Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Ikonika - Contact, Love, Want, Have [Hyperdub]

There's a sense of long-awaited resolution that comes with the news that Ikonika's debut album comes out next week, especially after my excitement at the announcement earlier this year. It helps of course that it's frequently brilliant, managing to preserve the lopsided 'what the fuck?'-factor of her early material and marry it with the kind of shimmering synths and broken percussion that's been making the more neon end of funky sound so electric recently.


Contact, Love, Want, Have is a narrative arc in itself, describing a sonic shift that has mirrored a general trend within dubstep over the last 18 months or so.

And it’s a hugely impressive statement of intent: streamlined without being overly smooth, melodic without being overly sentimental and danceable without ever straying too far towards simplicity. Opener ‘Ikonoklast (Insert Coin)’ is a sketchlike introduction, but its title also gives some clue as to what lies within. Much as it’s become commonplace for people to mention the influence of videogame music on Ikonika and her contemporaries, given an opening gambit like ‘Insert Coin’ it bears repeating. As a child of the Eighties and early Nineties, at times the music contained within these 14 tracks evokes real nostalgia - from the Road Rash-style momentum of ‘They Are All Losing The War’ to upcoming single ‘Idiot’s stupidly addictive and lopsided synth hook.

Above all else though, the crucial aspect of Contact, Love, Want, Have - and the element that should endear it to listeners far beyond its parent genre - is its compositional sophistication. For all the rough‘n’ready edges it displays, underpinning each pleasantly retro sounding synth patch is a keen ear for melodic development and a tangible lightness of touch. It’s there in ‘Idiot’ where each song cycle introduces a new layer of harmony, building to a surprisingly delicate climax. It’s there during the one-two punch of ‘Yoshimitzu’ and ‘Fish’, the former’s gorgeous shuffle beat and choral backing acting as a restrained counterpart to the latter’s escalating urgency. And it’s there in the album’s sequencing, passing through several distinct phases before reaching a concluding quartet of destructively brilliant house tunes. Each offers a slightly different take on funky, as though viewed through a gradually turning kaleidoscope – sedate and thoughtful on ‘Heston’, building incrementally to the blistering rapid-fire drums of ‘Look (Final Boss Stage)’.


Full review written for Drowned In Sound.

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