Nkisi

The Dark Orchestra
Nkisi
The Dark Orchestra

If we're honest, the recent thawing of Warp’s “abstract dance” imprint Arcola after some 14 years in cold storage was not something anyone was wildly anticipating. In terms of reboot excitement, we probably had more invested in Kevin Bishop tackling Porridge. But instead someone who knows theirs onions and CARES has taken the reins of this sub-label hitherto best loved for its iconic sleeve designs and one or two half-remembered Brothamstates tunes, and turned it into something that feels VERY contemporary, and purposeful, and energising. In fact three releases in it’s fair to say there is no dance-minded imprint that his impressed us more this year, and given that it's drawing on ostensibily unconnected producers from all over the world, there's an amazing continuity to its output...an affinity with, and affection for, the roots of darkside techno and jungle, combined with an ambition - and the firepower - to update that for a more digital and (even!) more self-loathing, spiritually desolate age. After opening its (new) account with the abstract grime wave-jumping of Rian Treanor, and then following up with a killer one-two from Dream Cataloguers 2814 (basically an extended tribute to Burial’s ‘Loner’ - but there’s nothing wrong with that), comes THIS monster, an absolute f****g machine-gun of an EP from Non Worldwide co-founder Nkisi. We were so ready to be unmoved by its vaunted synthesis of African dance rhythms and hardstep gabba/techno sonics (surely too good, too neat, to be true). But instead we’ve had our heads caved in by its postmodern, deep-space hooligan STOMP. This 12” delivers and then some - and instinctively grasps what the original junglists knew, which is that you can be subtle AND brutal, sewer-claustrophobic AND fly high above the rooftops, high-velocity AND fanatically detailed. Until recently Nkisi’s solo rep rested on a white label that no one’s heard, and some self-released stuff on her own say-what-you-see Doomcore Recordings imprint. More recently, she’s contributed to Chino Amobi’s much-feted Paradiso LP. Her brisk but lovingly detailed productions worship at the altar of darkside Belgian rave and, of course, The Mover - hard and fast, no doubt, but also moody, dubwise, full of space (although the way she uses it, that space feels like just another tool of oppression). The Frontal Sickness-ish tekno noir of ‘thedarkorchestra’ sets the scene: a pulverised/pulverising double-time drum attack that invites not dancing but total submission, and looming, necromantic synth-pads pitched somewhere between Detroit and Rufige Cru. On ‘violent tendencies’, things get even more interesting: those strings again, oscillating now between a kind of crude cinematic gothic and strobing bug-eyed trance tropes, then strapped to a bucking, fiendishly edited drum program that aligns firmly with contemporary African dance: Tim Burton’s Batman meets gqom. Ha. ‘G.E.O.’ again trowels on the gabber influences, but maintains a canny sense of space and dubwise dislocation, before the unpromisingly titled but totally self-redeeming ‘Darknoise’ sees us out, wriggling like an eel made of bio-mech steel, its drum attack borrowing from Cut Hands, cheap-and-deep UK ardkore and the drug-demolished, in-the-red jungle terror of Christoph de Babalon and Carl Crack. Badboy/badgirl record, totally essential, a future classic.

 

 

£10.99

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