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Ikonika “Aerotropolis” – Album Review

Hyperdub (2013)

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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3.5 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music