The duo previously known as Hype Williams are now using their ‘real’ names (it’s highly likely these too are pseudonyms, mind), presumably after a polite note from a lawyer representing the video director. But that’s the only thing that has changed for the pair – aside from this fairly minor cosmetic overhaul it is business as usual.
Although not geographically limited in any way, the music of Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland has its roots in South London, specifically the flats of the unemployed and disenfranchised which exist in every major British city. Muted TV shopping and music channels play continually in the background whilst the radio, often happy enough playing Sade or Prince or whoever, is invaded by unapologetically dominating attacks from pirate stations, and the XBox is the centre of activity. The air hangs heavy with a narcotic haze and life operates at a slower pace – the money comes from a variety of unspecified sources but there’s never much need to set foot outside. It’s the sort of place to give a Tory MP nightmares and send them running to the nearest Daily Mail reporter armed with a pithy soundbite.
Blunt & Copeland have captured this environment for some five albums – their surprising output is perhaps due to at least one of them operating at considerable remove from the experience they are soundtracking. To be too embedded in the lifestyle would in all likelihood have a negative effect on their output, and certainly Copeland has put some distance between the source of inspiration and herself by relocating to the Baltic states.
Wherever they are based now, it’s not immediately reflected in Black Is Beautiful. Not much has changed between records; the music is hazy and impressionistic, with the prevalent tape hiss providing a level of ambience on its own. The rhythms are mostly supplied by a rudimentary sounding drum machine, although the opening “Venice Dreamway” (the only titled track here) is mostly drum solo, culled in all likelihood from an unknown jazz album. In theory, this all sounds woefully amateurish, but there’s something about this sound combined with Copeland’s ethereal vocals that lifts the music out of merely being music to smoke to. It could be stoner electronica but for the way the ideas effortlessly tumble over each other in song after song and there is an energy behind the music that stops it getting bogged down in the thick air.
Don’t forget how prolific the duo have been to date; this is clearly not the output of the indolent, just (to paraphrase the Spaceman 3) smoking weed to make music to smoke weed to. Instead Black Is Beautiful is an artfully compiled work which suggest that Blunt & Copeland talk the talk (they seem masters at obfuscation) but don’t necessarily walk the walk – better that they make music at a slight distance though than see their ideas and energies disappear in a puff of smoke. (Jeremy Bye)