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Sonic Router

Sonic Router 015: Driving Drum Beats With Iceland's Hypno
Oli Marlow , September 13th, 2010 06:39

Our man Oli Marlow interviews Kári Guðmundsson, aka Hypno, for this month's Sonic Router

Dubstep is a movement that never slows up. Recently it's even had an incessant assault on the wider scene, morphing itself into the pop charts with early pioneers like Skream and Benga earning mainstream success with their Magnetic Man project. And now, more than ever, quality new music is landing at a pleasantly alarming rate, with a handful of new producers cropping up and repeatedly dropping in with a completely fresh take on the whole concept. This column is forever dedicated to pushing those people who do make songs like this:

Hypno – Telescope [Haunted Audio]

Icelandic producer Kári Guðmundsson's debut EP for the US digital label Haunted Audio as Hypno landed in my possession smack bang around the time his 'Tight Pants Remix' of Hackman's contribution to fabric's 'Elevator Music Vol. 1', 'Pistol In Your Pocket,' did. With those two tracks he proved to a very likeminded colleague and I that he had something incredibly likeable bubbling through his tracks. Since December 2009 he's been regarded as one to watch; and with many impotent visits to his Soundcloud profile following in the subsequent months, it wasn't until recently the he quelled my desire and put out his first physical release.

Guðmundsson's debut EP for the PTN label - the decidedly 'funky-er' arm of Ramp Recordings - finally landed in June after the title track, 'Over The Top,' had already found its way onto the Gilles Peterson bankrolled 'Brownswood Electr*c' compilation. Cementing the notion that it was the correct thing to do, to keep blindly enthusing about his music to everyone and anyone, the EP is incredibly and sweetly percussive. Spatially aware, the 3 original tracks (backed up with that twinkle-tastic Julio Bashmore remix of 'War Demons') are built around the tough and carefully weighted patter of his kick drums, with his quick witted patterns driving every production – a trait that is perhaps more associated with the pounding heart of house and techno than traditional dubstep.

"I try to keep my tunes really percussive and melodramatic," Guðmundsson tells me during our first conversation. "I've been making music since, you know, whenever...

"A long time ago I used to record my voice into some shitty program on a shit Mac and do some nasty things to it, adding distortion and altering the pitch, usually just to get something funny out of it. I think that's how I caught the bug; just playing with programs that way. Later I got my own computer and Cubase 1 and just figured it out slowly. That's my method of making music in general: just fool around till you get it. When I fully understand the program/synth or whatever it gets boring and sort of becomes something 'useful,' like more of a tool of some sorts."

That playful aspect in Hypno's music is obvious as soon as you listen out for it. What may sound like micro programmed percussion lines and over studied drum programming is the sound of a producer completely immersing himself in the 'fun' aspect of making rhythm. There's seldom been something so endlessly satisfying as writing a groove that can drive, thump and swing all at the same time; and in places, on tracks like the aforementioned 'Over The Top' and 'Telescopes', it's hard not to grin as the drum hits bumble over themselves repeatedly.

Hypno – Over The Top EP [PTN]

"The perfect rhythm is something I would like to hear," he agrees when I relay my enthusiasm for his pressing rhythm work. "That something that gets everybody grooving, no matter what... I really enjoy percussion, as you can imagine, but when it's when it's shuffled and fast, then it's perfect for me. If you play a tune with the snares on the second and the fourth beat, with loads of bongos and stuff, you can get me grooving pretty easily."

All his tunes have this tangible drum energy to them, and whilst its undoubtedly these sounds that set the pace, the rapid fire chord structures on top of beats like 'Dilemma' only encourage the vibe, sounding like a more tribal take on Dorian Concept's scattergun melodics on 'Trilingual Dance Sexperience'.

"Sometimes I work on a certain chord progression or melodic structure, and I can be doing that for hours," he concedes. "But if I'm in the right mood I can make a complex drum pattern in seconds and just add some synths on top of that. I do think that some of my best tunes have been made by building the beats first; it takes me a really short time to make a 16 bar loop, but it takes weeks to arrange it…"

Hypno – Dilemma [unreleased]

From talking to Guðmundsson and questioning him on his early dealings with the dubstep sound, it's obvious that it has always been the drum patterns and the open door policy, in terms of ideas and creativity, which caught him. Enthusing about his exploration of dubstep's surrounding misnomer genres that comprise the crutch of the hardcore continuum (a term coined by music journalist Simon Reynolds pertaining to the constant evolution and cyclical nature of UK underground music) Hypno finds himself drawing on everything - as equally fascinated with the early work of DMZ as he is Kerri Chandler.

What does seem absolutely vital to Hypno's current sound, though, is the four to the floor drum pattern of house music. Frankly, it's stamped, and stamped hard for that matter, all over his break out 'Over The Top' EP for PTN. And whilst potent kick drums might have become the essential thing for a wider crop of producers operating in that cumbersome void (the one that's not so buoyantly 'UK Funky' but is heavily influenced by house as well as by the embers of dubstep's oppressing darkness), Hypno positively revels in them. Often magnifying the clickiness of his selected kick samples, letting them tap the ceiling as well as punch the gut, he's always working those snappy higher frequencies .Hitting them hard at all times on tracks like 'Doo Doo.'

"I do like kick drums a lot," Guðmundsson states flatly; "so much so that sometimes I'll put two or more different kicks into the drum pattern. I once made a beat using only a 808 bassdrum, but usually I will eventually add something to them…"

"In the last few months I have been starting to appreciate the slow compositions hidden within the endless repetition of house music. It's something that you have to learn, slowly. The 4/4 pattern is really interesting at the moment but I think it won't last for me personally. When you've got slow half step beats, a house beat or a fast garage tune… that's what, for me, is the most exciting thing about this genre: the combination of different drum patterns. Producers can make all kinds of emotions shine, or they can make cold emotionless tunes with lots and lots of percussion. I like to choose between those methods when I'm making music."

:: DOWNLOAD: Hypno – Sonic Router Mix #55

Hypno Sonic Router mix tracklist:
Kerri Chandler - 'Mommy, What's A Record?' (Downtown 161)
Orlando B. - 'New York Tale' (Yore)
West Norwood Cassette Library - 'Blonde On Blonde' (Teal dub)
Maddslinky ft. Omar - 'Special' (Karizma mix) (dub)
Hypno - 'War Demons' (PTN)
Missing Linkx - 'A Short History Of... (Philpot)
A Made Up Sound - 'Alarm' (A Made Up Sound)
Hypno - 'Over The Top' (PTN)
Girl Unit - 'Shade On' (Night Slugs)
Shortstuff - 'Galaxy' (Ramp)
Twice As Nyce - 'Fittest' (Twyce As Nyce)
Joe - Claptrap (Hessle Audio)
Brackles & Shortstuff - 'Pipey D' (Blunted Robots)
Hypno - 'Sunkin' (forthcoming Ramp)

Words: Oli Marlow for Sonic Router

Hypno's 'Over The Top' EP is out now on PTN. He has another 12" forthcoming on Ramp Recordings later this month.