'Black Sun' is the new retrofuturistic concept album from Kode9 and the Spaceape, where the world's population is covered in radiation from an unclassified radioactive accident. This is a dystopian world full of fear and oppression, bodily mutations spread due to the radiation, sexual relationships are banned, political upheaval, some people resist, many don't. Spaceape starts proceedings with sinister intent, `Under a spell of a random feeling/Weak, agitated, momentary breathing'. Considering it's dark content, you would think the album was all murky tones, claustrophobic bass and jarring beats. You'd be right, but there is also an uptempo immediacy throughout the album covering a variety of styles typical of the mongrel spirit of British bass music. There's no standout track, the album is uniformly good throughout. The best tracks are the most surprising ones, 'Hole in the sky', 'Otherman' and 'Kryon' may lack the zip and residual bass of most of the other tracks but offer glimpses of new futures born from the decay of old ones. There is an awkwardness and unpredictability throughout most of the album which is really interesting. The album sounds alien but completely human at the same time, a reflection of the narrative tension that exists in this decaying other-world. Both Kode9 and Spaceape have loosened up for the better, though the guest vocalist Cha-Cha was underused, or rather underexposed alongside Spaceape's dread-poetry and Kode9's apocalyptic beats. 'Black Sun' is a proper slow-burner, no pun intended, and it took a fair few listens for it to sink in and make sense. Kode9 and Spaceape have thrown another curveball with an accomplished but unpolished album, intensely enjoyable and deeply unsettling in equal measure.
I must admit that I only discovered Kode9 after becoming a huge fan of Burial. I wanted to find more music that evoked the same nocturnal atmosphere; this album was my first stop. And I have to say, it is awesome!
The productions are second-to-none and don't rely solely on the same old 2-step beats. The kick drums are deep and hit you in chest and the bass lines throb like nobody's business. The Spaceape is also a very talented lyricist and an intriguing vocalist; granted he is not a "singer" - more of a poet - but it only adds to the mood, especially when coupled with Cha Cha's understated yet haunting melodies. Whatever time of day you listen to this, it will instantly make you wish for darkness so you can feel its effect even more. I love to listen to this when i'm driving in the city at night. Immense!
Its hard to pick stand-out tracks on a concept album, because I don't personally think its the sort of album where you can just pick a few tracks off to throw on a mixtape. It works best listening from start to finish. That being said, I will contradict myself slightly to say its only weakness is that one or two of the tracks don't really go anywhere, which is the only reason I haven't given this a full 5 stars.
Instrumentally, "Black Sun" is a strong and innovative work - up to Kode 9's usual high standards (check the title track by way of example).
The problem for me comes from the depressing lyrics and unconvincing vocal stylings of the Spaceape. Neither of these two aspects are necessarily failings in themselves (I am a Bernard Sumner fan after all!) but on this occasion the overall impact is as unedifying, uninspiring and dismal as a Tuesday night episode of Eastenders.
To sum up in the hackneyed style of any Eastenders character you care to mention: "Pardon my bruvva [the Spaceape], he's had a charisma bypass".
Approach with caution. Give us a dub version please Hyperdub.