The word ‘experimental’ often gets bandied around about music that is, actually, not remotely experimental. Much like when people incorrectly or overuse use the word ‘literally’ to convey something they deem to be more important than it really is. However, Black Is Beautiful is literally experimental. It’s the product of the minds of two beyond-creative bodies combining and brewing a fearsome cocktail of left-field influences into one steaming symphony of sounds.
Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland are Hype Williams. Copeland currently lives in Estonia and Blunt in Lisbon, according to a rare interview they did recently. But it’s never obvious what should and should not be believed about Hype Williams. Since their last release we’ve heard that Dean has joined an Islamic cult and been caught stealing racoons from 16 different taxidermists. Inga meanwhile has apparently had football trials for the Arsenal women’s team. It seems like they have more hyperbole than Mario Balotelli.
Artists revealing as little as possible to the press to heighten intrigue is nothing new, of course. Zomby, for example, was once an anonymous, faceless character that no one could touch and this helped create rumours that he was an early dubstep luminary as well as initiating negative rumours about his maverick personality, essentially creating hype. This hype was justified until his use of Twitter revealed that he really was as outspoken as stories suggested.
Hype Williams can’t be gauged so easily. Even their given names, Inga Copeland and Dean Blunt, are – apparently – pseudonyms. And the intrigue surrounding this duo will only increase. Especially after releasing Black Is Beautiful, their most accessible album to date which contains 15 songs with only the lead off track Venice Dreamway having a named title, the rest sporting mere numbers as names.
Black Is Beautiful exposes the continued sonic development of Hype Williams after last year’s brilliant Kelly Price W8 Gain Vol II EP. Moving from Hippos In Tanks to sign to Kode9‘s Hyperdub label, also home to the likes of King Midas Sound and Burial, they’ve found the perfect sanctuary for a pair of lo-fi, dub-inflected deviants.
Venice Dreamway begins with a looped cackle akin to the laugh from Gorillaz‘ Clint Eastwood before a clusterfuck of improvised drums crashes in with a pre Night Dolls In Hairspray James Ferraro sound flailing atmospherically behind. Altogether more melodic, and almost forming a drink-induced, reverb-laden dream-pop song, is 2. It sports Copeland’s variable vocals taking the persona of cutesy-pop songstress. These changing altogether for the synth-stabbing wobble of 5, where she morphs into a distorted Estonian auger.
There are still plenty of elements that are synonymous with the Hype Williams aesthetic, especially the hunt-and-peck keyboard meddlings of 3, 7 and 14 which use the same 25-year-old rhythm and drum pre-sets with sub-low funk bass. 13 comes straight from the streets of mid-’90s Hackney with the jungle-gait rhythm homologous to the ambient sounds of intelligent drum and bass.
This may be the debut release under their ‘own’ names but Black Is Beautiful has all the hauntingly disarming elements from previously released Hype Williams EPs and LPs – albeit with a touch more cohesion. Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland remain enigmas who are unique to the abstract chill-hop dub sound they’ve forged.