Review Summary: While [i]Memories of the Future[/i] suffers from a few minor hiccups, it is ultimately an intriguing and eclectic offering from one of the founding fathers of dubstep in the UK.
As 2006 started to wane, Steve Goodman could very easily have just called the year a success and settled down. He had recently earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, his budding label Hyperdub had just released its first ever album - Burial’s self-titled debut - to overwhelming acclaim, and he was holding regular lectures on sonic culture and media production at the University of East London. Deck accomplished, right? Fortunately for us, Goodman’s busy year had little effect on the work of his DJ alias Kode9, and late 2006 saw the release of Memories of the Future
, an eclectic and brooding collaboration with enigmatic MC The Spaceape.
is artfully diverse; it weaves an impressive array of emotions and styles from a sparse soundscape. By turns it roils and seethes, rolls and slides, rocks and sways, all the while maintaining a simple but distinctive percussive palette. Where “Glass” meanders and creeps over a bare-bones backbeat, “Backward” marches resolutely across the throaty wash of ride cymbal, and while “Curious” stutters along under the weight of metallic clicks and dissonant wheezes, “Kingstown” practically floats atop echoing tabla. On standout track “9 Samurai” (one of only two tracks that does not feature The Spaceape’s spoken philosophizing), Goodman is in top form, carefully layering a soft tribal cadence over distant swells of brass and insidious bass frequencies sure to rattle even the most mediocre speaker system.
Vocally, Spaceape brings an intriguing component to Kode9’s music. His voice is a smoldering bassline of its own, adding an angular fluctuation to each track and deepening the rhythmic variance of Memories
. Spoken word can be surprisingly versatile, as the MC demonstrates with a reggaeton inflection (“Portal”), sinister invocations (“Bodies”), or even a tremulous whisper (the excellent “Correction”). The album is also lyrically satisfying, with The Spaceape’s gloomy meditations running a gamut of defiance, paranoia, social alienation, and even infatuation (“You and me/ What did that mean?/ I tried hard to master your language but could only manage colloquialisms...” [from "Correction"]).
Sadly, Spaceape seems either unwilling or unable to expand into more dichotomous styles of vocalization, leaving him rather hard pressed to match Kode9’s amorphous production, and rendering his component of the album a little flat as Memories
progresses. Furthermore, some of the ideas present simply do not work; “Addiction” is merely a lyrical reiteration of “Portal” with some of the words omitted (which is as thrilling as it sounds), and the truly mediocre “Nine” repeats the titular number so often it dwindles into an apocalyptic grocery list (“Nine days of pain…nine days drained…” [from "Nine"]). These moments are disappointing, but they are also very rare and by no means detract from the majority of the album (which is superb). The truly frustrating thing about their scarcity is that they could just as easily have been another stellar offering, and these little hiccups keep Memories of the Future
from becoming a truly incredible experience.