Ikonika: Contact, Want, Love, Have

Given the modest number of full-lengths that have been issued to date on Hyperdub, the appearance of a new one registers as something of an event. And so it is that the Ikonika debut album from Sara Abdel-Hamid finally arrives, making good on the promise that was immediately audible the moment her debut twelve-inch for the label, “Please,” appeared. While that cut isn't included, the collection does feature a number of previously issued tracks (“Sahara Michael,” “Fish,” “Millie”) so the album's sound doesn't come as a total surprise. Even so, Contact, Want, Love, Have makes a powerful argument for Ikonika's highly personalized approach with its non-stop, retro-futurist rush of souped-up arcade melodies and mutant grooves drawn from dubstep, dub, and funk.

The robotically drawled “I come at last” and overall wooziness pervading the fleeting manifesto “Ikonklast (Insert Coin)” are abruptly interrupted by the seizure-gripped beat structures and chattering arcade synthesizers of “Idiot.” In this first of many album highlights, a thick bass pulse slithers through a restless interweave of pulsating synth melodies until an inextricable mass of melody and rhythm forms. In “Yoshimitsu” and “Fish,” iridescent synthetic swirls and splashes radiate up above while heartbeat dub bass lines and snappy beat structures hold things in place down below. “They Are All Losing the War” gallops feverishly with a tough 4/4 groove inflamed by hot-wired melodic riffs. That intensity briefly subsides during the relatively downtempo “Continue?,” which exudes a slow jam quality in its early moments, before “Heston” snaps the album back to attention with squiggly synth patterns and slinky drum machine beats. The album gallops home in a blaze of effervescent electro-funk (“Psoriasis”), frenetic beatsmithing (“Look (Final Boss Stage)”), and bass-propeled melancholia (“Red Marker Pens (Good Ending)”).

Contact, Want, Love, Have hardly suggests that Abdel-Hamid was once a drummer in a post-hardcore band, though the confident handling of beat structures throughout indicates an informed grasp of rhythm patterns. The nearly hour-long set serves up fourteen radiant kaleidoscopes teeming with synthetic melodies, dub-inflected bass pulses, and funky two-step rhythms where hand-claps punctuate cross-currents of fiery synth patterns like buckshot. All told, it's a remarkably fresh and accomplished collection, especially when one considers that the first Ikonika release appeared only two years ago.

May 2010