Pitchfork (Website) - "The most complicated forms of techno and footwork are built simply, from the ground up, and on NOTHING, we hear the simplicity of each component and how it all comes together to make the music that we love."
Photographer: Lawrence Lek.
Considering how much of an impact DJ, producer, and Hyperdub founder Kode9 has had on the underground dance music landscape since the mid-2000s, it's quite astonishing that Nothing is somehow his proper full-length debut as a solo artist. Of course, it might be his first solo album by default, as it's the first work he's produced since the untimely 2014 death of his frequent collaborator the Spaceape, whom he recorded two full-lengths and numerous EPs/singles with. The album also comes a year and a half after the death of DJ Rashad, the beloved Chicago footwork producer whose acclaimed, triumphant 2013 album Double Cup was released on Hyperdub, and whose Teklife crew has become a major part of the label since then. To be sure, death and dread loom large over Nothing, a sparse, haunting album that stares straight into the void without flinching. It's fully consumed by blankness and vast, endless space, yet it continues to function as if there were no other option. Kode9 effortlessly blends dubstep sub-bass with the jittery beats of footwork, with a few snatches of vocals and microscopic melodic samples providing brief slivers of light and humanity. Spaceape appears from beyond the grave on the intermission "Third Ear Transmission," providing a bit of poetry over ambient city sounds and electronic blips. The more trappy "Wu Wei" is a bit lighter, with raindrop-like handclaps and marimbas along with bright, fractured melodies. The ultra-choppy "Casimir Effect" sounds simultaneously claustrophobic and calm, with attacking bass throbs and rapid samples that oddly seem to be playing in slow motion. "Respirator" is little more than juke beats and horror movie synth pads, and the shimmery, glitchy "Mirage" dices up some half-forgotten melody. "9 Drones" is an update of the decade-old "9 Samurai," retaining the track's Star Wars "Imperial March"-like horns but replacing the Middle Eastern-sounding percussion samples with frenetic juke-ified beats. Oddest of all is closing track "Nothing Lasts Forever," which is nearly silent for most of its ten minutes. Even at its busiest, Nothing feels as if nothing can faze it. The word "empty" aptly describes how this album feels, and that could potentially alienate listeners, but it captures the (absence of) feeling dead-on, and it contains some of his most compelling productions yet. ~ Paul Simpson