Live Review: Kode9 | Bass Philosophy

Kode9 - Live DJ Set @ Sonotheque Chicago

Reflecting on it now, the day after the show, its funny that I told my roommate before we headed out the door that I was curious about seeing Kode9 but thought I’d probably be disappointed. It happens a lot these days. Producers of great music are pressured out on to the road in support of their studio work, regardless of how well equipped they are to put on an engaging performance. Its getting better in the live arena, my review of Booka Shade from a few weeks ago is a case in point, but there’s still no shortage of laptop producers holed up on a stage, timidly peaking out from behind the glowing apple.

Things aren’t so drastically different when it comes to artists and their DJ sets either. Often an afterthought to their production work, they unenthusiastically stand behind the decks and go through the “DJ” motions, loosely stringing together a random hodge-podge of their own tunes. Thankfully this is not the case with everybody and with each step closer to Sonotheque’s intimate dancefloor last night, it was clear this is far from the way with London’s Kode9 operates.

The owner of Hyperdub, which could be considered one of the best dubstep labels around, Kode9 obviously has a trained ear when it comes to A&Ring but his musical persona goes even deeper than that. Early on, talking to his booking agent, I learned that not only is this mysterioso, who often appears masked in his press shots, a versed selector and top-notch dj, he’s also a tenured philosophy professor and generally only fits music in between his more pressing, academic pontifications. He also plays nothing but dubplates: CD-R’s of songs that may never see proper release, small-run white label pressings that only made it to him and maybe a 100 other jocks throughout London. This was a glimpse into a scene the likes of which doesn’t exist in the US, at least not anymore.

Then there was the music. I think my body may still be a little numb from the constant vibrations that spewed forth from the lounge's Funktion One system. I felt like I was in this strange limbo of sounds recalling jungle, dub soundsystems, raves, 2-steps, and broken beats – a melange of styles past being reinvented and compressed through some space-age filter that turned them out the other side as something completely new. Kode9’s set somehow simultaneously took me back to so many UK dance styles I’ve loved in the past while keeping things completely relevant. It was something to behold and all the while the exceptionally dense, Tuesday night crowd rocked their asses off to all the wobbly-bass, rewinds, and… Township Funk. Yes.



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