Ever since its inception in 2005 when it thrust one of this generation’s most important artists upon the world in the form of Burial, Kode9’s Hyperdub label has always had a reputation for sticking stubbornly to the fringes of the dubstep continuum, championing mutant strains even back when the genre was still in rude health in its purist form. It seems strange then, that seven years later, at a time when dubstep has spawned such diverse offspring, that Hyperdub should choose to put out what is arguably its most “dubstep” release yet, in the form of a cosmic stomper from veteran producer Morgan Zarate. Although still somewhat low-profile since embarking on his solo career, Zarate has been making music ever since the turn of the 2000s, when he was part of British trip-hop trio Spacek, before subsequently working on production for the likes of Raphael Saadiq and Musiq Soulchild. Broken Heart Collector, Zarate’s second release on Hyperdub after last January’s Hookid EP, intertwines his penchant for all things soulful with bombastic synths and focused pop sensibilities.
The result is a streamlined space-age head-nodder that lies somewhere between the U.S.-meets-UK stylistic fusion present in Starkey’s collaborations with Charli XCX and Anneka (Zarate himself has spent recent years alternating between London and L.A.) and the sort of synth-heavy pop bangers that Joker’s early work promised but ultimately never actually manifested on The Vision. The beat chugs along at 140 (or thereabouts), punctuated with sci-fi bleeps, “purple” synth arpeggios and theatrical nods to turntablism. Vocal duties on the A-side fall to Stevie Neale, who injects character into the production as she imbues the refrain of “he’s gonna get that comeuppance” with elements of menace, coming across as somewhere between a futuristic femme fatale and hipster Bond girl. Although her voice is clearly suited to the production, as yet another East London starlet, it’s hard not to see Neale struggling to stand out in a post-Katy B scene littered with similar talents. Broken Heart Collector is backed with an instrumental version of the title track, as well as “Crey Bey,” which sounds like a grime fan’s loving interpretation on classic eight-bar. Starting out with some surprisingly subtle sub-bass before launching into a full-on auditory assault as the main pattern jumps up and down the octaves, it features the sort of harsh, minimal kicks and snares and all the usual flourishes of videogame-like samples that you’d expect from any take on the genre.