In late 2009, the trio King Midas Sound—that would be Kevin “The Bug” Martin, Kiki Hitomi and Trini poet Roger Robinson—released its debut LP, Waiting For You. The atmospheric, sepulchral bass and dub songs were roomy enough to accommodate an army of sounds to go with their sea of Quaaluded emotion. With Waiting For You‘s barebone tracks, artists like the cosmic trip-hop producer Flying Lotus, London-via-Berlin duo Hype Williams (not to be confused with the famed music video director) and Scritti Politti frontman Green Gartside were given free reign to remold King Midas Sound’s debut with new vocals, beats and melodies. The result is Without You, an hour-long exploration of the group’s first full-length work that is every bit as diverse as the artists chosen to work on it and as iron-dense and deeply bassocentric as the original.
Over the course of an hour, Without You travels through crowded, beefed-up reworkings and minimalist, moody tracks that more closely resemble the originals’ vast sonic aesthetic. “Cool Out,” the first track on Waiting For You, clocks in last on Without You. In the hands of Ras G and the Afrikaan Space Programme Network, the song’s hollow bass-humming and reverb-heavy vocals become manic, charged with a disturbing electronic whine and the uncomfortable clatter of laser guns and sirens. Ras G’s hectic reworking is unlistenable in the way that Flying Lotus’ “Cock Catcher” is hard to stomach: aggressive, pitchy and prodded along by a deep, plunging beat. FlyLo himself chose Waiting For You‘s most exotic, hypnotizing and loose beat to metamorphose, molding “Lost” with his own sonic fingerprints by populating the track with an irresistible lurching bass drum and video game harmonies. In true Flying Lotus style, his reworked beat is composed of a litany of individual elements he orders into a tight, neat song that ends just as it hits its stride.
While FlyLo’s contribution may be all too brief, other artists took their time. Gang Gang Dance‘s work on “Earth A Kill Ya” is a sprawling piece that unfolds from electronic sighs into 45-degree bass drops, vertical ascents and quirkily fleshed-out beats. Gang Gang Dance’s addition is a dark horse candidate for one of the best tracks on the album; faced with holding its own among the likes of well-established names like Flying Lotus, Hype Williams and Hyperdub founder Kode9, the group produced a track that remains an entertaining and attention-grabbing standout.
Somewhere around the halfway mark, Without You returns to its parent album’s cavernous hallways of sound. Hype Williams’ version of “Sumtime” adds a booming bass and a layer of fuzzy choral vocoder breaths over the ticking analog near-silence of the original, but his work remains minimal and subdued. Wiliams’ version retains the ominous, lingering creepiness of Waiting For You‘s “Sumtime” as well as the absurd and goofy lyrics, like “Sumtime she lose herself in the music, sumtime she like a little drink” or “Sumtime she wake up happy, like a baby phoenix.” Kode9 and the Spaceape‘s reworking of “Meltdown” likewise preserves the dark moodiness of the original track, reorganizing the bass beat without filling the song with noise and leaving the track as ambient and coolly zoned-out as its parent.
Without You goes many places in its 60 minutes—Kuedo‘s dreamy-industrial bass musings, Kiki Hitomi’s whispery vocals and bastardized hip-hop beats, Gang Gang Dance’s jam-electro-band bursts of sound—but it is certainly no amateur hour.