1: 08 May 2019
This music resonates with me, but not on the level of conscious comprehension. The rhythms abide by a stuttering logic that transcends my own computational prowess, adherent to a pattern that zig-zags above me and all around me. I recognise the elements – shards of voice, synthesised hand claps, swoops of violin – yet they’ve been obliterated and rebuilt, forming shapes that no longer fit into the crevices and indents of my body, no longer nestling into the palm of my hand or between my thighs. For the most part, my traditional dance moves are useless. If I can’t anticipate the next thump or harmony, then I can’t flail my arms and legs in prescient unison with the sound. Instead, the only dance that feels appropriate is a sway of bodily submission, reducing limbs to a liquid that sloshes side-to-side, aligned not with the beats but with the sentiment: that surge of connection between mind and sound. It resonates at a level that feels fundamental and chemical, in a language spoken exclusively between dTHEd and the neuronic committee that constitutes me. I sway forward: compelled by the sounds I know. I sway backward: perplexed by the way they fall.
When listening without close attention, these tracks materialise as splatters of happening. On “Đæⱶūň”, snare drums pinball around the room, cradled by the fizz of exposed wires, bouncing at crooked angles against a floor that bloats with murky synthesiser chords. Voices dangle from the ceiling on “ŞmpŁø-π” – some vivid, soft and irrefutably human, others in a glitching holographic cascade – as the electronic beat approximates a jazz swing, rendered macabre uncanny by the heavy-handed dose of syncopation. “5ẘrƓn^” start out like a biomechnical Don Caballero, before taking a bizarre tangential line into spritely woodwind orchestration and flashlit glimmers of feedback. It’s beautiful, but I don’t immediately acknowledge as such. dTHEd press all the right buttons in a fucking weird order.
As taken from the press release from Hyperbeatz vol. 1:
“The idea is to defy the capacity to mentally anticipate patterns in real time or recreate them ex-post, as well as the sheer ability to actually perform them, without necessarily reaching high BPMs.”
That’s one of the remarkable aspects of this record. It’s not necessarily an absurd, mechanical athleticism that causes these songs to outstrip the limits of human capability. It’s more the inability of a human beatmaker to fathom these rhythms in the first place. The sense of timing is dazzling, written upon a ribbon of logic that takes all manner of wretched chicanes, kinetically activated in a manner that feels both peculiar and yet inexplicably smooth.
It’s clear that the AI isn’t merely mangling the music and spewing out the remains. These rhythms are the result of careful calculation. They forego human heuristics like time signatures and recurrence (notions that simplify the attainment of musical movement) so as to render a motion that feels more complicated and more real, punctuated with the sort of tumbling impacts that characterise object thrown off a hillside. It seems random, yet the dialogue between gravity, energy and undulating surface is exact. Again – perhaps we dilute our connection with sound when we introduce the requisite of consciously comprehending what we hear. If we charge the subconscious with the job of understanding those clattering, somersaulting arrays of percussion and melodic dots, we open the doors to a sound-body dialogue of a much deeper, more spectacular complexity.
There are no downbeats. No beginnings, no endings – just a relentless and jagged somersaulting, scuffing the floor with every rotation, skimming the air with arcing limbs. The rest of the instrumentation spouts forth from this crooked trunk of inconsistent pulse. The ambiguity of timing is infectious, to the point where the melodies catch the bug and start to resemble fraught deliberations between disagreeable pitches, or tensions rendered across different vertices. Like the faux-brass on “ŞmpŁø-π”, which dances and splutters across the liminal zone of possibility, unable to pick a direction and choosing to spasm in the margin instead. The lack of commencements and conclusions renders these pieces not as whole objects, but as snapshots of computerised eco-systems. Brief demonstrations of the environment. Just one possible extraction from the infinite timeline.
08:45am BST. In my lounge, headphones on. Just about hitting the peak of that first-coffee-high. I can feel my mind eagerly trying to keep pace with “Đæⱶūň”, like a puppy bounding after a scattering flock of birds, snatching at the emptiness of snare drums just departed, eyes flicking manically between multiple possible targets. I’m still coasting on caffeine as “křpp.o|×į” jerks itself upright, cheap hi-hats thrown across the stereo image like frisbee discs, keyboards dancing like bubbles fighting their way to the top of the digital broth, and again – my field of focus spasms and retracts as I become caught on nanosecond details to my left and my right. With my mind on high alert like this, Hyperbeatz can feel like too much. Stimulus in excess.
For a moment, I consider a ridiculous theory. Given the role of AI in augmenting the process of composition here, is it possible that the album is ultimately intended for the AI-augmented listener as well? This ongoing review has returned frequently to the failures of my conscious listening, as I resign to the fact that so much of Hyperbeatz defies my ability to understand it. Yet what if, in the future, we’re presented with the opportunity to accelerate the processing power of our listening? Suddenly we’re able to assemble the most unlikely and glorious epiphanies from the shards of noise, attuned to rhythms that previously presented themselves as impossible equations. Textures become vivid enough to touch. I can snatch a bass drum out of the air and roll it across my palm. Harmonies are rendered in collisions of actual colour, so bright that they cut into the air like knives. In the event that I’m offered such an opportunity to upgrade my internal OS, I’ll update this review accordingly.