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King Midas Sound

Waiting for You

[Hyperdub; 2009]

By ; January 6, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

2009 has been a banner year for Hyperdub, and there’s no doubting that. After a slew of impressive singles and a masterpiece of a compilation, they’re finally releasing the label’s fourth artist LP, its first since Burial’s landmark Untrue in 2007. Surprisingly enough, the album they chose to release is rooted much more in the ever-dubious genre of dubstep’s roots more than any “forward-thinking” or genre-bending tendencies. King Midas Sound is an act that has been receiving increasing recognition for its idiosyncratic releases on the label; they’ve always felt at odds with everything else. Their tracks on this year’s compilation, while eminently enjoyable, felt more like black sheep than friendly neighbours. Let it be a relief, however, that in spite of preconceived notions, King Midas Sound’s Waiting For You is a paranoid horror dub drama easily on par with the label’s previous LPs, even if it’s a little bit different than the usual Kode9-curated fare.

It’s hard to call this music dubstep. Even if one concedes to the fact that the lines separating genres are almost entirely gone at this point, King Midas Sound has neither the self-consciously futuristic sound nor the hubristic bombast of recent dubstep. This record is meek, insular and withdrawn, where even Kode9 has been exploring the fruits of grandiosity as of late. It’s not as ear-catching and doesn’t really provide anything to grasp onto; lacking the hook-laden synth lines or the propulsive rhythms of their labelmates, they instead choose to focus solely on atmosphere. Imagine Burial without the UK garage percussion, with chanted, almost spoken-word incantations instead of mangled R&B samples. What percussion there is here is usually relegated to sub-bass levels, reduced to trebly pings with no real impact, or sourced from real-world sounds unfamiliar to dubstep.

There’s one thing this album has in common with its labelmates, though: bass. There’s a lot of it here. Deep, cavernous, suffocating bass. It’s so crushingly low and heavy it feels separate from the music, an unstable earthquake rather than any sort of rhythmic support for the music floating above it. Detachment and disconnect are the musical themes here: endless bass, sparse beats, and whispered breathy vocals gently waft past each other, occasionally colliding but usually coexisting in peace. The tempos are usually low, retarded by equal parts THC and codeine, and the sounds are unsettling, uneasy, and unflinchingly detailed. The off-in-the-distance sirens create a pervasive dread in “Meltdown,” and the dubstep percussion in “Earth A Kill Ya” is reduced to treble and hangs above the rest of the song, as if mocking its slow paranoia. “I Ma” is the most impressive track here, and it feels like an anthem; beginning old-school with a voice announcing “this is King Midas Sound,” it expertly incorporates a cheery, almost dancy sample, but almost immediately takes away its musical grounding and replaces it with pounding bass. The sample quickly loses its melody and becomes just another unnerving element in the mix, and this thirty seconds is one of the most impressive on the album. If King Midas Sound can do anything, it’s establish a mood, and they’re not afraid to pull the rug out right from under the listener.

It’s difficult to speak of highlights on this album; it’s perfectly constructed, one of those albums that “breathes” and other similarly cliched anthropomorphic terms often used to describe sequencing. It’s a nice compact listen at 46 minutes, and it never descends into ennui nor does it resort to obvious tricks and gimmicks in order to assert its presence. With Waiting For You, King Midas Sound have created a deceptively relaxed and soothingly ethereal album cleverly disguising the immeasurable dread hiding below the surface. It’s a draining album, and by the end of it you’ll either be comfortably spent or overwhelmingly anxious, depending on how carefully you listen.


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