Kode9 + Spaceape: Memories of the Future

Invariably Hyperdub's sophomore release Memories of the Future will be heard in the contextual shadow of Burial's eponymous debut. Comparatively, the new disc is less immediately transfixing; it's ‘healthier' and has a cleaner sound overall, as if its tracks have been cleansed of the grit and grime that coats Burial. Of course, the key words are ‘comparatively' and ‘immediately' since, taken on its own terms, Memories of the Future is a thoroughly arresting listen and is in some ways the subtler of the two discs. Don't be deceived: beneath its superficially less unnerving façade lies an equally poisonous sensibility.

It's an album that rewards listening on multiple levels—savour the lurching dubstep settings Hyperdub head Kode9 entwines throughout (with its handclaps, tablas, bell accents, woozy synths, and lurching swing, “Kingstown” offers a prototypically rich example of his skills), or lock in on dub-poet vocalist Spaceape's dread-zone lyrics (cryptic lines like “It's the beginning, not the end, that we have to reach last” and subject matter that favours urban decay, terrorism, et al.), which are especially mesmerizing when delivered in his merciless drawl. The way he wraps his gravelly croak around “in-si-di-ous-ly” and “com-bi-na-tion” captivates all by itself, and the effect is heightened by the repeated double-tracking of his voice. (Admittedly, his delivery loses some of its lethal character when stretched across an entire album.)

Certainly the pulsing synth pattern that inaugurates “Glass” sounds relatively harmless, even inviting, and Spaceape's voice, seemingly rousing itself from deep sleep, feels unthreatening too. “Victims,” however, plunges us into echo-filled dub territory, while its vocal line revisits Burial's “Spaceape” (“We are hostile aliens immune from dying”); later, amidst echoing shards of metallic stabs, his voice creeps through the claustrophobic “Sine,” a radical 2004 take on “ Sign O' The Times,” and drops to a stalker's whisper in “Correction,” all the better for uttering tormented lines like “I find it hard to even contemplate you being happy / Not because of the dread feeling of comparing my life to yours / But because instinctively I love and hate you from every direction.” An occasional bright moment pierces the gloom. The stunning “Curious” features driving beats that skip at double-time, and the album exits almost buoyantly with “Quantum,” a sparkling space-age manifesto wherein Spaceape asserts “We don't travel in the linear / It's only quantum lines we a-register.” If Memories of the Future doesn't sink its talons into your flesh quite as deeply as does Burial, it's a remarkable listen nonetheless.

December 2006