Since 'nothing' can be defined, when considered as a pronoun, as an absence or lack of 'something', it's perhaps fitting to approach this record – which is Kode9's first solo album (minus frequent collaborator and Goodman's late friend The Spaceape) – in terms of what it is not.
This is not headphone music. It is definitely not quiet music. It is not, for the most part, a comfortable listening experience. This is not a genre album (though it is one that takes aim, with some success, at genre defining – poking away at the presences and absences of existing genre categories). What this 'Nothing' is, is sit-back-and-be-enveloped music.
Hans Zimmer-esque opener, 'Zero Point Energy', is stop-what-you're-doing bombastic, but what follows is more staid, at times more navel-gazing and occasionally (the first two minutes or so of 'Holo') off-putting. But then in some ways, that's just the kind of discomforting mix you would expect from the man who, through his Hyperdub imprint, has introduced the world to talents as far removed yet individually intriguing as Ikonika, Samiyam, Cooly G, DOK and DJ Spinn (not to mention Burial...)
Despite considerable departure on 'Nothing' from the more wholesome aesthete of his earlier records – the genuinely song-like '9 Samurai' being the most obvious single example – Kode9's music is still typified by the tight-looped riffing of grime and the dread pressure of dubstep that he's most commonly attributed with helping to develop. 'Wu Wei' packs plenty of sino grime hallmarks, while some of the sub work on 'Nøtel' and 'Zero Work' is genuinely gut shifting. Footwork is arguably the more encompassing stylistic influence now though, present here in both its frenetic rhythms and the use of snipped, disembodied vocal samples – the deconstructive update of the aforementioned anthem, '9 Drones', is a easy touchpoint for ongoing progression.
Aside from a handful of tracks though – like 'Respirator' or 'Void' – which display the kind of elastic energy needed to move or still (as opposed to clear) a dancefloor, this is a record that feels more suited to a gallery space. Picture Maxell's classic 1983 ad spot for its hi-fidelity tapes rather than a Georgina Cook or Ewen Spencer photoset. It's fitting, then, that 2016 will see Kode9 collaborate with Lawrence Lek in touring a live A/V set revolving around a conceptual hotel known as Nøtel, the supposed logo of which adorns 'Nothing's LP cover.
Ultimately, as a standalone record, 'Nothing' feels somewhat incomplete – less consuming than the vast spacescapes that the Inception and/or Interstellar horns on the intro invoke. The trailer for the full A/V show, however, featuring a holographic Spaceape and a pair of drones apparently in courtship, hints at more to come.
Words: Will Pritchard (@Hedmuk)
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