A collective surviving through punk
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the iconic Hyperdub record label, which has left an inimitable mark on the electronic music scene since its inception in the early 2000s. To celebrate this very special occasion, label owner Kode9, footwork producer DJ Taye and killer duo of UK funky innovator Scratcha DVA and dancehall/grime lioness Lady Lykez land at this year’s outdoor wonderfest of Feeërieën. In preparation to the exquisite Hyperdub label night, we take a stroll down memory lane, right from Hyperdub’s humble beginnings in South London to its gradual transformation into the majestic empire of forward-thinking electronic music that it is today.
Text by Silvija Daniunaite
From its retrospectively humble beginnings as one of the primary incubators of syncopated dubstep rhythms, the Hyperdub ‘virus’ has since unleashed a global pandemic of sonic hedonism upon the world. With Hyperdub’s artistic gaze stretching far beyond the rigid parameters of genre categorization, the label has carved out a sonic aesthetic of its own, becoming a hub for wandering artists whose sounds migrate through geographical borders and span several sonic movements from all across the musical spectrum.
With its irresistible affinity for the unknown and inexhaustible desire for the new, Hyperdub has always been a visionary label, forever roaming the terra incognita of contemporary electronic music. The sonic philosophy of Hyperdub escapes any pre-existing structures and classifications, melting the esoteric and the mainstream into a hyper-colored sound palette without ever neglecting the ethos of the dancefloor. Like a virus, Hyperdub continually mutates and self-perpetuates, searching for new sonic terrains to unearth and bring forth to global recognition.
The iconic Hyperdub label blossomed out of an online webzine, which served as an open writing platform for the pioneers of the 90s ‘hardcore continuum’. With its focus on bridging academic writing and coverage of progressive garage and grime scenes within the British underground at the time, the Hyperdub predecessor was the brainchild of label founder Steve Goodman, also known under his moniker Kode9. With a background in cybernetic culture and a PhD in philosophy, Goodman has stood at the forefront of musical change and evolution for over 15 years.
Hyperdub’s odyssey across the vastness of the electronic music spectrum began with the now historic Sine of the Dub, a dread-filled collaborative release by label owner Kode9 and his late friend The Spaceape. The sonic language of Hyperdub’s iconic duo had always carried a chilling aura of desolation, combining Ape’s apocalyptic storytelling with Kode9’s dystopian soundscapes to draw a silhouette of looming nuclear catastrophe. An ode to timelessness, their music will remain forever relevant in our technologically-driven world of ‘half truths and distorted memories’.
Hyperdub’s subsequent releases in the mid-2000s have landed the label on the global map, with Burial’s introspective melancholia and disquieting ambience forever changing the face of UK’s rave music and culture. A blend of 2-step, UK garage, jungle and dubstep, Burial’s earliest releases, including his self-titled album Burial and the now iconic Untrue, stand as timeless testaments to his somewhat schizophrenic hauntology, weaving sonic elegies to pasts and futures lost and buried, amid the hiss and crackle of vinyl and uncanny hums of abandonment. Peering at the desolate landscape, Burial’s sonic fiction speaks to temporal disjunctions, the almost tangible ache of longing for a future that is yet to come, but never in fact will.
And so the virus mutates. Since the era of Burial’s enigmatic electronica, Hyperdub has grown into a multicultural cross-breed hybrid. Fueled by its progressive spirit of experimentation, it now champions sonic diversity with the sounds of late Chicago footwork pioneer DJ Rashad and Teklife’s DJ Taye, progressive neo-pop of Cape-Town artist Angel-Ho, politically-conscious electronica of Kuwaiti producer Fatima Al Qadiri, US avant-gardist Laurel Halo as well as the intimate electro-soul of South African/UK duo OKZharp & Manthe Ribane.
While playing in an international arena, Hyperdub hasn’t forgotten its roots in the UK, further pushing the frontiers of electronic music with some key players in its ever-growing roster. Only a few among the many other remarkable talents up its sleeve, Hyperdub is home to the ferocious synths of Ikonika, UK funky queen Cooly G, oozing synth-pop of Darkstar, bass and UK funky innovator Scratcha DVA, dancehall/grime lioness Lady Lykez and the legendary label owner Kode9 himself. Hyperdub is a master in paradoxical contradictions, a label whose uniformity lies in its defiant eclecticism and whose collective spirit stems from the elusive individuality of its crew.
In recent years, Hyperdub’s fiendish playfulness and Goodman’s fascination with technology have carved out a sonic dome for Japanese video game music, giving it a sophisticated standing of its own and acknowledging its major influences on early-era electronic music. Compiled in collaboration with enthusiast Nick Dwyer, the 34-track compilation Diggin’ in the Carts is a retro-futuristic reanimation of the hyper-inventive sounds of some of the most legendary video game composers, delving deep into the 8-bit and 16-bit era of video game music in Japan.
Further pursuing new sonic forms, Hyperdub has recently ventured into the realm of spoken word, with the long-awaited launch of its sub-label Flatlines. What blossomed out of Hyperdub’s monthly Ø parties at London’s Corsica Studios, will now stand as a separate entity, with its inaugural release On Vanishing Land featuring an audio-essay/soundscape by late theorist Mark Fisher and sound artist/philosopher Justin Barton. A meditation on ‘micropolitics of escape’, it’s a mesmerizing audio trip into the eerie.
In its majestic totality, Hyperdub’s sonic ethos traverses all philosophical, aesthetic, political and scientific boundaries, tapping into rhythms that are hardwired deep into our primitive unconscious. The army behind the legendary Hyperdub empire goes far beyond idle creation and mindless consumption, roaming sonic terrains at the intersection of sound and affect, their rhythmic vibrations binding the body, the mind and the dance floor in its ever-changing dynamic of otherworldly bliss. And so the Hyperdub pandemic spreads, mutating into forever new sonic forms and melodic shapes.
Hyperdub 15 ft. Kode9 + Scratcha DVA & Lady Lykez + DJ Taye
26-30 August, Brussels
Free for all