Published Sep 28, 2014If any record company deserves to do a victory lap in recognition of its first decade, it's Hyperdub. Founded by Steve Goodman (a.k.a. Kode9) in 2004, the London-based label has become synonymous with transcendent electronic music through ground-breaking releases from Burial, Laurel Halo, King Midas Sound and Hamilton's own Jessy Lanza, whose debut album made the 2014 Polaris Prize shortlist.
Kicking off the festivities was local great Michael Red, a noted Tanya Tagaq collaborator here representing the Lighta! Sound crew. He made perfect sense on this bill, having brought Kode9 many times over the past decade as a curator for Vancouver bass massives such as Dubforms and Red Gate Secret Location. His set had a lot of old school flavour, marked by smooth transitions and active but timely tweaks, setting the table perfectly for Kode9.
The last time I saw Kode9 was when he did an installation at the 2012 New Forms Festival. It was based in a completely dark room with its floor covered with wood chips, patrons handed flashlights as they walked into a cloud of smoke machine fog, discovering buried vinyl, reclaimed record art, hyper-directional recordings and vintage G.I. Joes in recording tape-filled coffins while two massive subs, hidden behind a wall, oscillated at frequencies below audible perception — it was a complete mind and body experience. The first half of his set this evening also seemed like an installation, as a stationary mirror ball cast a star-like pattern across the black box Fox Cabaret theatre. This made it so that the lights on the dance floor only moved when the crowd did, churning in waves whenever Kode9's brilliant beats washed over them.
Kode9 dropped it heavy, no question. His first mix stalled out a bit, but he hammered it sweet and technical from then on, tweaking and interpolating new riddims to keep it ever fresh and cerebral. The same taste level and keen instincts for altering perceptions that has kept Hyperdub on the cutting edge all these years was on clear display as he transitioned through myriad forms of UK bass, from grime and 2-step to dubstep and jungle. You felt smarter just by listening to it.
The anniversary party was capped off by a tag-team set between one of footwork's originators, DJ Spinn, and upstart Taso, a member of the revered Teklife crew since 2012. Spinn started off by dedicating their set to the recently deceased DJ Rashad, before the duo launched deep into the snappiest of trap and jungle. Unfortunately, Taso rarely shut up with a mic in his hand, and his tuneless regurgitation of samples and hype hyperbole crapped all over Spinn's otherwise killer selections. Maybe he settled down later, but I could only handle 20 minutes of that shit before retreating into the night.