In an electronic scene saturated almost beyond capacity, fledgling labels have a lot of stops to pull out if they’re to win a loyal clique of avid listeners. In the fluctuating heartlands of dubstep there is a palpable split between the purveyors of hackneyed, deeply misconceived wobble-terror music and the sort of deft, cerebral productions that you’d naturally hope for. So while these young pretenders find their feet, hope that the reliable labels – prolific producers of everything from the solid classic to the completely abstract – remain the bastions of free thought that they’ve always been. Labels like Dub Police, Tempa, DMZ, Planet Mu; these are the places that consistently retain the quality in their releases. Hyperdub, the imprint captained by the enigmatic and influential dubstep patriarch Kode9, is another such force of reliability, made painfully clear by the label’s absorbing new release ‘Contact, Love, Want, Have’ from rising London producer Ikonika.
Following up on a line of previous 12″ releases; like the woozy ‘Please’, Sarah Abdel-Hamid looks like she’s mastered her craft considerably. With experience drumming for a post-hardcore band and drawing further influence from both r’n’b and hip hop, it’s no wonder that the album practically revels in stripes of curious neon melody and sleight-of-hand drumbeats. A direct clash of futurism and retro values, Ikonika’s irreverent crafting sounds like it’s moving not only through genres but decades of sound. The deranged, button-mashing sounds of Contact bring such a palpable melting pot of influences to the table that it almost qualifies as a Game Over for convention.
Laden with drunken electronics, the lithe, glowing strains in tracks like ‘Idiot’ and ‘Psoriasis’ share a restless sort of energy that would translate as easily to a lengthy Sega Megadrive session as a heavy 4am bass-bin session at a dubstep night. In fact, the half-step strut of ‘Sahara Michael’ is so reminiscent of a Sonic the Hedgehog boss stage that you can practically feel the tension in your thumbs.
These allusions to consoles blips and chipset glitches aren’t baseless either, the gaming references aren’t solely embedded in the tracks, they’re implanted in the track titles as well. References are rife; from the dreamy haze of opening track ‘Ikonoklast (Insert coin)’, the airy bounce of penultimate track ‘Look (Final Boss Stage)’ to celestial album closer ‘Red Marker Pens (Good Ending)’. Even the Sony Playstation franchise ‘Tekken’ gets a look in on the track ‘Yoshimitsu’ – named, presumably, after the game’s iconic sword-wielding warrior.
This is the sort of double-edged charm of ‘Contact, Love, Want, Have’; the entire album is so imbued with the nostalgia of 8-bit gaming that it could as easily be dismissed by the unfamiliar as it could be absorbed and enjoyed. This however, is not an album for the discerning to dismiss. Layered with a deep spectrum of emotion and influence, everything from the warm digital summer of ‘Continue?’ to the warping circuitry of ‘Heston’ glows with inspiration and inspires unrelentingly. With a sound so reminiscent of the archaic days of console ownership yet so astoundingly progressive, it’s hard to tell if Ikonika is rewriting the past or bringing us the future. Either way, with a kaleidoscopic sound so contemporary and achingly relevent, she’s made something timeless.
Ikonika’s Contact, Love, Want, Have is out now on Hyperdub Records