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Vital to the Hyperdub label’s success is its support of mavericks, and its refusal to recognise a boundary between urban club sounds and experimental electronica. All of which makes Leon Smart, aka DVA, a perfect fit. He’s been at the heart of underground London for some time, both as a producer at the heart of grime and UK funky and for six years as Scratcha, the wisecracking host of Rinse FM’s Grimey Breakfast Show. He’s been able to veer from Caribbean-tinged dancefloor bangers to smooth soul/r’n’b, but also has a deep love for weird synth sounds and trippy, glitchy atmospherics which have kept his releases entirely individualist. ‘Reach the Sun’, which kicks off his debut album, manages to encapsulate all this. It begins, daringly, with over a minute of abstract, crackling synth noise, which slowly coalesces into a slow, loping house groove with a cut-up female vocals coaxing you in. It’s soulful and cosmic, funky and deeply weird in equal measures, and sets the tone perfectly for what follows.
Quite often thereafter the clattering rhythms are uncategorisable – if you want nerdy detail, many of them are in 3/4 instead of dance music’s standard 4/4 – but all are rooted in deep dancefloor knowledge. There are sweaty 90s Detroit techno beats (‘Polyphonic Dreams’), floating r’n’b vocals (Vikter Duplaix on ‘Madness’, AL on ‘Why U Do’), dramatic soundtrack strings (‘Where I Belong’) and a raft of rich, buzzing analogue synths that bind it all together like the sauce on a hearty meal. It’s rare an album creates a world so weird yet so coherent and absorbingly musical, but DVA has done it here; the only reasonable response is to take a deep breath and dive in.
File under Psychedelic sci-fi soul
Download ‘Pretty Ugly’, ‘Bare Fuzz’
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