Morgan Zarate – ‘Hookid’ EP (Hyperdub)

Hyperdub cast yet another curveball into the UK bass aether with this 12” from legendary Spacek producer Morgan Zarate. The Hookid EP – in spirit at least – continues the cosmic soul journey of Spacek’s seminal albums, but plunges far, far deeper into the vortex.

From the opening of the title track, this music is almost torturously complex. Its surface is constricted, strangled by compression, pulsating with engorged melodies and spasming with rhythmic tics. Hulking synth lines, strafing claps, a chest juddering bassline; it’s all there, a bit like a Starkey cut that’s been left to stew for far too long. The result is oddly reminiscent of Confield-era Autechre, though a more close-to-home comparison would be
FlyLo’s hazier beat constructions.

Far from a simple LA-indebted beat release, though, LDN rudeness is integral to these tracks. ‘Buy Bye’ justifies the Hyperdub logo with rambunctious percussion and squiggly synths which aren’t a million miles away from the more bombastic end of grime; a London swagger driven to surreal proportions which might just find an audience in unexpected places.

‘SP’ closes the EP in oddly withdrawn style, sounding like a pitched up offcut from the Bladerunner soundtrack draped over a hip-hop template. It’s hard to fathom Zarate’s reasoning in putting a track barely pushing the minute mark after two such weighty cuts, but then that’s this EP in a nutshell – inscrutable, but all the more fascinating for it. And though the production chops on display throughout are pretty staggering, the EP holds on
to its emotional punch, drawing on an uncanny, digitised kind of nostalgia.

How this music functions on the dancefloor – or whether that’s even where its intent lies – is unclear, but as a home listening experience it’s utterly absorbing. Like Spacek’s best work, though, the real meat comes in its ambiguity. There’s a sense of heads-down-hoods-up determination, but also a deep melancholy, and it’s all lovingly swathed in rich, intoxicating psychedelia. This is a release you’ll keep coming back to.

‘Hookid EP’ is released on January 24th through Hyperdub.

Angus Finlayson