Kode9 Kode9DJ Kicks
If you skim the surface, you’ll say: Kode9 is spinning funky house now, he’s an opportunist. The problem with the first premise is the “now”, because it’s mistaken: Steve Goodman has departed from the wavelength he was on almost two years ago, back when he was following the dark route of dubstep and he put out that masterpiece with The Spaceape, “Memories Of The Future” (2006). The disenchanted, bitter, prophetic Kode9 of the days of darkness no longer exists. The new Kode9 –which technically was born on the side-B of the maxi, “Bad / 2 Bad”, at the end of 2008– is the one that caught the light of funky before the rest of the dubstep scene began following in his footsteps. He was there before, or at the same time as (the difference of a few weeks) Ramandanman and Untold; back then, Kode9 assimilated the percussion of soca and other Latin rhythms that were around, on his last recording before this “DJ Kicks” edition and the exclusive song “Black Sun”, which wasput out at the beginning of 2009, and connected with the funkstep school that he also promoted as the head of the Hyperdub label by signing promising artists like Cooly G. He’s always had a good nose.
His “DJ Kicks” therefore is not a product of the moment, but rather of evolution, and is exemplary of his constancy. Kode9 understood early on that the days of dubstep as we have known it –as he had modelled it, even– were numbered, and that he had to go with the flow (or rather, the light and the tropical heat). As a survivor of jungle, he knew that the hardcore continuum is a pendulum that never stays still in the centre, but obliges you to seek out extremes. It’s more than likely that time is running out for funky and its adjacent sounds as well, and Kode9 is sure to be already preparing movements to jump ship before it sinks. But for now, the English school of breaks is dominated by all that is set forth here in this vibrant, supersonic mix: his is not the only funky house DJ set on the market, but few of them possess Kode9’s depth. He is a surgeon of the mix, the songs aren’t even three minutes long, he cuts them with precision, so that 31 rabidly trendy pieces fit in; yet he also explores the margins, which leads him, as we might expect, away from sticking solely to progressive funk.
The beginning is the key: Lone’s “Once In A While”- a song that has still not been released, in which the most horizontal beatmaker of the moment evolves towards deep house following in the footsteps of the other great post-dubstep guru, Actress, head of the lists on the Werk label. The inclusion of this track is a question of good taste, of course, but also of aesthetics: with its partially hidden allusion to “Strings Of Life” by Rhythim Is Rhythim, Kode9 appeals to a dialogue between the old-school and the new-school, but he also locates the mix, from the very beginning, in a context which is diametrically opposed to dubstep nostalgia. Beginning there, with the first stone already in place, the session flows logically and sensually through different phases. The first is that of affirming his pro-funky passion: this is where he introduces his new productions, “You Don’t Wash (dub)” and “Blood Orange”, in which he has already completely assimilated and shared the style, and where he also presents the newest additions to Hyperdub’s spring/summer campaign, “Heston” ( Ikonika), “Bellion” ( Ill Blu) and “Phat Si” (Cooly G). The drums boom, ambient mattresses decorate the imperturbable march of military rhythms, and the basses set explosive traps and mines. Kode9 shows a fascination with the music of Scratcha DVA, with Mr. Mageeka, with bleeps that hit you in the stomach and at the same time reject the darkness.
In fact, Kode9 avoids any hint of a dark sound, that grand cliché of bass music. Towards the end of the set he wants to timidly approach the shadows and dust, resorting to his own exercise in techno contamination – “Bad”, in collaboration with LD– and to grime inserts like “Bruzin (VIP)” by Terror Danjah and “Run” by The Bug. But until then it’s a festival of flashes and good vibrations –always within the experimental framework, without ever stepping on populist terrain or straying near to an arguably “summer house” sound. It culminates in the exaggerated display of feeling of “Footcrab” (tremendous maxi by Addison Groove), passing previously through new soul phases ( Morgan Zarate feat. Sarah Ann Webb and “M.A.B.,” Rozzi Daime , and “Dirty Illusions”), as well as rave Pan-Africanism (DJ Mujava) and wonky naughtiness (Zomby and “Godzilla”). Little more can be asked of a mix like this: it navigates on the crest of the wave of current music, it is sewn with golden thread and privileged technique; his avant-garde proselytism is absolute, but at no time does he reject capturing a new audience with accessible touches. Kode9 continues to be a beacon in this sea of confusion. Claude T. Hill
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