Hyperdub come save me
Kode 9’s Memories of the Future goes the opposite way of Burial, a mournful elegy of times past reflecting on the way we are now, instead reminding of the edgy terror-present in terms of an even edgier, dystopic future to come.
This is no pastoral, but a disenchanted garden – the enticing sonic surface leads you to deeper, occult findings, Steve Goodman’s production played off against Space Ape’s monotone warning signs. Right from the earliest output – the blasted, cold cover of Prince’s Sign of the Times, – all cold tech notes and anti-rhythm – Space Ape has lent his bleakest visions to the Kode 9 project. Whereas on the first listen 14 tracks or so delivered in his matter-of-fact patois grated, several listens in and it makes sense, the alien parasite is reporting back from another world, a man-machine reading out the data of social disintegration, a ‘hostile alien’ reeling in wrath. Of course it’s already fucked up, but our refusal to acknowledge this makes the chronic conceit seem so valid. It’s no longer right, if it ever was, to be lost in ‘paranoia’s most beautiful dream’.
Sonically, whereas Burial’s texture was similar to Basinski or Fennesz over 2-step and the showstopper dubstep 12s of the wider scene rely on flashy signatures and entropic bass, Goodman’s approach might seem workmanlike – throw in enough elements, rely on traditional song structures – but is utterly convincing. The arpeggiated riffs and the half-step rhythms do appear. And with Ape’s continuous presence the tunes become proper songs – the perfect middle ground between grime MC patter and instrumental half-step. While Sine, Correction and Lime are eerily empty, Backward, Curious and 9 Samurai are eminently danceable – for all the talk of the end of the hardcore continuum, several seem like very modern dance tracks, and, as Goodman says, if your mind is still set to jungle-frenetic you can fill in the fills yourself. With all the previous 10s and 12s included, you have an album that transcends the genre-talk of dubstep, dub, garage to emerge as a dread pop capable of entrancing a wider audience, if they’re ready to be bewitched by the music and awoken by the lyrics. Curious, in particular, is jaunty, the spring-loaded riffs mellifluous like deep house, beats skittering underneath the top end.
The album’s standout is the next track Portal – Space Ape rants interminably over a ponderous beat, oriental space riffs flutter in like djinns and float away – the overall fabric suggesting subjects should be drugged anew, from narcolepsy may spring a new awareness.
MotF is not a retro futurist or a hauntological gambit, there is little contextual crackle, no sampledelics, just solid layers of instrumentation properly EQd and new rhythmic shuffles. Spectres of genres-past do creep in – Nine has a smoky jazz flourish, the blunted brass of 9 Samurai is trip-hop come back to finish the job it couldn’t be arsed to finish the first time, Victims has a Fall-like abrasive guitar sound and on Sine there are dancehall reverberations to drown in, but this is about the ghosts and apparitions we have yet to see. Sign of the Times, Sine, Sin Cities. In sum, Kode 9 fights late kapitalist evil with occultory tactics – come and listen then be startled – and in doing so has achieved a landmark album of contemporary consciousness set to an innovative rave template.