Release Date: Oct 14, 2016
Record label: Hyperdub
Typically known for brash grime bangers, sunny U.K. funky tracks, or future soul vibe-outs, London producer DVA enters bold new territory with the excellent NOTU_URONLINEU, his first release billed as DVA [Hi:Emotions]. The album's concept involves a global corporation called Hi:Emotions that connects (and controls) society through its eponymous product, a virtual reality headset.
Last year, speculative architect Liam Young created three panoramic animations depicting vast dystopian cityscapes. Young attempted to explore the relationship between technological change and the architecture of our cities. In one of his animations entitled “Edgelands”, he envisioned huge city like structures that house all of our private data.
It wouldn't be accurate to call NOTU_URONLINEU DVA's experimental album. After all, the London producer has been pushing boundaries for years. In his early grime days, he was making jaw-dropping stuff; when UK funky was all the rage, he put out the bizarre, lumbering "Natty." Since UK dance music has become a hybrid free-for-all, he's kept up to speed with a series of unhinged EPs.But Leon Smart's first album as DVA [Hi:Emotion] does feel a bit different.
Leon Smart might not quite have the profile of Hyperdub’s bigger names, the likes of Laurel Halo and Burial, but it’s hard to think of a figure more emblematic of the UK label’s mission to short-circuit the familiar rhythms and grooves of dance music. As DVA, Smart came up through London’s grime scene, producing for figures like Wiley and becoming a familiar face at Rinse FM, where he was an energetic presence at the helm of the former pirate station’s Grimey Breakfast Show. For all this, Smart’s own productions have increasingly shunned category, exploring a liminal space between grime, house and UK funky—a space that, for want of a better term, we might as well call Hyperdub music.
DVA [Hi: Emotions] 'Notu_Uronlineu' (Hyperdub)Just when you think you know all you need to about an artist – in this case Leon Smart, aka Scratcha, aka DVA, aka DVA [Hi:Emotions] and so on – he goes and releases an album that forces you to reassess everything. Witty, conceptual, original and above all both musically exciting and enjoyable, it’s an understatement to say that DVA’s second album ‘NOTU_URONLINEU’ is mature. While playfully addressing deadly serious themes of digital duality and encroaching corporate control, it strikes out boldly from his former sound while still relating to it.
It might help to know, when contemplating this remarkable album, that [Hi:Emotions] is a pseudonym of ScratchaDVA — former Rinse FM breakfast show host, Tinie Tempah tour DJ and Hyperdub mainstay. Then again, it might not, as DVA is one of those brilliantly unique figures in modern music who genuinely defies characterisation. You might have him pegged as a grime producer, dubstep DJ or UK Funky don - and there are elements of all this in his work.