Dance music with a recurrent sense of subdued anxiety.
David Stubbs 2009-10-08
The Hyperdub label, home to various ingeniously mutant strains of dubstep and reweldings of genres past, is at once contemporary, futuristic and engaged in a subtle form of nostalgia. Founded by Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, its releases, as showcased on this two-CD compilation, allude to a range of styles, from dancehall to disco. However, there is a recurrent sense of subdued anxiety, taking its cue from the sombre precedent of Massive Attack, an implied inkling that dance music is in the midst of a long, dusky twilight following the daylight, Day-Glo years of funk and rave.
Burial has best intimated this vague but strong sense of wistful foreboding, no better than on Distant Lights, featured here, with its nautical blasts, jet black, looming bass and dragging, reluctant, rhythmic shuffle. Others are more playful in refracting the past. Flying Lotus's Disco Balls is a Cubist-like recollection of the squiggly synth-funk of decades past, while Samiyam's Return simulates the feel of old club 12-inches of the 80s, faded with age, their grooves bled white. King Midas Sound's Meltdown is lover's reggae put through a uniquely 21st century filter; LV's Turn Away is a convergence of digi-dub, bassline house and dubstep; and Darkstar's Need You, heavily Vocoder-ised, is like old-school funksters Zapp perceived in a hall of frosted mirrors.
Other formidable artists and latter-day electronic auteurs featured include The Bug, whose Money Honey Remix (featuring Warrior Queen) is a glossy, sleek and mobile upgrade of the dancehall stylings for which he's best known. Joker's Digidesign is like compressed shafts of coloured laser beam forcing their way through a single aperture, while Zomby's Tarantula is a throwback to Cabaret Voltaire. Last word, however, should go to Kode9 himself, who delivers a remix (actually, a reworking) of The Specials' Ghost Town – their elegiac, recession-hit lament is updated with a cinema-vérité of wailing sirens, lingering volleys of dub and a grim, deadpan vocal recital from SpaceApe: “All the clubs are being closed down . . .”
Maybe the lights have gone out in the world of dance music – and yet, the quality of this compilation makes you wonder if these aren't the best times of all.