When Hype Williams first emerged around 2009, it was in a sludgy, tangled mass of lo-fidelity and submerged vocals—a melding of dub, disjointed hip-hop and industrial experimentalism that almost seemed to defy the idea of genre as much as it did actual music. Since then the duo of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland have wandered through various aspects of sound with variable aspects of listenability, but it’s their individual efforts that I’ve found the most rewarding. If the Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going teaser EP is any indication, Copeland’s debut solo LP could be her strongest work to date.
“So Far So Clean” is built on a bubbling, farting cauldron of synths with Incantatrix Inga looming over all before sweeping down on a rising wail of chants and percussion at the track’s halfway point. It’s easily the most ‘expected’ of the tracks, echoing early experiments and making for an almost soothing (if such a word can be applied here) opener—you think you know what you’re in for, which makes the lead-in track “Speak” so surprising. Allegedly produced by Scratcha DVA, it’s a shockingly straightforward and dancey cut with a shimmering, reversed beat; if I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think it was a Nite Jewel B-side. It doesn’t quite work to Copeland’s strengths, and I’m not even sure I actually like it, but it’s a curious and interesting experiment in a non-experimental format nonetheless.
The slinky tribal percussion that kicks off “A&E” (this one definitely produced by Martyn) counterpoints Copeland’s sensually scratchy vocals nicely, and I’m reminded what a pleasure it is to really hear her. Too often, lo-fi production is used as a flimsy Walmart mask to hide low talent: a cop-out Hype Williams have been accused of, but that’s not the case here. “A&E” especially puts the evidence in hand (and ear) that this is a unique and captivating voice. There’s something of trip-hop’s spacey, laid-back and morose sexuality here as well, which was unexpected but somehow fitting with Copeland’s style. I’d be curious to see how such a thing might drip into the mainline consciousness; we’ve reformatted and reconceptualized so many other genres, after all. Despite its B-side status, this one is A-grade material, balancing between the extremes of the previous tracks to find the perfect medium of luscious beauty with hints of tripped-out weirdness. Because this EP exists mainly as a teaser for the full-length, I’m looking forward to see how that balance is maintained in a longer format. Whatever the case, I doubt I’ll be bored.
The Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going EP is out now via Copeland and Blunt’s World Music imprint.