Can it really be 15 years since Steve Goodman / Kode9 founded the Hyperdub label? Surely it must be seven, or perhaps 10 years, at most? A quick look on Discogs confirms that it has in fact been 15 years since Kode9 + Daddi Gee’s ‘Sine Of The Dub / Stalker’ EP was released. Since that auspicious releases announced the label to the world Goodman & co. has slowly, but not quietly, been enforcing their skewed musical aesthetics on the world.
Key releases feature Burial’s self-titled debut, King Midas Sound’s ‘Waiting for You’ album, the development of Cooly G, Dean Blunt, and Inga Copeland’s career defining ‘Black Is Beautiful’ alongside Jessy Lanza’s perverted dancefloor pop. It’s been some ride, but luckily Hyperdub is showing no signs of letting the quality slip.
To mark the 15th anniversary - as with their 5th and 10th birthdays - a full compilation has been curated, and if this wasn’t cause for celebration they’ve teamed up with Adult Swim for the resulting ‘HyperSwim’ album. Consisting of 19 songs from the current roster, this is a collection that aims squarely at the present. The usual suspects are represented (we're looking at you: Burial, Dean Blunt, Cooly G and Kode9) along with new favourites Lee Gamble, DJ Haram, Angel-Ho and Doon Kanda.
From the opening salvo of Mhysa’s ‘Games’ and OKZharp’s ‘In Your Own Time’ you know they aren’t messing about. Both songs are undeniably poppy, but a foot in the backroom of a club. There is a claustrophobia to them that instead of being smothering feels like a tight embrace.
The beauty of ‘HyperSwim’ is despite it being a compilation, the album hangs together well and feels like a studio album. Yes, all the artists featured are totally different, but they all share a similar aesthetic. Wonky basslines, pounding beats, killer melodies with scratchy atmospherics giving everything a slightly other worldly feel. This is typified on Burial’s ‘Old Tape’ and Dean Blunt’s ‘Darcus’.
However, the standout moment is from one of Hyperdub’s newer signings, Lee Gamble. His ‘Chain 9’ seems to epitomise everything that the label has both stood for and currently stands for. ‘Chain 9’ is chocked full of ravey sounds, brilliant bass-lines with pummelling beats that have made his 2019 EPs such a delight.
The only downside to ‘HyperSwim’ is that the esoteric Klein doesn’t feature. Her ‘Tommy EP’ has been the highwater mark of the label in recent years and her omission feels glaring.
Hyperdub is a label that has a lot to celebrate and this comes across on ‘HyperSwim’. It has been an eventful 15 years full of highs and lows. Burial’s Mercury Prize nob being a high but DJ Rashad’s passing being a devastating low. But ‘HyperSwim’ feels like it captures both moods perfectly, as Ikonika’s ‘Primer’ is dripping melancholy. But let’s not end on a somewhat sombre note. Fatima Al Qadiri’s ‘Filth’ closes the album with a bouncy slab of optimism. And that’s what the future holds for Hyperdub. Optimism.
Here’s to another 15 years! Looking for to HD 20 already...
Words: Nick Roseblade
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