Boomkat Product Review:
The sinisterly synthetic vocal version to Kode9’s sonic fiction ‘Astro-Darien’ arrives on Hyperdub’s symbiotic Flatlines after the label’s opening gambit in 2019 by Mark Fisher & Justin Barton.
Speculating on the break-up of Britain and where the Brexit algorithm may spit it out in the future, ‘Astro-Darien’ is the 26-minute accompaniment to ‘Escapology’, the more rhythm-driven, introductory first part of Kode9's 4th studio album.
Taking its cues from the Darien Scheme, Scotland’s failed c.17th colonial venture in Panama, which left the country near-bankrupt and precipitated a closer reliance on the union, Kode9 supposes a “somewhat wild extrapolation” of the current space race playing out between Sutherland Space Port and Shetland Space Centre as an exercise of escapology; a chance to break with the union once and for all, leaving this blighted isle for orbit. Yep, it’s brilliantly certifiable in the finest tradition of Kode9’s sonic fiction, and can be heard as a uchronic, spiritual parallel to the mysterious Audint project, also comparable with aspects of Neil Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’, Trevor Duncan’s soundtrack to Chris Marker’s ‘La Jetée’ or the strangest episode of Black Mirror.
Unpacking the project along its myriad axes of influence prizes open a puzzlebox of ideas that, while fanciful, are rooted in historic reality. Effectively relocating Heart of Darkness to Caledonia, it predicts the union’s schism thru the prism of its protagonist, a game designer from Trancestar North, a fictional company loosely modelled on the Scots-based GTA-makers, who models a potential future based on readings of racial capitalism and where that ultimately leads our society. Meshing the first instance we’ve heard of Scottish text-to-speech vocaloids with altered samples of newscasts and highly detailed sound design, the story unravels a fascinating adjunct to the project’s initial, rhythm-propelled counterpart.
If we haven’t gotten it totally wrong, the project acts as an intricate synecdoche of Kode9’s deep interests in philosophy, history, and the future, as much as dancehall, art and and sound systems as partical accelerators. Drawing links between his roots and interests in jungle/bass music, and Panama as epicentre of dancehall/dembow, and its diasporic offshoots, the result is a fascinating treatise on how the past palpably, and more obliquely, informs both the present and possible futures; how games designers are gods creating new goggles of perception; and where positive new life may be conceived in the ruptures between reality and imagination.