He's been a musical powerhouse for a decade now, but this is the first solo album from Steve 'Kode9' Goodman. Until now, almost all of his output has been built around the deep voice and mind-warp poetry of collaborator The Spaceape, aka Stephen Samuel Gordon, who died tragically young last year (as did another close friend, Chicagoan footwork king DJ Rashad).Now, bar the ghostly presence of Gordon's voice on 'Third Ear Transmission', Goodman's beats have to carry a whole LP. And they do.
Considering how much of an impact DJ, producer, and Hyperdub founder Kode9 has had on the underground dance music landscape since the mid-2000s, it's quite astonishing that Nothing is somehow his proper full-length debut as a solo artist. Of course, it might be his first solo album by default, as it's the first work he's produced since the untimely 2014 death of his frequent collaborator the Spaceape, whom he recorded two full-lengths and numerous EPs/singles with. The album also comes a year and a half after the death of DJ Rashad, the beloved Chicago footwork producer whose acclaimed, triumphant 2013 album Double Cup was released on Hyperdub, and whose Teklife crew has become a major part of the label since then.
Nothing is Steve Goodman's first album without Stephen Samuel Gordon, AKA The Spaceape. The MC's baritone was a constant presence in Goodman's work, and arguably part of the fabric of dubstep itself. Gordon lost his battle with cancer late last year, and his absence is strongly felt on Nothing. Inspired by Goodman's recent obsession with zeroes, the album is the foundation for a new live project focusing on the Nøtel, an "evacuated, fully-automated luxury hotel" that exists in a "post-scarcity world." His performances will offer a tour of the Nøtel, whose corporate logo emblazons the album art.
Kode9, also known as Hyperdub label head Steve Goodman, always creates multilayered tracks that sound built from another era or planet entirely. From his work driving the early dubstep scene to the formidable rise and influence of Hyperdub, Goodman’s vision is one that is singular in its devotion to the connective tissues of electronic and dance music genres. In Kode9’s music (and littered throughout the Hyperdub roster) is a harmonious bridge between styles.
Nothing is an antiseptic collage of corporate aesthetics and clean tones that does away with the ominous bass tones that once filled the cavernous empty space of his early dubstep productions. It’s also Kode9’s first album without a co-credit to Spaceape (Stephen Gordon), the gravelly-voiced vocalist whose hyperstitional incantations were a core part of Kode9’s initial project and who passed away from cancer in 2014. With this foregrounding of truly empty space — no reverb, no bass, no Spacape, no projectional emotional landscape — it earns its bleak title while also establishing itself as a project built around an n-n construction of 0 rather than the count 0 as 1 of Badiou and set theory.
The most devastating swath of Kode9’s feverishly awaited full-length debut, Nothing, arrives at the very end. On ten-minute album closer “Nothing Lasts Forever,” intermittent shrieks and caws echo as if bouncing off wet concrete, the sounds of animals left in an abandoned zoo when every other person on the planet has been obliterated by an apocalyptic cataclysm. Then, suddenly, there is almost nothing: only the continuous, almost indiscernible scuffing of a tape reel left to unspool into eternity because there’s not one there to watch it anymore — until a sharp intake of breath ends it all.
Nothing, Kode9's first album since the death of his recording partner, the Spaceape, is just as dark and mournful as one would expect, but it's also full of hope and urgency. Though a handful of these tracks were originally intended for Kode9's third collaboration with the Spaceape, much of Nothing finds the Glaswegian producer elevating his base melodies while coming off more inventive and flexible than ever before. Drawing from a greater palette of sounds and ideas, thanks to his generous use of studio equipment, tracks like the buoyant "Holo" and the rubbery "Respirator" are able to breathe and stretch out, allowing Kode9 to give each track personality.
If the Hyperdub aesthetic soundtracks an urban worst case scenario it comes as no surprise that Nothing hints at a neon requiem. Steve Goodman (Kode9) lost two friends within eighteen months, and now the dubstep originator turns its portentous drone to loss and emptiness. The hybrid, dubbed out sounds of Kode9, and much of his own Hyperdub label, have their foundations planted firmly under crumbling concrete, stories high.
Somewhat surprisingly, Nothing is Hyperdub boss Steve Goodman's solo debut as Kode9, but that's only because his first two releases were joint efforts in tandem with vocalist and poet the Spaceape, who sadly passed away last year. Almost inevitably, his absence and loss seems to inform every aspect of Nothing, from its rather downbeat title to the stark and austere textures of the tracks themselves via track names like 'Notel', 'Void' and 'Nothing Lasts Forever'. With releases by the likes of Burial and Kode9 & The Spaceape's Memories Of The Future, Hyperdub were seen around 2007 as the home of dubstep, but Goodman was always ahead of the game in spotting the need to evolve, which bore fruit with more recent works by Ikonika, Fatima Al-Qadiri, Laurel Halo and Fhloston Paradigm that took dubstep into new territories or charted fresh waters altogether, from sinogrime to modern iterations of house and techno.