Continuing its unofficial mission of “giving dubstep what it thinks it doesn’t need” – as Kode 9 was once quoted as saying in an interview – Hyperdub unveil a follow up to Kind Midas Sound’s “Waiting For You” 2009 debut in the shape of “Without You”. Make no mistake though, this is Hyperdub and Kevin Martin – aka The Bug – we are talking about here so this is no simple follow up, rather it follows a rich Jamaican tradition of versioning whereby the debut album sees itself transformed across 15 revoices and reworks (and an additional three on the vinyl not included on the CD).
Originally a side project of The Bug featuring vocalist Roger Robinson, King Midas Sound evolved during the conception of the first album to include Kiki Hitomi – a Japanese artist and vocalist from London who used to be one half of Dokkebi Q. Together the three have become a musical unit that’s as powerful and intriguing as anything Hyperdub have fostered as they continue to set new standards in the muddy world of dance and electronic music.
In many ways “Without You” is the perfect blend of the modern remix album concept and the reggae traditions of versioning. Some of the riddims are kept intact in a sense, stripped down to their core components, dubbed and revocaled while others are taken apart and reworked. Actually rework is a much more appropriate word than remix in most case.
Revoicing wise you’ll find a line up that’s both surprising and yet perfectly apt all things considered: Kiki, Hyperdub’s own Cooly G, dnb legend D-Bridge (who’s made vocal appearances on various tracks in recent years to much surprise and pleasure) and Green Gartside of Scritti Polliti fame – the latter delivering the stand out revoicing for me, spine chillingly beautiful without taking anything away from the others.
The reworks meanwhile span a wide sonic world that perfectly exemplifies The Bug’s well known broad musical appetite: we’ve got Flying Lotus, Kuedo, Gang Gang Dance, Mala from Digital Mystikz, Nite Jewel, Hype Williams, Kode 9 and Spaceape, Dabrye and Ras G among others. The result is a musical trip like few you’ll take this year, anchored firmly in chest-pressing and ground shaking bass but with wide ranging musical tentacles that bring the originals into new styles, successfully in all cases. Personal favourites include the Gang Gang Dance rework of “Earth A Kill Ya” with its twisted hip hop head nod and mutation across six minutes, proof that you can turn what was in effect a short skit on the original into a full blown dancefloor killer. Nite Jewel’s rework of “Lost” is also worthy of a mention, the vocal was by far one of the most memorable moments from the original album – a real heartbreaker of a song – and Nite Jewel transforms it into a more moody, melancholic number that’s as good as Dabrye’s rework, and that’s saying a lot.
There is very little, if any, to throw away on “Without You”, especially if your musical horizons are open to different styles and directions. Sure the variety on offer may mean that some find tracks that don’t suit them, yet the beauty of this album lies in letting KMS take you along with them to discover new musical pastures and in the process realise the power that can lie in reworkings and versionings. It’s like seeing old friends after years and appreciating their changes just as you did getting to know them when you first met them. It’s as much a musical tour de force as it is a statement on the state of modern music and the so-called remix culture and tendency in recent years to overdo the remix releases with works that are often far from competing with the originals.
A perfect addition to Hyperdub’s continuously mutating output and easily the “remix” (notice the quotation marks) album of the year by a few miles.