Albums of the Year 2011: #7
First of all, look at that cover--it's just absolutely gorgeous. In my list of Honourable Mentions, I said that Pinch & Shackleton's self-titled album sounds like the kind of thing that would play on the sound system in Hadley's Hope. Well, Kode9 & the Spaceape's first album, Memories of the Future, sounds like what would play after the nuclear blast wipes it out. Saying that you can see the smoke rising from tracks like "Victims" and "Sine" is almost an understatement. The relentless doom and dread can be a little much at times, though, and I find it hard to listen to Memories of the Future front to back. Dip in, get your daily dose of anxiety, and move on is my general approach. With that being said, Kode9 & the Spaceape's ability to set and sustain a mood is an impressive feat, one that's certainly helped by the Spaceape's singular voice: it seems somehow weighty, ancient, elemental, a voice that a mortal shouldn't possess. Hearing that Black Sun was to be a little more varied, even if it still contained the requisite doom and gloom, had me quite excited to hear this album.
Black Sun, as you can probably guess from its appearance on this list, delivers the goods. Aside from a brief dip in momentum during the title track and "Hole in the Sky" (which is no Black Sabbath), this album is driving without being as relentless as Memories of the Future. This is still tense music, but it's danceable, albeit at a dance club somewhere/time after the apocalypse. It's also surprisingly hooky (the police sirens in "Am I" are brilliant), and the Spaceape's voice does more to lead the songs rather than just build atmosphere (which, to be fair, he is really, really good at). Cha Cha adds a nice vocal counterpoint on the tracks she's featured on, especially on "Black Smoke" and "The Cure." Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects is the chipmunk vocals on "The Cure:" they sound so metallic and bitcrushed, so primitive in a way. This, to my ears, is the sound of the adjective "cyber," and I find it fascinating that my idea of what "technology" sounds like is so dated (does this depend on the time at which you first become aware of signifiers of technology like sound?). Black Sun doesn't entirely abandon Memories of the Future's blueprint, and the second half of "Bullet Against the Bone" is as unnerving as anything on that album, particularly with the Spaceape's deadpan repetition of the "defend us we said" line. "Kryon," the album-closing collaboration with Flying Lotus, returns me to the questions of technology raised by "The Cure." It's as astral as anything on Cosmogramma, but set in a universe that's falling apart--this is a universe that's not transcendental, but rather desperately struggling with the forces of entropy. So, the heat death of the universe, or maybe just a melting hard drive; a fitting pair of images to close Black Sun. I can't wait to hear what these two do next.