Listening to Darling Farah's 2008 Hair Down EP, released on Idiot Music when he was still living in the UAE, it's remarkable how skilled in the art of sonic oppression he was, even then. These early works feel airless and clotted with ideas, with the young producer—just 16 at the time—often prising apart the densely packed productions, allowing silence to engulf the listener. Released on Civil Music, home to his two well-received 2011 EPs EXXY and Division, Kamau Baaqi's debut bears little superficial resemblance to these likeable pieces. However, the use of space, enclosed and disquieting, still forms the central crux of his music.
One of the first sounds you hear on Body is an industrial thrum, marking out the yawning parameters with its shuddering sweep. An exercise in minimalism, the scorched, syncopated kicks of "North" seem to spend the track's entirety trying to lurch free of the pendulous G-force of the sub. Like many producers working in dubstep's fertile wake, Baaqi knows how to make emptiness feel pregnant with dread. Elsewhere, "Realised" contracts the cavernous atmospherics into a booming exercise in 808 percussion, while "Fortune" manipulates dub techno's bodily pulsations, slowing them to down to a medicated spasm, where every gasp of chord feels pockmarked, obfuscated, like it's been corrupted by electrical interference.
Much has been made of Baaqi's journeyman status. Born in Detroit, his family emigrated to Abu Dhabi, with Baaqui eventually moving on to London. Not surprising then that Body feels dislocated, sealed off. "Bruised" captures the smoked out insularity of early dubstep, while it's also knowing: expulsions of sawtooth synths and washes of horror movie ambience encircle a girlish vocal intoning "this is it." The sample, as you can probably imagine, is pitched down just at the right moment. It's a highlight.
Of course, once you've gone that far there's a tendency for the atmosphere to curdle and become wearying. The nearest Baaqui comes to cracking the window is the beatless "Aaangel," where plucky, arpeggiated synths provide the nearest semblance of reprieve. Even so, it's to the young producer's credit that the overpowering bleakness and obtuse angles of Body never become weary, remaining compelling even at their most oppressive.