Scratcha DVA – ‘Mad Hatter’ EP (Hyperdub)

With perhaps the most fitting of titles, Hyperdub’s chief prankster returns to Kode9’s stable with another collection of screwball rave that’s as incomparable as ever. Having had a relatively quiet year to date, Leon Smart’s latest effort is a typically demented three-track affair, backed with remixes from Teklife guru DJ Rashad and ClekClekBoom boss French Fries.

A producer who seemingly looks for melody in the most alien of places, DVA’s current amalgamation of UK funky riddims, low-end techno pressure and unbalanced melodic motifs is nothing if not disorientating. From the off, ‘Mad Hatter’ leaves you guessing, with a 4/4 monotone kick nailing down fluttering claps and heavily filtered snare edits, before launching into a relatively restrained midrange riff coupled with stop-start percussion. Add to this a bleached-out electro funk breakdown and you’ve got yourself another serious DVA club weapon readymade for basement pull-ups.

‘Gang Gang Riddim’ goes in hard with the broken funky / steppa vibes, combining pitch-bending melodies’, dub bass and posse cut vocal snippets with a rhythm track seemingly created entirely from robotic handclaps and a heavily treated bullet casing effect. This isn’t to mention the fleeting digi-dub breakdown, thick backdrop of sirens, rasta chat and creeping ambient noise, making for a track that almost seems to have too many ideas vying for attention, yet still manages to fulfil it’s remit as strict club-moving gear.

Rivalling the former for the title of most bizarre track on offer here, ‘Chilli Burrito’ surely has to be an anthem in the making. A vast amount of effects create a hazy blend of madness that includes grimey trumpet stabs, broken house kicks, squealing midrange, classic party-starting samples and a female raver’s monologue on the benefits of Ecstasy. As with the EP’s preceding tracks, ‘Chilli Burrito’ is squared heartily at the dancefloor, yet is carried off with inimitable style, confidence and creativity.

Accompanied by two remixes of former DVA material, fellow Hyperdub head DJ Rashad continues to explore the gaps between Chicago footwork and UK bass with a soul-drenched exploit into sharp and concise juke, rebooting ‘Fly Juice’ for the 160bpm crew via propulsive bass stabs, yet keeping things stripped and simple. Meanwhile French Fries’ instrumental take on the previously released ‘Ganja VIP’ extracts the peeled-back dread garage from his original, coming across like a dusted-down session from classic-era Horsepower Productions.

Foggy, tense, exquisitely modern and at times almost cartoonish, as ever, DVA’s output is serious music with undeniable personality and (dare I say it), humour. Inventiveness and originality abound, with Smart generating more ideas in four minutes than many of his peers do across four tracks.

‘Mad Hatter EP’ is released via Hyperdub on 30th September.

Louis Cook

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