Ikonika (a.k.a. Sara Abdel-Hamid) has been rather quiet lately. Granted, 2010 was an especially busy time for the London-based beatmaker, as she released her debut album on Hyperdub, Contact, Love, Want, Have, as well as the Dckhdbtch EP on Planet Mu and a split release with fellow Londoner Optimum, the first offering on the pair's own Hum + Buzz imprint. Since then, however, there's been a relative absence of new Ikonika material, with only a handful of remixes and a single new track, "Fleas," seeing the light of day. Regardless, it appears that her break from the limelight may be coming to a close, as she's offered up a brand-new EP, I Make Lists, which came out via Hum + Buzz this week.
The EP opens with "I Make Lists," its hard-hitting kicks and commanding synths presenting a bold reintroduction to Ikonika's attention-grabbing, eclectic sound. The first minute and a half features deep, heavy beatwork and the cramped paranoia of her serrated synths. Per usual, Ikonika's programmed percussion is particularly potent with its fearlessly loud kicks and precisely controlled dynamic progression. On songs like "With Your Mouth," the beat transforms into different patterns at every turn; during some stretches of "Catch Vibes," she switches up the rhythm more than once per minute. The result is a range of drum sounds that spans the entire kit and then some, from jagged midrange bass croaks to the pointed synth bullets underlying the cacophony in the middle of "Cold Soaking."
Nevertheless, the EP isn't without its problems. The first sign of trouble comes after the opening drum break of "I Make Lists," when Ikonika clears her throat and, after a pocket of silence, introduces the lead synth. Although her drum sounds draw from across the board, I Make Lists seems to focus on a single keyboard patch—and not a particularly pleasant one, either. As Ikonika explained to the Guardian back in 2010, she prefers to work within a limited sonic palette to challenge herself and the boundaries of her creativity, but the self-imposed restrictions on I Make Lists confine her to the overpowering might of screechy synths. On tracks like "Cold Soaking," her beats achieve an eeriness and darkness thanks to their grinding intensity. When coupled with the unnerving melodies, it's overkill.
The closing track, "PR812," displays a prettiness Ikonika left unexplored on the rest of the EP. For the first minute, there is neither a beat nor off-color synth patch, and when the latter does chime in, its grating edge has been noticeably scaled back. The six minutes of "PR812" find the producer dabbling in barely-there rimshots and tinkling melodies akin to those found on Nguzunguzu's recently released "Delirium," which exists in a similarly spooky realm of the bass-music sphere, albeit a less abrasive one.