Illustration by Marco Mazzoni
Hype Williams’ Kelly Price W8 Gain Vol. II has been surrounded by a fair bit of speculation about its place on Hyperdub, a label best known for dubstep-and-beats variants. Whether it’s via their synth sounds, sub-bass, or shadowy persona, people have evidently decided that a link to the label’s aesthetic must be forged somehow. But truthfully, they don’t fit. Fitting in isn’t what they do, and it’s why they’ve appeared on such a variety of labels. Frankly, it’s a little surprising that they’re not self-releasing material by now, but perhaps their prolific work rate may not allow them to. At any rate, Kelly Price W8 Gain Vol. II is a Hype Williams record above all else, with their iconoclasm on full display.
Opener “Rise Up” appeared earlier in the year in ridiculously limited quantities, and it’s heartening to see it get a wide release, as it’s one of their most lucid and devastating pop moments. The formula is relatively minimal: slow, shuffling tinpan drums and a huge, boisterously funky bass line (think René & Angela or Quincy Jones) are smothered in the most groggy, aching pads this side of Detroit. Inga Copeland’s foggy vocal sits somewhere deep in the mix, pleading, “gimme a break for love/I’ll take it” on the hook with a detached kind of desperation. “Boss Man” inhabits a similar realm, mixing a skipping rhythm and cascading keys with more of those pads for its brief duration. “Farthing Wood Dub” is also fairly short and dubby but it’s brighter, mostly owing to a melodica solo which brings out a lot of the synths’ warmth. “Badmind” closes the EP with what’s becoming a Hype Williams trademark: providing background music for cryptic spoken-word monologues ripped from who-knows-where. The monologue moves from discussing auto-eroticism into James Laughlin’s “The Last Poem To Be Written,” while the duo play a circular, skeletal, Chinese-inspired arrangement underneath. It’s unendingly abstruse, and, like the rest of the EP, perfectly fits their homemade universe.