This Kode9 article was written by John Gittins, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster
Steve Goodman has become elusive in his fame over the years. Responsible for kick-starting the dub scene, and remaining an everlasting presence, his new album ‘Nothing’ has been long awaited. Known by his alias Kode9, ‘Nothing’ will be the author/producer/dub pioneer’s newest release in the last two years, and unfortunately his first solo album.
It comes as no surprise that Stephen Samuel Gordon, aka The Spaceape, who passed away a year ago, would manifest ‘Nothing’, thanks to his constant influence on both Goodman’s label Hyperdub, and throughout the dub scene. His death was a shock that shook the dub circles to their core. A unique dictation and lyricism that became a personal signature of the scene, was no more; a voice that connoted wisdom and fear, frequenting on the likes of Burial, Redshape, and the Echologist, was gone.
‘Nothing’s’ concept, is ambiguous. To claim it is written about ‘nothing’ would dismiss a plethora of contrasting genres and samples. K-pop, jazz, downtempo, horror and sampled loops, meshed into grime, early dubstep and Chicago footwork creates an album of surprises and familiarity.
At 46 minutes, the album feels like a continuous stream of subtle aural, twists, turns, and unusual techniques, dripping into the ears of the listener. And yet with ‘Void’ and ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, there is metaphorically…nothing. The tracks were written for Spaceape to speak over, and without that physical presence the tracks feel lost in time, saying so much figuratively, and so little literally. It accentuates the monumental loss of a catalysing force.
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At times, the album calls back to earlier times in the artist’s careers with sinister undertones. ‘9 Drone’ frequents the same sample (‘7 Samurai Suite’) used in ‘9 Samurai’, which featured Lee Perry on vocals. It sounds empty, with raging dub beats. Afterwards, ‘Zero Work’, ‘Vacuum Packed’ and ‘Respirator’ combine more vocal percussions, with a varied schizophrenic and sparse sound reminiscent of last year’s ‘Uh, Okay’ release. ‘Wu Wei’, ‘Casmir’ and ‘Mirage’ combine beautiful synths with expressive contemporary melodies for a lighter side.
‘Third Ear Transmission’ the only track to feature Spaceape, is laden with screeching violins, and pulsating dub beats. A rising EQ contour filters Spaceape’s vocals, as his nostalgic monotone voice can be heard: “Child is father to the man/impressions can come to years before we all grow” enters with sudden velocity as the EQ rips the poet of his mesmerising tone; placing the vocalist in an alternative light of audio immortality, accentuating the loss of an influence.
The album pays homage to a fantastic figure, with an appropriately eerie aura connoting the late poets persona. The album ends with ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, signifying the end of an elegiac obituary, with a nine-minute glare of white noise. It clarifies the end of ‘Nothing’ and that it was all nothing. However, the album ends with a stutter, a hesitation, with the subliminal question of how much more could’ve been said? Is this really the end? Questions that haven’t been answered, and that maybe never will be.
‘Nothing’ is out now via Hyperdub Records.