In a certain respect, Kode9's 2009 single, Black Sun, marked a shift for his Hyperdub label, where the dungeon-crawling low frequency paranoia suddenly mobilized into nervy percussive splatter. It was funky-friendly, aligning with the turning tide of his DJ sets, but still pockmarked with that blackened sludge that seemed to coat Hyperdub releases around this time.
The inverted-world aesthetic of Black Sun's version of the title track—here given a destabilized makeover—is the eclipse that spreads over and blots out the entire album. It favours quick-draw twitch over unfurling bass to the point where some tracks sound curiously devoid of sub. It's there, but only to cushion the acid rain of unrelenting snares. Goodman relocates the looming dread of his sci-fi futures from the lows to the highs, where the shower of stinging barbs on "Green Sun" or "Neon Red Sign" quickly becomes as suffocating and claustrophobic as any crawling sub-bass behemoth from the duo's debut Memories of the Future. The effect is jarring as the power once invested in imposing and rumbling—and the rigid rhythmic militarism of Memories—is converted to constant fidgety motion.
Goodman brings along a new partner to manifest that transformation literally, in the form of Shanghai vocalist Cha Cha. Her ethereal and breathy wisps play foil to Kode9 partner in crime Spaceape's throaty proclamations, snaking out R&B tangents on "Love Is the Drug" and dueling with her male counterpart directly on "The Cure." Therein marks another change: Spaceape's vocals are also suitably lightened and dispersed, much less manipulated and peppering the tracks with vocal sounds and witty lyrics rather than the slouching-towards-Babylon theme of previous collaborative work. His presence ranges from alienating to confrontational ("Am I" and "Bullet Against Bone," where the drums are the musical embodiment of protestors pelting of rocks against vehicles), or simply odd (the whispers about "the throes of anal passion" on "Promises"). The role he plays remains unconventional—darting from MC to lurking spectre to full-on rapping.
Aside from skidding drums, the record also utilizes the other element that has come to dominate Hyperdub's recent transmissions: big fat synths. Whether it's the (almost) playful squiggles of colour that brighten the album's corners or enveloping waves of analogue fuzz, the synths are the rare bit of meaty midrange on an album that's otherwise all skin and bone. Goodman seizes on the humbling funeral quality of early Darkstar for the record's other centrepiece "Otherman," where several minutes of weeping synthesizer drip down until enough collects to coalesce into an actual beat.
The technique is employed again at the album's close—a collaboration with Flying Lotus—as "Kryon" feigns supernova, sucking in everything around it until it's a massive ball of flames licking at the album's borders. The title apparently refers to an unknown place of escape, in Goodman's words a "monotheistic New Age Babylon," but he keeps us from glimpsing it by snuffing out the track in a startling instant. That the album's most slowly unfolding soundscape disappears in a puff of smoke is a great metaphor for the album itself: mysterious, overwhelming and blink-and-you'll-miss-it-fast.
Tracklist: Kode9 & The Spaceape - Black Sun01. Black Smoke feat. Cha Cha
03. Bullet Against Bone
04. Green Sun
05. The Cure feat. Cha Cha
06. Hole in the Sky
08. Love Is the Drug feat. Cha Cha
09. Black Sun (Partial Eclipse Mix)
10. Neon Red Sign feat. Cha Cha
11. Am I
12. Kryon feat. Flying Lotus