Ikonika Distractions Hyperdub
Back when the era-defining label Hyperdub was just getting started, there was a combustive core group of artists that included label boss Kode9 (and the late Space Ape), Burial, Zomby and Ikonika. Among some pretty stiff competition, Ikonika’s debut album Contact, Love, Want, Have stood out: a restless and edgy concoction of digi-dubstep motifs, pitched-up techno rhythms, 8-bit aesthetics and an otherworldly energy that helped to define the emerging Hyperdub sound. Fast-forward a few years, and Ikonika’s second album Aerotropolis had smoothed-out a lot of the rough edges, and along with it some of the electrifying promise of her early material.
The synths had become smoother, and the rhythms less garish with an overtly retro electro-boogie style replacing the challenging digital dynamics of her debut. Picking up Distractions for the first time, and without the benefit of this backstory, you might struggle to identify any commonalities with Contact, Love, Want, Hate at all. This is not necessarily a bad thing – artists that relentlessly push forward are the most precious we have. But unfortunately Ikonika’s trajectory seems to have arced towards safer territory, to the extent that Distractions verges on frustratingly anodyne at times. It isn’t all bad – Do I Watch It Like A Cricket Match has a spooky nostalgia, Girlfriend has enough swagger to raise the pulse, and the mid-album pairing of Lear and Lossy echo vintage Ikonika. But Noblest (ft Andre Galaxy) comes across like FKA twigs-lite, while a guest spot by Jessy Lanza adds little to a meandering, downtempo track that goes nowhere fast. Frustratingly Distractions isn’t in the same league as the dystopian amalgamations that defined Ikonika’s earlier work.