Music Review: GAIKA – Basic Volume

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Basic Volume

[Warp; 2018]

Rating: 2/5

This is what Batman would sing, alone, to himself, in his Batcave on a night where no Bat-Signal signals, if he could sing, which he can’t.

This is what the white man’s world doesn’t want to know. Of the black body within a country that doesn’t recognize it. Of the black body being scanned and feared and exploited and shot and killed. Of the mouth that tells it it can’t be British.

This is the false hope that all of this racial and political strife will turn into tears and tears and tears drifting down every cheek in England, of every color, and we will, amid our tears, recognize that we have more in common than we thought, and that life is but a dream.

This is what it sounds like to be rid of your body but still have it, and love it; to transcend it.

This is sound as a form of rebellion, resistance. Of the bodily, of the body’s energy held in a lightness and shedding a soft, unspeakable tone: a light frequency you can’t see.

This is an inner emptiness. An identity mistaken for nothing. Something glossed over as nothing when in reality, it was something. Karmic imprints in our bodies. Traces of the past. Scorpions glowing at night from the moon’s ultraviolet light.

This is how to resist the temptation of a supposed utopic, post-racial space.

This is coming to terms with the beauty of anxiety, stress, physical pain, depression, and thoughts of inadequacy.

This is the sound of having something that they don’t want you to have and that you can’t get rid of. Something sinister, drifting quickly toward nebulousness. Something powerful. Something that you can’t speak of. Something unnameable.

This is how to repel the Evil Eye. How to allow your melancholic restlessness to morph into angelic postulation. How to start praying again. How to restart the ability to imagine who you are. How to redefine your limits.

This is the sound of a thin stench of burning bone coming from a kebab shop’s dumpster.

This is the sound of no end in site.

Warp turns the gothic dancehall knob to 11, announces debut album by Gaika, Basic Volume

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What more do you need to know? After releasing two EPs for the venerable electronica label — Spaghetto and The Spectacular Empire (not to mention a few self-released mixtapes for good measure) — Warp Records is turning shit up up UP by finally announcing the release of Brixton-based Gaika’s proper debut full-length album.

Need more factual incentives? How about these apples:

Due July 27 on digital (with other, slightly less-electro-tinged formats to follow), Basic Volume’s 15 tracks — which include production from the likes of SOPHIE, Jam City, Dre Skull, and more — freely intermingle some primo signifiers of British reggae, gothic-dancehall, and soundsystem culture with some deep-ass ideas concerning race, personal philosophies, and political ideologies. “My thing has always been: be yourself — whatever you are, be that — and people will walk towards it,” Gaika says. “I am whatever I say I am. And I want that to apply to all people of colour, all black people. This idea of what we like, make, do and how our art can be defined from outside of us is something I’ll actively try to disrupt.”

I’m sure you’re sold by now, but just to kick the tantalization dial up another notch, check out the new video for album single “Crown & Key” (directed by Paco Raterta) down below, which you can purchase now while you wait for the rest of Basic Volume’s basic volumetric volume to materialize.

Gaika announces debut album, leads with ominous new single ‘Crown & Key’

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Brixton-born Gaika has announced his debut album, Basic Volume, will be released on July 27 on Warp Records.

Steeped in gothic multitudes, the forthcoming LP is rich with high-concept imagery and futuristic beats. Gaika wants to shift where “normal” is for black UK artists, and as a result, his music is severely distinct, far from the grime, reggae, or coffee table music he explains defines his region.

Basic Volume will feature production work from modern pop’s greatest provocateur, SOPHIE, as well as Jam City — who worked closely as an executive producer on Kelela’s debut —  as well as Dre Skull, Nick Leon, and others.

According to the artist, the LP of “gothic dancehall and industrial electronics” is influenced by “academia, British reggae sound systems, philosophy and political theory… [intersecting] with meditations on his own identity.”

“My thing has always been: be yourself—whatever you are, be that—and people will walk towards it,” it continues with Gaika saying. “I am whatever I say I am. And I want that to apply to all people of colour, all black people. This idea of what we like, make, do and how our art can be defined from outside of us is something I will actively try to disrupt.”

So far, Gaika’s led Basic Volume with the severely sociopolitical new single, “Crown & Key.” “God save the roadmen, goons, and thugs, and the youths beggin’ boots, get their racks from drugs,” he half sings. Evidently refraining from genre limitations, “Crown & Key” is a meeting of industrial dancehall and gothic grime that is unique to Gaika and Gaika alone. His free-thought is carrying an unmistakable air of refreshing British grit, and that’s another incredibly compelling defining feature in itself.

HOCO Fest 2017: featuring Elysia Crampton, Yves Tumor, Pharmakon, Lee Fields, and more just north of the border

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The last time I visited Arizona in the summer, I mistakenly went outside during the day, and it felt like my eyes were constantly witnessing the presence of God for the first time. Luckily, Tucson’s Hotel Congress conforms to standards by having an indoors, because the lineup for their annual HOCO Fest has just been announced, and it’d be a shame for audiences and artists alike to have their retinas seared due to that ridiculous desert sunlight during the summer. HOCO Fest does market itself as a partial homage to the AZ “borderlands,” but there’s only so much value in sampling local fare and listening to “genre-spanning” music while blood drips down your cheeks and into your craft beer. Sunglasses are only an option as long as they remain in their solidified state! Outdoor festivals in the Southwest are a recipe for involuntary clown makeup, which is actually a mix of melted plastic and your crimson contents!

Anyway, HOCO Fest 2017, the festival’s 12th edition, is set to take place August 30 – September 3 at the aforementioned Hotel Congress in Tucson. The lineup suggests a conscious attempt to appeal to a more experimentally-minded crowd. That lineup includes Thundercat, John Maus, Yves Tumor, Elysia Crampton, GAIKA, Pharmakon, Lee Fields & The Expressions, and more. Check out the full lineup here. Prices for passes and single-day tickets are very, very reasonable.

Feature: 2016: Favorite Videos

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As usual, music videos remain stalwart at the front lines of audiovisual innovation. And while P.T. Anderson may’ve directed the shit out of that no-nonsense, edit portal sequence in Radiohead’s “Daydreaming” video, we were more interested in the enduring and ever-refined tradition of classical presentation. The vocalist addresses the audience in a fetching mise en scène, and we are made to understand how inextricable a performer’s visual flair and body language is from their sound. While our list is rife with vids celebrating novel facade, there is also the unceremonious dropping of facade in evidence (along with the inevitable free choreographies of corporeal denial).

Whether it was slo-mo rogue-opulent smoke-and-mirrors extravagance, porno tweaked to our dementedly exacting aesthetic imperatives, perspective tangents off of our point-and-shoot bloodlust, the famous sleeping soundly while an unseen intruder watches and waits, brutal brushes with destabilizing awarenesses splitting your head open and leaving nothing to the godforsaken imagination, or just Yung Lean playing pretend Kurt Cobain in the woods, 2016’s best videos had everything and nothing to say. There was an odd, in-the-moment-infallible sanctuary to even the most passive of these diversions. Flaccid slings and broken arrows, spilled from on high with drooling confidence. Steep grades and stiff grips fronted at our mangy corner of stinking heat, roundly searing us raw-eyed, hazy hellevision junkies. All the while, a reflecting skin of imperceptibly expanding circumference has lapped at our proud, idle, and yet radiant flirtations with disassociation and pulse-pounding antipathies unknown.

We shut our solemn mouths and tubed our stupid time away. Together. As ‘twas and ever shall be.


Director: Televape

Forever, vaporwave will stem from identity issues involving cultural indifference. I was introduced to vaporwave as a trans-aesthetic genre that toed the fine line of accepting when and where one can engage with humanity in a post-nostalgic canvas. And still, vaporwave remains haunted, redundant, high-noon, midnight marinade, smeared, Terminator 2 [chopped and screwed], mistaken for a soap opera, “and I’d probably enjoy it in English.” Hilarious! @tinymixtapes #FavoriteVaporwaveLabel2016 Watching テレヴァペ’s is genuinely upsetting. Who are these women? What am I misunderstanding? Please, explai— actually, I’d rather not know and let the pixelated image-withdrawal blissfully trail empty memories between earlobes.


“Sin Rumbo”

Director: Jesse Kanda

L’Arrivée D’un Train En Gare De La Ciotat terrified audiences in 1985. The train appears in the background, moves across the space, disappears in the bottom left of the screen, and audiences screamed: What keeps images from crashing through the frame? Do frames keep us safe? Arca violates the frame to create offscreen between-places, the overflow of trans-forms, Entrañas. Inside-out reverie finds mutant cohesion in the body-bending cinema of Jesse Kanda, but for frequent collaborators, there’s still something sick between the frames of “Sin Rumbo.” It’s not the unfolding billowing rippling dying flesh of Kanda’s other images; it’s Arca’s bruised face, sweat and hematoma and inner fluids outer, a plea of “no saber.” Frames won’t save us. Our consensual overflow of frame is an art of creating safeness; aggressive laceration of that same flesh is trauma. “Sin Rumbo” is the image of violated body, of fluids spilled out on a nightclub floor, eyes looking back at us watching. We look away, terrified: What keeps images from crashing through the frame?



Director: Sam Shea, James Thomas Marsh

What is the limit of a body? Is it a fixed thing, or is it flexible? How far can one body be changed and remade through imagination or force of will? In “Ecdysisyphus,” Eartheater plunges into these questions, uploading her own body into a 3D cosmos and throwing it all in flux: melting, duplicating, shattering like clay and ultimately flattening into a wisp thrown through the wind over some moonscape. Much as how Eartheater’s music challenges the borders of genre, song structure, and performance, here she pokes at and deflates the limits of physical space, whether through recreating herself as a digital model, freed to do “impossible” things, or in the constantly shifting sci-fi/low poly style that disrupts anything like realism. Condensing liftoff and comedown into one burst, this is one trip that lingers in waves long after it ends.


“Buta” feat. Miss Red and Serocee

Director: GAIKA

The club as a moratorium on rationality, intoxication as a vessel of the supernatural, erotic gyration doubling as incantatory rituals. GAIKA and his creative team put all that into video form by taking lessons on simplicity from the unlikeliest of sources: Trading a bland pop rapper for a vengeful shaman, those pastels that invited your boring uncle to create his first memes for a shebeen’s grimy black light, pursuing in the essential rattling of Brixton bass music the insinuations of the netherworld. In short, by manifesting through images what he has forever felt in his own flesh: a black British musician in a London amidst a ruthless class war. The result is a video that, much like GAIKA’s music, embraces his status as a perennial suspect of savagery; proud to bear his original stigma, anointed in the transgression of the nocturnal. Thus, he delivers an audiovisual piece with enough menace and authority to claim: “I am GAIKA, and this is my kingdom. Behold my power!”

Jenny Hval

“Female Vampire”

Director: Jenny Berger

Now I know what it feels like to get a Snapchat from Satan. The video for “Female Vampire,” the lead single on Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch, was shot entirely on an iPhone by Norwegian director Jenny Berger Myher. It would fit well in any of the dark, trippy 1970s horror flicks that inspired it. The video follows a group of cryptically dispassionate young women out of a subway station and into an orgy of face peeling. That the skin is clearly artificial makes these scenes only slightly less disturbing. After everyone has a handful of someone else’s flesh, the video trails off with close-up shots of the women’s pained faces trapped behind metal fencing. An act of liberation melts into an image of captivity. “It hurts everywhere,” whispers Hval. “But at least it hurts so good.”

Kanye West


Director: Kanye West

Released to instant infamy (even when the video only starred one President), “Famous” got the people going in an ethically bankrupt, especially Kanye West fashion: its demolition of intimacy, the triggering juxtaposition of abusers and victims, a precisely inflammatory body-cast. A live-mural of elision and capture, “breathing and imagining,” before the #MannequinChallenge, before Kim was attacked. Fame is a panoply of gazes, never neutral, never pure, but “Famous” bookends its overdetermined slumber party with pastoral imagery, a foil for the semiopolitics beading at the video’s every pore. When Kanye meets our gaze, near the video’s end, his eyes seem to repeat his earlier quote, “We culture.” His bootleg iconogasm was exploitative, disturbing, transfixing, provocative. Liberated? Not like this, no matter what Kanye wants (us) to feel.


Kel Valhaal

“Tense Stage”

Director: AUJIK

Unknown Japanese animator AUJIK delves deep within the tunnels of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s intricate Qabala in the warping, petrified video for “Tense Stage.” Burrowing straight to the core of a fabricated dimensional cerebrum, AUJIK discovers a pulsing, vibrant scenery of cheap distortions, cultural artifact, and luscious internal astrology, pulling us to the absolute bottom of the well before revealing impossible doors that lead back to the outside. It’s an ever-flowing, radiating garbage heap, a porridge of majesty and crap that beckons us even as its destination becomes increasingly unknowable. Somehow, by the time we reach the twin halos at the passage’s end, it feels like we’ve learned something terrifying.

Lil Yachty

“1 Night”

Director: Josh Goldenberg and Rahil Ashruff

Green screens inevitably equal fun, and when they’re done super right, as in the spazzy aquatic scene scapes of Lil Yachty’s “1 Night” video, it’s silly as bliss. Directed, produced, and edited by Josh Goldenberg and Rahil Ashruff of NYC studio Goldrush, the hyper-saturated visuals are dense with meme-inspired gems, including, but not limited to, a shot of Yachty modeling in Yeezy Season 3, a really cute kitten, some prime use of your favorite nautical emojis, Gerald from Hey Arnold! wearing Yachty braids that then explode into rocket launchers, a split-second shot of a burning boat, cute cameos by manga artist Akira Ito and social media stars Lean Squad, Yachty squatting on a surfboard next to a fake hammerhead shark in full orange wader regalia — I won’t go on, just go indulge.

Tim Presley

“Long Bow”

Director: Guy Kozak

Alive together and nodding. At a modestly attended live event, we mute our enthusiasm to ward against the echo chamber of fleeting attention. Stoic self-awareness is a default position of decorum, but it’s gotten to be its own stupid dance. When the “singer” in this video takes a knee for the breakdown, a ring of camera operators hover over him, and one abruptly flits to the right. The ragged edits and surplus of angles on these uncanny mundane reflexes play like jokey shrugs at existential apoplexy. Like sharp turns from holding out to letting go. We suddenly perceive all manner of congregation for the oversanctified mess that it is, and embrace it anyway. We proceed to just jam on that sound and bite our pursed lip down. We tap our fingers to the rhythm on a splash-prone cup. We firmly perch on enjoying the ride, like a pomeranian on a swing set.


“Era (ft. Kastle, Born In Flamez & Gronos1)”

Director: Rob Jabbaz

A couple months after ruinist futurism duo WWWINGS released their debut LP PHOENIXXX on Planet Mu, their entrenched battlesound met up with Taipei-based Rob Jabbaz’s entrenched battleground. “A story about forgotten equipment” turning on and lashing out against their environment and one another like a sentient MechWarrior uproar, the unkept industrialization from Jabbaz and GXXOST (f.k.a. Lit Internet) and AWRWSW (f.k.a. Lit Daw) is a short film with major-picture intrigue.

Young M.A


Director: a piece by guy x Young M.A

In a hip-hop year dominated by industry titans and schizophrenic fashion-rap, “Ooouuu” rose coolly above the noise to bless us with the Brooklyn rapper’s focused, unassuming vision. The accompanying visual, which for many (myself included) served as an introduction to Young M.A, is consistent with her quiet self-assurance: for the first 45 seconds, M.A and her crew silently eat Chinese takeout, pour champagne, and drink Hennessy. Then the smoky, smasssshhed intro and the quintessential crew love shots: standing on the street corner, vibing in the crib. The video birthed as many visual memes as the track did lyrical ones: Young M.A on the couch, turning to Eli on the right, “Ayo Eli, why they testing me?,” and then to bro on the left, “Like I ain’t got a hitter to the left of me;” the “Headphanie” line, coinciding with the dome-receiving motion performed ‘round the world; M.A’s signature gold front-touting freeze frame, which would eventually become the album art for the digital single and which made the record instantly identifiable in the Apple Music store. The video has a special aura, because you can tell everyone participating knew that something special was happening: the sense of imminent success is palpable, and at 86 million views and counting, this video rose to the top without any industry support or wave-jumping: “These haters on my body/ Shake ‘em off.”

Yung Lean

“Miami Ultras”

Director: Marcus Söderlund


Leany moves his weight in soaked earth. Wilted sprouts of raspy sincerity sprout at his self-dug grave.


Bucket hats and trading cards are shed for the fruits of fertile ground. Flora drips from a formless dress. Fresh blood clings to neatly trimmed follicles. The forest exhales wintry puffs of vapor. Lean’s ego may lie six feet under, but the formerly(?) Sad Boy is something more than alive.

GAIKA surprise-releases SPAGHETTO EP on Warp

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From his home base in Brixton, GAIKA has previously expressed an affinity for Prince and how the latter wasn’t especially bound by societal coaxing in his attire or his output as one of the most memorable artists of the 20th century. We’d certainly all be better off if we made a point to question the role that mob notions of normativity have on our superficial and actual selves, and in that respect, the author of prior mixtapes MACHINE and SECURITY has just surprise released (with no warning whatsoever) his debut EP for Warp, titled SPAGHETTO.

SPAGHETTO continues the outsider take on personal issues that are ultimately political, and GAIKA does this by simultaneously sending core-shaking rhythms and earnest lyrics directly to our ear orifices. There’s something to be said for the universality of politics in human life, and on that front, he expounded:

SPAGHETTO is a collection of love letters to humanity and individuals I’ve loved and lost. We are one, no matter how much they want to divide us. On some level this collection of songs and images are testament to the bonds we make as outsiders and the decisions we take through living with those bonds. The songs are deeply personal, but I can’t ignore the greater context and want to make sure the complete work exists, not only about my inward experience, but also that of all recent immigrants (and their primary descendants).

SPAGHETTO is Act I of a “three part audio-visual creatives series.” Look forward to Act II: Another Hole In Babylon and Act III: Glad We Found It some time in the near future. Here’s the entirety of Act I:

GAIKA signs to Warp, shares new song from upcoming 3D album

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GAIKA, “the sound of modern London”(at least according to Pigeons and Planes), is no longer a free agent. The Brixton-based rapper and producer, who specializes in a spine-chilling, dystopian blend of trap, dancehall, and R&B, has just officially signed to Warp Records. He has also released a brand new track: a harsh, punchy banger titled “3D.”

GAIKA got on everyone’s radar when his second mixtape, SECURITY, which we loved here at TMT. dropped in March. We also loved his first mixtape too, which was out late last year.

Listen to “3D” below, and then check out the trippy video for one of SECURITY’s standouts, “Buta (feat. Serocee and Miss Red)”.