Saturday, November 22, 2014

Album Review: Various - Hyperdub 10.3 (2014)

Hyperdub 10.3 is the third chapter in the series of 2014 compilation albums released to celebrate the Hyperdub label's tenth birthday in 2014. I looked at the previous couple here and here.

Again the tracklisting reads like a virtual who's who of the label's roster, with all of the main players being present and accounted for - see Burial, Kode9, Ikonika, and Darkstar to name only the most obvious. This time though, the focus is placed firmly on music residing at the more ambient end of the label's output.

A generous 23 tracks are showcased, and the most striking thing - aside from the ethereal and atmospheric nature of the music - is the almost complete absence of orthodox vocals. For example, we wait until track 12 - Cooly G's 'Mind' - before there's anything resembling a fully decipherable non-chopped up or sampled vocal.
Which is all well and good, but the effect can be a little disorientating, and there's perhaps a tendency for a lot of the tracks to blend together, forming an almost borderless sonic mash. Which means that although it remains an enjoyable enough listen - mostly mellow and downbeat, but not always - it's difficult not to get a little lost in it.

The two Burial tracks, the eerie 'In McDonald's', and the slightly spookier 'Night Bus', are welcome additions, but each one feels like a snapshot of what might be, and there's disappointment that neither track really goes anywhere. Having said that, I do appreciate that sometimes less is more, and even half-formed Burial ideas can take innovation to a level more conventional artists can only ever dream about.

Overall 10.3 offers yet more impressive evidence that music released by Hyperdub is practically impossible to categorise (as much as I’ve repeatedly tried to do exactly that over the course of three reviews!). If the '10' series is proving anything at all, it's that the label actually transcends orthodox genre descriptions, and surely that’s got to be a good thing.

I've just listened to a copy of the very expansive 2-disc series finale, Hyperdub 10.4 … so watch this space for a final review to complete the full set.

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