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Steady Jeremy Allen , October 11th, 2023 07:05

Manchester duo forge new pop from the ruins of the old

“Reimagining pop” is a handy cliché in the modern music journalist’s lexicon, but very few bands actually reimagine pop… not really. Hyperdawn, however, are entitled to make such a lofty claim. The north Manchester-based duo approach writing pop songs in a refreshingly dysfunctional, deliberately byzantine way, to the point where what they produce hardly sounds like pop at all (think more along the lines of Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ than Black Lace’s ‘Superman’).

It is though, and they should know. As classically trained, multidisciplinary artists from the same music college in Manchester (RMCM), Vitalija Glovackyte and Michael Cutting began working together on sound installations in 2015. They’ve since developed their act working within a scene that revolves around the White Hotel on the outskirts of Salford, though the homespun nature of many of the groups that base themselves there means DIY is the only confluence. Hyperdawn exists in a hinterland between milieux: too pop for the contemporary classical world, and too avant-garde to start raiding the charts just yet. In other words, they’re developing their own thing within the safety of their own unique space, just managing to keep the hype machine at arm’s length.

Steady, their second album, is constructed like a musical obstacle course and it’s as frayed and delicate as one of their well-worn pieces of magnetic tape. What’s more, on songs like ‘A Couple Of Strangers’ – based on a scratchy, intermittent beat and some piano scales on a loop – it all threatens to unravel at any moment, a state of ephemerality that makes it all the more beautiful. ‘Maybe’, too, is wonky yet tactile, like an unexpected hand on your shoulder, giving the impression it might melt away like a ghost if you turn around too quickly. ‘Don’t Like It’, perhaps the most developed track on the album, mixes RnB with chamber pop and sounds as though it was recorded in a blast furnace.

Since their 2019 debut release Bleach, Hyperdawn have been stripping away the excesses and bravely distilling their sound, which sometimes means leaving themselves exposed. It all adds to the sense of eeriness generated largely by Cutting’s off kilter tape loops. Hyperdawn’s spectral ambience created from vintage gear would have fitted easily into what Mark Fisher used to call Hauntology, but if it was just about rolling some tape over some music then hucksters like Public Service Broadcasting would be admitted to the club with no questions asked. With Hyperdawn, it’s more a philosophy, where Glovackyte takes the broken toys of the 20th century and rewires them, reinvents them, bastardises them, adding to the sonic ghostliness. It’s not only the dreams of the past that come back to haunt us but also our waste.