King Midas Sound: Without You

In which a remarkable gathering of King Midas Sound friends, associates, and admirers re-create tracks on the trio's debut outing Waiting For You and brings an entirely new model of the album into being. Without You's tracks feel like re-imaginings of the kind that would emerge had the various guests joined Kevin “The Bug” Martin, Roger Robinson, and Kiki Hitomi in the studio to jam and lay down new versions of their originals. It's surely one of the year's most memorable projects, at the very least for the artists involved, as Without You features contributions from Flying Lotus, Kode 9 and the Spaceape, Green Gartside (Scritti Politti), Mala (Digital Mystikz), Hype Williams, and Deep Chord presents Echospace, among others. Waiting For You's rich wealth of sound—its viral instrumental character and the vocal contrast between Robinson's falsetto and Hitomi's fragile voice, for starters—certainly gave the guests ample raw material to work with.

The heady nature of the collection is evident throughout. Consider, for instance, the version of “Without You” D-Bridge contributes wherein Londoner Darren White weds a quivering falsetto to a pulsating bass line to create an angst-ridden tale of loneliness and desperation. Likewise, the hazy boombastic funk of Flying Lotus's “Lost” version is as dizzying as might be expected, given his previous output. Elsewhere, Hyperdub act Hype Williams dip “Sumtime” in an acid bath of synth haze and muffled beat percolations, with the result a representative sampling of the album's trippier side, and the album also ends on a blisteringly wild note when Ras G & the Afrikan Space Program serve up a discombobulating version of “Cool Out.”

It doesn't surprise that there's a healthy Hyperdub presence. Kode 9 and the Spaceape bring their signature crisp beatwork and gravelly vocal presence to their “Meltdown” rework, while up-and-comer Cooly G makes a strong impression with a sensual version of “Spin Me Around” that's more clear-headed than many of the other tracks and pairs her soulful vocal with a slow, quasi-tribal groove. In “Tears,” King Midas Sound member Kiki Hitomi gets in on the act, too, with a version of “Cool Out” that underlays her breathless, semi-distorted vocal with a gritty dub-funk pulse.

Of course, one of the project's major attention-getters has to be Green Gartside's appearance on “Come and Behold,” given the low recording profile adopted in recent days by the one-time Scritti Politti front-man. No cause for concern here: he's in fine voice and easily integrates himself into King Midas Sound's world. And having Deep Chord presents Echospace do a rework of “Goodbye Girl” is certainly inspired, though the distance separating the two groups collapses once Rod Modell and Stephen Hitchell apply their powers of soundsculpting alchemy to King Midas Sound's original and re-create it as a bass-slithering, reverb-drenched instrumental.

Don't get the idea that King Midas Sound itself goes missing in the process. While some artists' takes are radical re-imaginings, others retain the group's signatures. Robinson's vocal remains front-and-center during Nite Jewel's “Lost” rework, for example, even if the LA-based experimentalist does bolster the tune's synth-funk quotient in the version. For the record, the contributors were hand-picked by King Midas Sound, and the guests' tracks, more than mere remixes, are thorough re-works that find them rebuilding the originals into pieces that typically read like true collaborative ventures as opposed to overhauls.

November 2011