by Cameron Seibold
Hyperdub is a record label that thrives off of an eclectic selection of artists and ideas. It is not a label for only one kind of music, even though a pocket of the label’s artists have developed a certain similar style (if you can call being very unique similar).
Over the past 10 years, the label has pushed artists such as Laurel Halo, R&B vocalist and producer Jessy Lanza, late footwork producer DJ Rashad, and most notably U.K. 2-step garage artist Burial. The only idea that brings these artists together is a love for exploring all things sonic in nature. There doesn’t seem to be any limit to what Hyperdub is willing to push, and this fourth installation of their 10 year anniversary compilations contains a pretty extensive sample base of 28 tunes, old and new, to exemplify the label’s creative spirit.
As unique and eclectic of a selection Hyperdub offers in “Hyperdub 10.4,” there is no way around the fact that Burial is Hyperdub’s flagship artist. As soon as it was announced that “Hyperdub 10.4” would contain a previously un-released Burial track, the compilation instantly became much more exciting. The track, “Lambeth,” doesn’t disappoint. It’s nice to hear a track from a Burial from roughly five years ago (“Lambeth” was supposedly produced around 2009, and a version of it was actually played on Radio 1 at that time). It’s a fairly straightforward Burial track from that time period, focusing mostly on the trademark off-kilter rolling percussion, sub-bass, and atmosphere. The main melodic elements are fairly unique to the Burial sound however, offering a shimmery, bit-crushed synth stab to compliment the rest of the understated lower frequencies.
A majority of “Hyperdub 10.4” tends to focus on the forward-thinking club music the label is known for. Tracks by Martyn, Funkystepz, Ikonica, Cooly G, DVA and more all exemplify the creative club-minded brand of dance music currently being explored by labels such as Hyperdub, Night Slugs, and Hessle Audio. Vintage drum machines, off-kilter beats, bright synths, strange melodies, and creative uses of sampling are very much a focus on “10.4.”
Label owner Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, is another main attraction of the Hyperdub family. Two tracks of his are featured on the compilation. “Love is the Drug” is a track more typical of Kode9’s eerie atmospheric style that utilizes the creative effort of late label artist Stephen Gordman aka “The Spaceape.” “Oh” is a much more experimental dance style track featuring detuned arpeggios and slightly out of place percussion.
One of the hard parts about reviewing a mostly dance-oriented compilation is that some of the tracks are obviously meant to be contextualized by a DJ in a club. Jessy Lanza & Bambonou’s collaboration is just over seven minutes long, and considering it is almost an entirely rhythm-based track, for the average listener it just might not go down so smoothly. The tracks can be long and drawn-out, and sometimes feel like a bit of a chore. This isn’t really an issue when they are being mixed and played in a club, but unless you are an experienced electronic music listener who enjoys subtlety, listening on your iPod just might not be the right context.
The word that constantly runs through my mind when listening to Hyperdub’s main body of artists is “playful”. This is a label that embodies a truly creative and playful spirit. There is no agenda, there is no one aesthetic or sound being pushed. The songs aren’t built to perfection. To be honest, they often sound a bit rough around the edges and nearly unfinished at times, but they are fun to listen to because you get the sense that the artist had fun creating them. Oftentimes as a listener I forget to just have fun just enjoying a piece of music for what it is, and end up having expectations as to what it “should be.” Listening to “Hyperdub 10.4” was a nice break from those expectations.
Favorite tracks: DVA’s “Walk it Out,” Burial’s “Lambeth,” Ossie & PHRH’s “Ugly Observations,”