard hitting ‘Psoriasis’ reminds me of Lil Silva the uk funky don with his square-wave synths and raw grimy dance floor power, filtered through the Ikonika prism of bleeps and short circuits. ‘Video’ Delays’ takes those chunky house drums and off-sets it with hypnotic Bladerunner synth lines. The last push comes in the form of ‘Look (final boss stage)’, which has that Lil Silva vibe again, tough grimy and fun. ‘Red Marker Pens (good ending)’ ebbs and flows with a melodic kind of bliss channelled through the swirling pads, synths and hypnotic bass tones.

Contact, Want, Love, Have is a seriously addictive album. I’ve been to busy playing it to bother writing about it, but it has to be done or I’d feel like something is missing. It’s a really fun coherent piece and the first full-length artist album to showcase the bleepy synth led direction that Hyperdub have been playing with over the last few years. Ikonika makes a world of her own here, there are some kind of boundaries set up somewhere but she moves freely between them, keeping things interesting and diverse within her distinct sound. The way the music progresses from bumps and bleeps to smeared syrup drenched passages is pretty addictive. The melodies are so catchy and the bass so hard it’s like she’s mutated things so much that some kind of new hardcore-pop-r&b-hyper-dance hybrid has been created where the lead singer has been replaced by synths and everything has been cranked up for maximum enjoyment.

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