Boomkat Product Review:
Hyperdub’s most unpredictable, colourful avatar and one of grime’s most persistent innovators, Leon Smart a.k.a. DVA tweaks out a psychedelic, space-time-bending 2nd album nearly half a decade since his scene-scrambling Pretty Ugly LP.
Aside from wrapping up the Grimey Breakfast show on Rinse FM to focus on the Hyperdub show, and issuing a slew of reissues form his DVA Music label, the London-based hyperconnector has been expanding his sound along 3D vectors in ace collaborations with Fractal Fantasy’s Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke, plus a psychoactive but sorely slept-on remix of Kamixlo’s Mata Lo.
With NOTU_URONLINEU he fully unpackages and explores an ongoing obsession with VR culture, sci-fi and online ontology, as he explains in a press release whose fictional conceits sound uncannily close to reality; “The album project comes from a short visual story set in a time where a mega corporation H:E / Hi:Emotions is slowly taking control of everything, and plan to eventually make all people live life under one brand in virtual reality”.
The album shares much in common with Kode 9’s nøtel project, from their sleekly contoured projections to a taste for tumbling, fractious polyrhythms and intricate punctuation. But where 9’s tense glassy patterns held to crisp structures, DVA’s sound lushly spills over the edges and mixes with James Ferraro-like interjections of “faux-therapeutic advertising and psychotic jingles” that reflect the unsolicited, kaotic flux of life online - i.e. the incessant slurry of social media and phantom tabs playing random 20 second adverts.
Key to the album’s composition, DVA crafted the whole thing in total darkness (well, save the glow of his screen and machines), which at once returned him to the mystery and joy of making music, and lends the whole thing a heavily synaesthetic, sound-into-light quality, whether in the electroid hyper jazz dimensions of the central title track or the surreal, curdling lightshows of Dreamflix and the Millsian vibes of Memoriesofofflineactivity, whilst AlmostU featuring Roses Gabor strongly links back to his roots as the UK’s most forward psych-grime soul.