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Strange U

EP #2040 Neil Kulkarni , October 9th, 2014 11:45

EP#2040 is just about one of the most astonishing things I've heard all year. Ever since I first got it I've needed it three times a day. To get me off the straight and narrow, to get me on the twisted and wide. Strange U are a side-project of rapper Kashmere and producer Dr Zygote. Kashmere has for a long time been one of the most compellingly strange and unique voices in British music. Dr Zygote has been the producer and co-founder (alongside the equally nuts/genius Jazz T) of perhaps the greatest unsung modern British music label, Boot Records. When Kash and JT come together to make Strange U music, something altogether new starts happening.

Opener 'The Cake Is A Lie' comes in on seven-league bassboots and skyhigh uppers and Jeebus hyperion Christ I don't think I've heard such a thuddingly bruising hip hop track since... actually scratch that I HAVEN'T heard hip hop quite like this before. As much Fela as New Kingdom, as much Live/Evil as Real Live, as much Scientist meets Roots Radics as it is Premo. In their own words "inspired by the spirits of Oshun, Vishnu, Apollo, Sobek and Jim Henson".  But it's also Kash's lines, pitch-bent down to a wonderfully overloaded gruffness, flat out telling us he doesn't give a fuck about being real but then making that immolation immortal by sounding like his dreams, built on a lifetime of cultural junk-addiction, are true, will come to life so long as he can birth them through verbalising them.

"Never tell a lie when I rap/only yesterday I was caught in a Venus Fly Trap/One false move I'm letting off shots/now... slowly... hand over the jelly babies mmmmm/ Reality's wack, I'm trying to escape/ FUCK THE TRUTH MAN I'M TRYING TO BE FAKE"

Looking at so much hip hop in 2014, I see a race for realness, for that ‘competetive’ edge, for whatever chance of crossover is forthcoming. I'd rather be on the freak train with Kash, heading out into his imagination. Making up what's real. Making every new second count with new thoughts, new images. Stupendous production from Zygote as always, he knows the devil's in the detail and beyond the fantastic low-slung fuzz-synth funk grind it's the sudden splashes of dubbed-out keys and flickering guitar that make 'The Cake Is A Lie' such a compellingly deranged delight.  

The second track 'Vapourous' is even more of a molten mind-fuck. Often on EP#2040 the beats are like nothing else you can hear right now, certainly not from rap - more akin to something Cabaret Voltaire might've coughed up in their late 70s zenith, or like the bruising sluggish hard-blast of a Kevin Martin production (think God/Ice/TechnoAnimal era). Atop 'Vapourous'' primordial ooze of bass a whole frightmarish whirlwind of distended noise and echoes chases its own tail around your headspace, while somewhere in the midst of the carnage sits Kash aka Darq Twin, swirling his own vocal into dubbed out distorted infinities, advice on how to succeed in the endless bullshit-moebus of 'digital' reality.

"Masturbate to your digital person everyday/until your giant head detonates/you're so dangerous/vapourous/smoking that angel dust for the camera/It's all about the spectacle/I will go further than the truth if it's more entertaining/too cool for school get stupid/You're not famous enough? BE AN IDIOT"

'Part Machine', all stop-start robo-funk and smeared analogue texture, absolutely yearns for a new definition of humanity. Yearns to become half viscera, half circuitry but with none of the gliding romance of a Model 500 or Kraftwerk - rather what Kash seems to be expressing is a need to speed time up, bring the future forward a few millennia, accelerate closer to the science-fiction dreams his brain is stuffed with, the dreams that make his and our current intermediary state so massively frustrating. 'Beast Moog' is the kind of instrumental Metal Box-era P.I.L would be making right now, has those same harsh harsh beats that scare the shit out of you at the end of 'Careering' - 'Falcon Punch' is a deeply Chrome-like slab of psychedelic dancehall over which Kash's mouth runs away from him beyond my ability to transcribe him here, references to Super Smash Bros, V-dub, Thelonius Monk, Garth Merenghi slipping by at light-speed, demanding a rewind, and another and another until you can even catch a fraction of the imagery being sent your way. The 35th century griot of 'Strange Ones' kicks of with the line "Standing on a planet made of amethyst" and then starts to get seriously wayward, demanding the return of Pangaea, a welter of P-funk references making a righteous and entirely correct connection with perhaps Strange U's true antecedents, one that gratifyingly doesn't leave out Funkadelic's darkness, weirdness, confusion.

If the music and words Strange U shoot out were just an agglomeration of reference, I wouldn't even waste my time directing you towards them, let alone listen to them myself. What's key throughout EP#2040 is that there is DRIVE behind their ideas, a desperation to push through reality to somewhere else that feels as raging and as direct and dazzling as Sun Ra, P-Funk, Ornette, Jimi. Closing track 'Strange U In Africa' perfectly exemplifies this - you can tell the 'vibe' that's informed it, but it arrives at a place entirely unique, has a real livid seething sense of heat and stress, the bustling gritty funkativity of the finest Fela Kuti bootleg you never heard, the Idi-Amin-style vocal samples just adding to the bedlam and hilarity. The way the shard of traditional instrumentation is twisted out and pulled apart are as mind-melting as the moves Premo made on Jeru's 'Come Clean' but on every track of EP#2040 all that Strange U really share with their sources is a sense of spirit and intent. To make something brand new. Genuinely unheard as yet. Properly futuristic, ancient, magical. It's only when you really prod new music to see where that's happening that you realise exactly how rare it is. If the Mercury Music Prize wasn't a fucking joke, EP#2040 would win it at a canter - it's genuinely NEW BRITISH MUSIC and it's fucking awesome. Avail yourself immediately and feed your other current distractions to the lions on your lawn.

All conquering music. Makes you stomp in those skyscraper boots. Turns you giant. Drink deep.