Trust Slikback to wait until December to drop one of the club albums of the year. K E K K A N is a piercing, visceral examination of dance music formulae that dissolves established tropes - from trap and gabber through to ballroom, gqom, and searing noise - into a full-fledged cyberpunk opera. If it ain't the soundtrack to Blade 2024, there's no justice in the world.
It's no exaggeration to call Freddy Njau prolific; the Kenyan producer has built up a sprawling catalogue over the last few years and its depth is only equalled by the sheer innovation and quality on display. Up until now his transmissions have mostly been deployed in EP format; even 2020's long-form "///" releases were anthologies rather than "proper" albums. "K E K K A N" is an intentional gesture then, a slender long-form statement that showcases the hybrid form of club music Slikback's been developing over years of hands-on experimentation. Just peep the opening track 'SHEATH' - it does more over a couple of minutes than most dancefloor operators are able to manage in a career. Saturated ATL 808s and chattering hats roll over industrial-strength void calls, before Freddy hits us with an unstable synth lead that simultaneously refracts mainstream rap and EDM, squeezing out consumer efficiency and injecting it with nano-powered anxiety.
The ability to digest and abbreviate so many different dance music modes and restructure them to fit his worldview is Slikback's trump card, and something he exhibits over and over again thru the the ten tracks here. 'AERIAL BLISS' is lightning-fast sci-fi hyperstyle that de-masculinises aggy overdriven thuds by splicing them with cheeky bedsqueaks and blunting them beneath euphoric, pill-munching waves of neo-trance; 'MIEINAI' loosely grabs the choppy pressure of gqom, finding a way to intersperse vocal cries with foley grime heavy machinery, ballroom kick flurries, and even melancholy synth pads. Each track is like a micro-symphony, playing as an ADHD braindump of Slikback's musical obsessions, and shifting as rapidly as he's able to coherently manage; he works with the dexterity of a DJ, employing production smarts that match the energy all too rarely. Where else are you gonna find a track like 'VIOLENT BEND', a mechanical burst of digital noise that sounds something like Shapednoise via Genocide Organ, alongside 'KARST', a slab of chest-punching, peak-time hard tek that's screaming to be used in the upcoming "Blade" reboot.
There are moments Slikback productions feel almost relentlessly exhilarating, but he's kind enough to throw us the occasional oxygen mask. Like with 'F-22', that's all free-flowing, restrained kinetic pressure before we're hit with 'BREATHE', arguably the album's most impressive highlight - a gruesomely distorted collision of pneumatic kicks, trap orchestrals, and death metal growls.
Despite his history of making music that sounds like three decades of diasporic/global dancefloor communication shoved into a wind tunnel filled with butane and holding a mic in one hand and a lighter in the other, Slikback seems to have found balance. And in that balance, there's hope. K E K K A N isn't all bleak, dystopian grit, it's a loose-limbed dance party at the end of the world, and there's enough sunlight cracking through the boarded-up windows to ramp up the inner energy. He's taken the giddy, irreverent mood of deconstructed club and trimmed the fat, reconstructing it in his image and producing a record that feels like an accurate sonic impression of our bizarre timeline. If you've been feeling let down by 2022's club output, this is what you've been waiting for - we promise.