Hype Williams, the enigmatic Berlin-London duo consisting of Russian-born Inga Copeland and London's Dean Blunt, is not your typical band. They're not in the game to promote themselves, create a brand, or end up on MTV—in fact, they'd like to stay out of the game altogether (which may give some credence to the fact that a couple by the names of Denna Frances and Father Ronnie Krayola is often credited with "creating" the band as a sort of relay art project). Both Copeland and Blunt (who often goes by "D-Blunt") have dabbled in writing, photography, and the fine arts, but D-Blunt quickly shrugs off questions about that background. "Inga has a degree in something theoretical—I forget what—and I used to be a boxer, 'til I lost a fight with an Arab," he says, presumably attempting to mess with us.
As for their music and visual aesthetics, those too are as obtuse as they are inviting. Check out their video for the tinny, trippy, lo-fi track "Chatline," and you'll find Copeland washing Blunt's hair in super-slo-mo. For the clunky, bluesy raga "Get Choong and Look at the Sky," they fashion hats out of tinfoil and hang around a churchyard. Catch them live and you might find a stage populated by several performers, Copeland and Blunt among them, hidden behind makeshift masks.
There's a playful innocence to their performance and their music. Hype Williams—no relation to the hip-hop-video maker of the same name, we should mention—is about the feeling of the moment, about remaining open and reactive. As Copeland told The Wire recently, conveying elements of humor and atmosphere are tantamount to creating the music itself.
"Get Choong and Look at the Sky"
D-Blunt grew up in East London at a time when American hip-hop music and culture loomed large, inexorably informing his early years. On their first full-vision LP, One Nation, the tracks—many of which are untitled—are permeated by retro-hip-hop synths, and evoke a hazy and crackly, almost cinematic atmosphere. Yet One Nation is also a product of diverse musical roots. The record has flourishes of '70s and '80s radio pop (an obvious touchstone, if their cover of Sade's "Sweetest Taboo," retitled "The Throning," is any indication) on tracks like "Your Girl Smells Chung When She Wears Dior," and gritty, loaded subs give it a heaviness that echoes underground dub and dance, particularly jungle and hardcore.
For One Nation, D-Blunt says the group was looking for a counterpart to the current approach to making electronic music, which he claims generally tends toward "over-intellectualization" and over-production. The duo's lo-fi sound is rough and simple, the drumming far from coached, as ambient sounds and spoken-word samples float in and out—so much that you get a sense you're listening to the musical expression of a 48-hour sleepless walkabout with Copeland and D-Blunt. Conveniently, when asked about what went into making One Nation, the group collectively replies, "48 sleepless hours and a lotta pills."
One Nation is out now on Hippos in Tanks.