Kode9 returns after a seven year absence with a stunning and expectedly ambitious set of future-facing asymmetric club music and cyberpunk soundscapes. The soundtrack album to forthcoming sonic fiction 'Astro-Darien"', 'Escapology' rebuilds lenticular global club engines into chromium-sprayed hydraulic endoskeletons that dare to creep past the end of human civilization. So fucking next level.
Since 2006's 'Memories of the Future', Steve Goodman has used his albums to help plot out a course thru the continuum's suffocating sonic fog. Few others have the same perspective; as the boss of Hyperdub, he's had a level of access to new music that gives him musical second sight, and as a producer and DJ he's had his ear to the ground since the 1990s, absorbing musical futures from jungle, dub, 2-step and beyond. His albums are rare, but he's always managed to retain a unique - often unsettlingly minimal - signature and distill his wealth of ideas into a coherent, timeless narrative.
'Escapology' is billed as the soundtrack to 'Astro-Darien', a sonic fiction that will be released on Hyperdub sub-label Flatlines in October. And while we don't have access to the text just yet, 'Escapology' establishes itself in an 8k future, introducing itself with disembodied text-to-speech voices into chattering, nitrous ether. When a rhythm finally pokes thru the gas, it's jerky and unpredictable, sweeping up elements from footwork, gqom, minimal techno and UK funky without mimicking any modality specifically. Awkwardly clean rimshots rub against brittle electronics and tight subs, with distorted HD interference disrupting the atmosphere like ketamized timestretches, while looped pads hand out just enough melancholy to provoke a memory response.
Voices cut thru the static on 'Orbex', listlessly assuring us of the UK's plans to launch a "space force" in Scotland - hinting at the lost futures Gen X fantasized about in the 1970s. It calmly leads into 'Angle of Re-entry', an interference-damaged footwork-cum-drill jerker that welds hazed videogame spacemall synths to winding subs and stuttered snares. But it's the album's wealth of beatless compositions that provides "Escapology" with its unique mood; Kode9 is a master of worldbuilding; tracks like 'In the Shadow of Ben Hope' and 'Sim-Darien' dissolve rocket sounds and snatched vocals into knuckle-crack'd DSP sculptures and control center bleep symphonies - they drop us into a widescreen, spatialized landscape that paints its narrative in broad strokes, picking the bones of "Blade Runner", "Strange Days", "Ghost in the Shell" and "Annihilation" and submerging those established memes in the future-facing rhythmic tics of Durban, Kampala, Katlehong, and London.
Just hyperjump to 'Cross the Gap', a brief but tantalizing downtempo South Africa-rooted roller that locks together square bass clonks, dreamworld digital synth arpeggios and swiveling hi-freq percussion, or 'Lagrange Point', that repurposes the same unmistakable bass, adding precision-chopped breaks to assemble an alternate reality where jungle butts heads with amapiano. It's this ability to use his music to hypothesize that really sets Kode out on his own - he rarely attempts to mimic one particular sound or another, rather he uses our expectations or familiarity with the dancefloor's raw materials to help us navigate through his theories. "Escapology" is another stargazing chapter in Kode's ongoing musical autobiography, and to our minds its his most detailed, most technically developed and most rewarding to date - we've got a feeling it's gonna grow and grow with each listen.