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UPCOMING SHOWS

No shows booked at the moment.

What do we actually know about London duo Hype Williams? We can confidently assert that Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland (who may or may not go by the name Karen Glass) have released a handful of disarmingly excellent tracks over the past year or so, essaying an obscure, lo-fi form of dub-inflected half-pop as much akin to the post-Industrial funk of 23 Skidoo and early Cabaret Voltaire as the scratchy psych of The Skaters et al. We can accept that they have also operated under the names Bo Khat Eternal Troof Family Band and Paradise Sisters. But can we honestly believe that they’re the latest incarnation of an 18 year ‘relay project’ that was “conceived in 2005 by husband and wife motivational speakers Father Ronnie Krayola and Denna Frances Glass” and passed on to the duo for safekeeping?

Given the pair’s tendency to confront straightforward questions with sarcasm and hiphop namedrops, it’s probably best to think of this tale as a ‘possible truth’.They’re even harder to pin down in sonic terms, slipping out from under your finger with reptilian agility. The description given above doesn’t take into account their deconstructions of Sade songs, the cavernous delay, the 20 year old synth presets, the use of everyday objects. None of the songs on their debut album appears to have a title, which only adds to its enigmatic charm. Its opening number brings to mind the sounds issuing from Olde English Spelling Bee, its clunking delayed rhythm, wobbly synths and opiated Eno/Sakamoto/Dolby melodies contriving a balmy, lo-fi art-pop atmosphere. But the duo subvert this glassy bliss with samples of a woman sobbing inconsolably, as if to gesture at a fly in the New Age tincture. Still, their capacity for off-base loveliness should not be underestimated. The third track proceeds at a dragging pace with an insidious, glutinous bassline and 1980s soundtrack keyboards, disrupted by coiling squalls of noise. Track four comes on like chopped ’n’ screwed Ofra Haza, her vocal cruelly replaced by mangled voice simulation software. It is sweaty, slick and sexy in a slightly soiled and compromised fashion, like unfinished coitus.A pitched down sample of Leonard Ravenhill introduces the fifth track: “There’s nothing this generation needs more than a baptism of old fashioned hellfire preaching… I’m sure of that.” The late British evangelist’s voice recalls that of right wing demagogue Unity Mitford’s on 23 Skidoo’s “Porno Base”. Like Mitford, Ravenhill’s words are set up for derision, yet nevertheless suggest a warning.

Hype Williams express contempt for what they’ve called mystical shit, so perhaps this, along with recent download “Karen Hates The Forest”, is their rebuke to the esoteric symbolism entered into by peers such as Sun Araw, James Ferraro and Pocahaunted, whom their music so often recalls. Hype Williams are unmistakably concerned with physicality, pleasures of the flesh, and while their weed intake is allegedly prodigious, it offers no portal to another realm, merely an additional perspective on this one. Roy has said of the resurgence of New Age-informed music: “It’s got too much reverb and noise… I can’t talk dirty to my clients over the clink and clank of magic and rainbows.” The materialist mocking is all too familiar to those who can still bear to leaf through the pages of Vice, where libertarianism born from privilege bleeds into cruelty. Perhaps this is a necessary counterweight to the crystals and mandalas currently doing the rounds, but what makes much of today’s lo-fi intriguing is its flight from spiritual anomie towards an idea of the sublime, however ill-defined.Perhaps this vacuity provides the duo with the will-to-flux.

At no point do they settle into a fixed style. There’s a softly padding drum machine, a vocal that is entirely submerged, simulated whalesong and more weeping on the seventh track, suggesting a sickened version of Tom Tom Club’s 1981 punk-funk classic “Genius Of Love”. The closing piece sashays in on a smooth, soupy groove like Sade’s “Smooth Operator” derailed by ill-fitting guitar and artificial flute. It’s like somebody flooded the wine bar with cough mixture.It’s fast becoming a meme for lo-fi savants to express a kinship with hiphop and R&B, from Daniel Lopatin’s recent canonisation of DJ Screw to 20jazzfunkgreats blogger and Tri Angle label founder Robin Carolan’s breathless ? and slightly suspect ? declaration that these forms produce what is “sonically at least really strange music. And there’s so much you can do with that.” Sometimes these claims ring true, as with Christopher Dexter Greenspan’s oOoOO; at other times they smack of coat-tailing. Hype Williams are in on the game, too. Their name is a dead giveaway, of course, deriving from the renowned director of videos for Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip and Nicki Minaj. Then there’s the namechecking of Cam’ron in interviews and the shout out to Sadat X in the title of a recent split with themselves as Paradise Sisters.

While it’s true that some of their other work does indeed resemble severely water-damaged R&B, barely a single note of this album, or their recent Han Dynasty 7″ for De Stijl, for whom a second album is apparently forthcoming ? sounds like hiphop as we know it. The only real overlap would be with the duo’s hazy nihilism and sensual flow. Perhaps those are the only elements Hype Williams require, stirring them into the pot along with similarly disconnected fragments, yielding music which fascinates largely because of its refusal to commit?

~ Joseph Stannard
The Wire

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