The first female producer on the cult Hyperdub label that’s also home to the likes of Burial, Zomby and Darkstar, in 2010 Sara Abdel-Hamid, aka Ikonika, proved that the whole post-dubstep scene wasn’t just a man’s world with a striking debut album that twisted the genre beyond all recognition.
Inspired by her time living near London’s Heathrow Airport, Ikonika’s follow-up Aerotropolis rather aptly ventures into several new territories including shimmering Italo disco (“Eternal Mode”), playful classic house (“Let A Smile Be (Y) Our Umbrella”) and stop-start grime (“Manchego”). There’s even a rare vocal track in “Beach Mode (Keep It Simple),” a sleek and seductive slice of minimalist synth-pop which recalls Canadian husband-and-wife duo New Look, and which features hotly-tipped soul singer Jessy Lanza
But expanding on the chiptune influences of predecessor Contact, Love, Want, Have, it’s the video games and sci-fi blockbusters of the 80s that take up the bulk of Aerotropolis’ journey. “My Cake” is an impossibly bouncy blend of 808 snares, juddering bass-lines and technicolor synths that could have escaped from an early Nintendo platform title, as does the boss level-esque soundtrack that is “Lights Are Forever.” Elsewhere, there are definite shades of Blade Runner on the bass-led dystopia of “Completion V.3” and the murky nightmarish electro of “Backhand Winners.”
Ikonika’s sudden refusal to be pigeonholed doesn’t always produce such sparkling results. “Mega Church,” a doom-laden fusion of swirling psychedelic organ riffs and ominous thunderclaps, sounds like a leftover from the last Crystal Castles album. Meanwhile, the aimless instrumentals “Mise En Place” and “Practice Beats” back up Ikonika’s recent admission that the record isn’t intended to be an entirely distracting affair.
But on the whole, Aerotropolis is still a fascinating exploration of retro-futuristic electronica which once again lays down the gauntlet to Ikonika’s more established label-mates in style.
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