Ikonika, Dckhdbtch

[Planet Mu]

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The influence of video games on the current crop of electronic artists is undeniable. There have long been artists purposely emulating the 8-bit sounds of classic video game soundtracks, first as the gaming systems were just becoming popular in the late 80s and early 90s and later as musicians exercised their nostalgia by modding and using their Game Boys to compose music. But the majority of this second wave seemed more interested in replicating that sound rather than taking its influence and pushing forward with their own sound. Recently, grime and skweee producers have been using 8-bit sounds in their compositions and working to incorporate it in interesting ways. Ikonika is one of the most prominent producers right now who brings her love of video games into her compositions, with her full-length album for Hyperdub, Contact, Love, Want, Have having been just the first step. The Dckhdbtch 12″ for Planet Mu is her latest exploration of the dance club as video game level.

The title track opens on a simple but pounding drum beat before suspenseful and spiraling synths wind in with heavy low-end. As each successive layer of sound appears dancers are drafted into their own private video game where the higher-pitched synths signal heroic moments and minor orchestral layers, which seep in during the track’s climax, send the song off with a “Success!” atmosphere. One can imagine the euphoria that a moment like this elicits in a dancer. “Ingredients” is more subtle, with a shifting and sliding bass line paired with a pensive melody that recall those puzzling moments where the player is unsure where to go or what to do next. A feeling of sadness pervades the opening of “Shouldn’t Be Here,” with an echoing dramatic vocal snippet and bed of orchestral washes. There is a reverent atmosphere to the song, as if the title is suggesting the place at which the listener has arrived is too personal to witness. The melody comes in distorted and reminiscent of the previous tracks, like memories of journeys past. On these three tracks, Ikonika has imbued her game level inspired tracks with a sophistication that was only hinted at in prior work.

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