Album Review

Black Is Beautiful

Black Is Beautiful

by Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland

Hyperdub Records
9 / 10
8th May 2012

Reviewed by Martyn Pepperell

Black Is Beautiful is the fourth "studio" album from Lisbon/Estonia based art music duo Hype Williams, this time recorded under their Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland aliases. At crux, they make the sort of music that inspires sharp, polar responses. And while I can intellectually see how their shonky, lo-fi electronica meets noise, funk, rap and beyond compositions could drive some people so far up the wall they'd have to permanently relocate to the ceiling - my emotive response to their ever expanding, almost mythological oeuvre sits in diametric opposition to any such impulses.

Fifteen songs deep, Black Is Beautiful alternates between thirty five second to two minute long slices of densely layered, action packed commercial break style library music, oddly accessible two to three so minute long hazy drenched ghosts of an earlier pop past and the rare feature length (five to nine so minutes) composition. Purportedly written in the shadow of Copeland's tryouts for Arsenal's female football team, Blunt's trial for an alleged overnight robbery spree across sixteen taxidermists in London, and his subsequent conversion to the Nation of Islam upon release, Black Is Beautiful's back story, much like any of the information we're received about Copeland and Blunt is as much of an inspiration as it is a misnomer.

As the fifteen theme wandering art music pieces on the record illustrate, they're a duo who, when connected by cheap yet infuriating airline Ryanair, create restlessly, without need for concrete meaning or storyline. Songs as experiences, not requiring of any intellectually unpacking, unintentional musical Zen koans even perhaps. Alejandro Jodorowsky would approve. However, with a production approach which mixes and blurs samples to the point where they virtually become strokes of paint, and clipped vocals from both Blunt and Copeland drift into the distance in a aged pictorial manner, avoiding the impulse to hunt for explicit artistic meanings is hard.

Still, for those willing to simply breathe and bathe deeply in their wash of tape hiss, grainy fluorescent tones and motifs adopted from jazz, j-pop, UK hip-hop, lovers rock, electro and elsewhere, somewhere beyond reason a sense of inhabitable emotional space emerges. Working to this environmental theme, musical (and not so musical) shapes and forms compound, eventually building up to a density where they collide, much like the curious inhabitants and even queerer sounds that exist within an all too packed urban environment. And that is almost it, Black Is Beautiful is virtually a tour through different ethnic quarters, outdoor markets and other bustling community spaces within a global city of the mind. A busy streetscape where sensory stimulations overlap with overwhelming intensity. A trip to a future which exists in the dusty streets of the past, pristine no more.

Between 1984 and 1988, Cyberpunk's writer William Gibson wrote within a lawless techno shamanistic megacity expanse called The Sprawl. Twenty four years later, Copeland and Blunt have nailed a comparable feeling in sonic form. For the true believers this will be one of the records of the year.

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