Klein Tommy Hyperdub
The latest Hyperdub release sees South London-based singer and producer Klein reach into deeply weird, avant-garde territory. This is not the label’s first excursion to the outer edges of sound – Babyfather’s BFF, for example, was punctuated by excruciating interludes of white noise and pitch-shifted pirate radio bravado. Though BFF’s most challenging moments were kept more or less separate from its routine dub and hip-hop cuts, Klein’s experimentalism goes hand-in-hand with her more mainstream influences, which include soul and RnB.
As such, this eight-track EP, which follows her 2016 releases Now and Lagata, is a demanding listen. What little familiarity there is floats on disorientating waves of rumbling, discordant samples and numerous voices, both human and alien. On Act 1, which features NON Worldwide affiliate Embacci, warm clips of piano are pitched up and down a sampler at will, creaking under the weight of digital processing. Towards the end, quick snatches of muffled, bluesy vocals sound like they were recorded through a bedroom wall.
There’s a keen sense of playfulness too. On opener Prologue, we hear Klein and friends swapping ideas in the studio – Mariah Carey gets mentioned – and crooning into auto-tuned mics. Meanwhile, Cry Theme opens with a single, glitchy chord, over which Klein’s untreated voice sings, “I never cry.” For a split second it’s as if she’s about to deliver something straightforward, before the vocals cut out, and a thick fog gradually descends as samples collide and overlap, building to a menacing loop.
Elsewhere, Runs Reprise, Everlong and B2k all repurpose familiar-sounding clips of blown-out jungle breaks. These add texture more than rhythm, and their inclusion catches you off-guard. It’s little moments like these, along with the experiments in pitch and a freeform, atonal approach to production, which lend Tommy a centreless feel – a record where nothing is solid. Overall, a mesmerising, unsettling and fearless release.