There are things in Japan that are hard to find anywhere else, and we’re not talking about the shining cleanliness of the streets, the people’s delicate manners, or a sea urchin maki the size of a tennis ball. We’re talking, for example, about certain tours or specific DJ sessions that, although they would be more geographically appropriate in Europe or the United States, they take place less often there. Or, we could say they take place without the pomp and circumstance. Only the Japanese know how to advertise and promote in this certain way, so that we aren’t talking about mere parties, but rather about almost historical events. A few months ago, Pete Rock and DJ Premier faced off in Tokyo, in a duel behind the turntables in the purest block party style—you, like me, were probably living your sad life in some other corner of the world. And at the end of July this year, Kode9 and Martyn set off on a mini-tour of Asia - the 23rd in the Tokyo club Air, and the 24th in Osaka’s Triangle - for which this mix-CD has been created, put out by Beat Records; it’s half promotional object, half sex object (if you buy it at Tower Records, they also give you a key chain).
As in a boxing ring, in one corner we have Martyn, representing the label 3024; in the other corner is the more veteran Kode9, defending the colours of Hyperdub and his title of heavy-weight champion of the risky bass scene. All told, 25 cuts mixed with the precision of a heart surgeon, falling somewhere between the self-promotion that’s logical under these circumstances (there is nothing that hasn’t already been put out by their respective labels, or produced or remixed by the two artists involved) and the condensed display of a kind of sound that helped to open the windows of dubstep to new audiences, new sounds, and other challenges a couple of seasons ago, and which is still doing so today. There is little mystery, and there are few succulent advances of new material or oddities; the oddity is the album itself, designed with the hypnotic black and grey dryness of the majority of Hyperdub launches. It is nourishing musically, well made, without a single wasted second, although everybody knows the majority of the songs—from “South London Boroughs” ( Burial) to “Natty” ( DVA) or “Go Killum” ( Illum Sphere). A work like this one does take you back: I remember when, in the early days of the CD and the rave, there was an effort made to translate the experience of the mixtape to the digital format, squeezing two mini-sessions into a single album (of the style published by Mixmag). “Hyperdub vs. 3024” is this: thirty minutes for one, thirty more for the other –with the regulation tips– and honey for your ears. Of the two parts, that of Kode9 is the one that reveals the least (you have to go listen to his latest “DJ Kicks” for that), basically because the latest Hyperdub sound, completely amorphous within the already-amorphous post-dubstep scene, has been ripened and distributed among fans for a longer period of time. It starts off from funkstep, also with “2 Far Gone” (Kode9) and “Phat Si” ( Cooly G) in the first section, and it advances towards an intricate play of pop, chiptune, ragga, techno, and grime in contributions from Dong (Quarta330 & LV Remix), Kyle Hall, The Bug, Terror Danjah or Ikonika: the whole family condensed into a stroll that little by little starts to turn hair-raising and twisted, until it culminates in Zomby ( “1 Up”) and synthetic lullabies for nymphomaniac androids by Darkstar ( “Need You”).
Before this, Martyn spins, prioritising texture over rhythm in his focus, flooding the breaks with waves of ambient, with suspense and epic, little by little taking the trip up to a shivering peak. The final song is “Go Killum” by Illum Sphere, an undefined intersection between instrumental hip hop, transparent dubstep, and Detroit techno, and before that with the future garage of “U’ve Been Hurting” by Deadboy . Later he splices together connections between hypnotic dub and palpitating rhythms, over which voices, sighs, skilful chords, and other things float. In the Dutchman’s mix, you should especially notice the ease with which he puts together styles like Siamese twins—without bothering to separate them—and how he has managed to get his aesthetic over to other people, who have ended up imitating him in the characteristic sound of 3024. There are two key moments: the recent remix of Tiga – “Gentle Giant (Martyn’s Heaven Mix)”, one of the most perfect encounters between dubstep and ambient (emostep, therefore)– and the not-so-recent remix that Ben Klock chiselled of his collaboration with The Spaceape, “In This Insanity”, reaching further into the centre of Jamaica than Rhythm & Sound ever reached. This album is definitely not odd just because it’s a Japanese edition—it’s also crazy because it’s an impeccable selection. And the key chain is even better than the music.
Zomby - 1 up
Darkstar - Need You