If there was ever an indication of time speeding up as the years go by, it’s the realisation that Hyperdub’s first release was way back in 2004 – and the 5 Years of Hyperdub discs have been sitting on my shelf for nearly eight years. Quarta330 was already part of the rota when he appeared on that compilation and has further cemented himself as something of a mainstay for the label, despite the lengthy gaps between releases. It’s resulted in a slowly building profile which may yet give producer Toru Koda the quantum leap into consciousness that Jessy Lanza, Laurel Halo and Fatima Al Qadiri have managed, although he may need to increase his productivity for that to happen.
The new Pixelated EP is certainly likely to tap into a new audience, because fans of 8bit game soundtracks will beat a path to “Yatagarasu”, which drops the listener so convincingly into the world of arcades that a casual stroll to the chemist’s will turn in to an epic quest, jumping onto imaginary mushrooms and biffing old ladies in the mistaken belief they are monsters sent to slow your progress. It’s arguably the stand-out track but the other three here are by no means makeweights.
The opener “Resonate” is a funky, fusion track – but for the hyperactive percussion, you could imagine this sitting on a Herbie Hancock album from the 70s (this is no bad thing, I’ve been listening to his albums a lot recently). Moving along at almost indecent pace, “The Fairies Homecoming” straps us into a rhythm that is sometimes jungle, sometimes reggae and wholly engaging, even thoughtfully sticking several bars of ‘bonus beats’ on the end so you can get your breath back, a technique repeated on closer “Digital Lotus Flower”. This EP fits 4 tracks into just over a quarter hour and it is the aural equivalent of drinking too much fizzy soda; possibly headache inducing in one sitting but perfect if you spread the experience out over time. In fact, that might explain the gaps between EPs, this full-on sensory experience is too much for Toru Koda himself to manage quickly.
Appearing within days of the long-serving Quarta330’s latest, doon kanda presents his debut for the label. There’s a real contrast between the covers, although there isn’t such a stylistic gap the CG landscape and the hand-written scrawl on heart’s artwork might indicate. doon is the recording guise for Jesse Kanda – you can see why he’s changed his name as it is very similar to one of his labelmates, the aforementioned Ms Lanza – and he has previously worked on design and video for fka Twigs, Bjork and Arca. It’s as busy and concise as Quarta330’s work, fitting in 5 tracks in less time than (for example) Burial’s masterpiece “Come Down To Us”.
kanda’s main focus is synthesized organ – it has the similar tone to an instrument you would expect to find in a church or concert hall but has been reduced somewhat in scale. The result is akin to an early Steve Reich or Terry Riley piece being chopped into small sections and given a neo-dubstep atmosphere with echoey drums but not much in terms of rhythm – kind of a mutant minimalism. The comparison with Arca is clear enough, although doon kanda is less bothered by the dancefloor – “feline” is an unabashed waltz – than by creating a dense listening experience.
If you’re hoping for full-on beats then you get the first minute of opener “axolotl” to cut a rug or, indeed, shake a tail feather. After that, comes a breakdown which is almost as long and at that point all bets are off. Come for the dancing, stay for the intense, almost claustrophobic, sound world, which is in sharp contrast to Quarta330’s bright shiny EP. heart will drop you in the middle of a film noir, footsteps following behind you down darkened alleys, foggy shadows looming on nearby walls, a feeling of uncertain menace infecting your mind… So, two very different, but equally compelling EPs from Hyperdub. Pick the one that best suits your mood for now, but don’t ignore the other. (Jeremy Bye)