Kode9 "Xingfu Lu" b/w "Kan"
One of the things that has always been particularly likeable about Hyperdub boss Steve Goodman (a.k.a Kode9) is that the progression of his own music seems to be linked to the curation of the label in a very natural way. The development of his productions—from his early experiments at the more spacious end of dubstep to the grime and synth-led funky of 2011's Black Sun—has followed an arc that vaguely matches the progression and growth of the Hyperdub roster. That's not to say that one is necessarily a reflection of or the direct product of the other, but there has always been an obvious organic back-and-forth of influence between the two. As such, while this latest double-header release—Goodman's first in about two years—may be something of a departure from his Black Sun-era output, it feels like a natural and not unexpected evolution. Both "Xingfu Lu" and "Kan" see the UK veteran embracing traits that have been prominent in Hyperdub releases over the past 18 months—from the juke-inspired rhythms of DJ Rashad to the melodic flexibility of Laurel Halo—and, as a result, the record feels like a strong representation of Goodman's empire as a whole.
A-side "Xingfu Lu"—which takes its name from a street in central Shanghai—has been kicking around in various incomplete forms for more than a year now. It's a deceptively utilitarian track; on first listen, its make-up of 150-bpm percussion, half-time kicks, and rhythmic sampled chords feels like a lot to take in, belying the fact that beneath its complexity, there are actually only actually a handful of core elements driving the tune. Goodman uses these elements skillfully though, creating a sense of unfamiliarity via shifting percussive patterns and unusual melodic progressions while keeping the whole thing fixed to a propulsive, danceable backbone of bass-heavy kicks.
Still, "Kan" is probably the highlight of the two tracks here. It's built around a similar concoction of frantic percussion rhythms over a pulsing half-time beat, but Goodman expands his sound palette to deal in fractured real-world samples and tense synths. The clinking sound of drinks being poured and distant vocal syllables mingle with an energetic drum-machine rhythm to create an oddly haphazard-sounding beat. Beneath it, at the track's core, is a revolving mix of synth lines, which flit between wiry rising effects, hyperactive arpeggios, and heavily filtered chords, giving the whole thing a mesmerizing feeling of volatility.
The most pleasing thing about both tracks, however, is that each genuinely sounds a little alien and adventurous. Given that the past couple of years have seen Goodman's own production work take a backseat to the broadening and expansion of the Hyperdub roster, the release serves as a nice reminder of just how much of an innovator Kode9 can be.
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