Something is afoot at Her Records. Last year’s Her Records Volume 4 compilation felt like a defining moment in the label’s history, a crystallization of the varied rhythms and textures that have been steadily encroaching on the label’s hypermodern sound. Linkups with Salviatek’s Lechuga Zafiro, Swing Ting’s Florentino, and STAYCORE’s Dinamarca have further cemented Her’s place in the global club ecosystem, marking their productions with the Afro-Caribbean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern percussion styles favored by much of the club music underground.
Hives is co-founder Suda’s (f.k.a. Sudanim) first release for the label since 2014’s Pleasure Flood. It operates as a summation of these mutations, fusing Her’s sleek, sensuous aesthetic with a range of influences1 that chart a course far beyond the London underground. It’s an album of hinges and layers, its immanent sound always foregrounding the intricacies of its relations. Here, Suda favors patient evolution over vertiginous ascent, luxuriating in the mid-tempos as his tracks unspool, gradually coalescing into strange new objects — part-human/part-animal/part-machine — their gleaming innards the remnants of subsumed, submerged, subverted club structures, brilliantly revealed to the world in all of their imbricated porosity.
Here, the affects and sonics of the club twist and knot together, agglomerating and transforming, in a state of constant becoming, attentive and wary, a woven plane of virtuality, a fertile ground, an enveloping topography, startled and startling, absorbing and producing. Sudden rushes of percussive violence are followed by languorous atmospherics, concision and expansion taking their turns in balletic embrace. On “Faced,” throttled wisps of melody, shards of metallic percussion, and tortured trap horns coalesce to form a slow-moving leviathan of sound. It lumbers, grotesque and misshapen, beset on all sides by sonorous drums that mercilessly slough chunks off its flanks. These tracks bear an elemental quality, a sense that their constituent parts have been locked in battle since time immemorial.
Consequently, Hives feels animated by an eerie half-life, the skins of its tracks mottled with the traces of other genres, flecked with uncertainty and potentiality. There is no finality, nor resolution. Here, the club is not an object to be grasped, but a space to be problematized; unpicked and unleashed. “Knotweed” hews closest to this space, its chiming bells and weighty kicks bringing to mind Sami Baha’s arabesque trap and Kuedo’s fallen futurism. But the track’s coolness and malice situate it elsewhere, in some fertile middle ground between ambience and impact. “Inter” leaves the club altogether. It shivers sickly, its dank bass pulses and prehensile drums splattering noisily as they form into oozing lumps and spider-like webs, its metallic groans mournful and impressionistic, its drums and melodies locked together in deathless ecstasy.
These are fleshy works, exposing insides to outsides, or more properly, entertaining no illusions as to the difference between the two. Fleshy in Roberto Esposito’s sense: “Flesh is nothing but the unitary weave of the difference between bodies. It is the non-belonging, or rather the intra-belonging, that allows what is different to not hermetically seal itself up within itself, but rather, to remain in contact with its outside.” Here, flesh designates that skein of being that braids objects together in their liveliness, their shared force and energy. Esposito, again: “To fully grasp the meaning of the flesh requires that we be capable of simultaneously conceiving the outside and the inside of the body: one in the other and one for the other. It is the internal threshold that reverts the inverted; and which therefore makes the individual body no longer such.”
Hives is the sonic body horror that obtains, in the maw of the posthuman condition, the feelings that emerge with the realization that the human as we know it has been torn apart. It is the sound of impermanence, vulnerability, and contingency, of exposure to the vicissitudes of the outside. Fear, excitement, anguish, and potential are threaded together with grace and force, as new meanings and old truisms take up residence inside high definition percussive volleys and mercurial melodies2.
Hives is no soundtrack for the future. Rather, it speaks of a sonic topography from which we may imagine possible futures, of brilliant promise and total destruction. It is an album defiantly of the present, of our current state of simultaneous global connection and global collapse. We forget that imagining the future requires a reckoning with the present, that the future does not arise simply through perpetual gleaming progress. It is embodied, it is bloody, it emerges. It does not arrive.
1. From the press release: “Ekkehard Ehlers, Anna Meredith, Lilja, Scratcha DVA, T-Pain, Dotorado Pro, TCF, Uninamise, Sophia Loizou, MM, Nate Dogg, Drippin, Visionist, Boi-1da, Zora Jones, Kid Antoine, DJ Marfox, Mssingno, Geng, DJ Blizzard, L.A. Chat, Murlo, Busy Signal, CYPHR”
2. Jeremy Cox’s mixing/mastering job is immaculate throughout, as it was on last year’s compilation and MM’s 2015’s MM EP.