Kode9’s Nøtel Review – ‘I stepped into a virtual reality of our post-human, post-capitalist doom’

Kode9’s Notel project could not have arrived at a better time. In the shit storm hellscape that is 2016, we find ourselves looking at the future of our world with ever more dread and uncertainty. In break rooms across the world we talk about the economy, anti-globalisation, Trump and GCHQ but we really have no idea what the fuck it all means for the human race. What happened to the days where we just dreamt of flying cars and hoverboards and not trying to avoid complete annihilation. Have we become disillusioned with the capitalist dream? When the powers that be race to build their iron towers at the cost of everyone else, who will be left to inhabit them?

Kode9’s new show is a step into this void; more of a thought experiment than an audio visual performance. Using the medium of video game nostalgia, we are transported into a post-humanist vision of our future.

For the uninitiated, Kode9 is the head of legendary music label Hyperdub. For the last decade the label has released music that seems to be from a neighbouring or intersecting dimension, from the ethereal works of Burial to the energetic A.D.H.D futurism of footwork music. At the end of 2015 Kode9 released his milestone album “Nothing”, filled with soundbites of our modern digital existence that swerve between harmony and discord. The album soundtracks this newly formed live experience, an A/V collaboration with ‘simulation artist’ Lawrence Lek.

The “CEO Statement” propaganda flyers handed out before the show describe in detail what to expect – “Nøtel Corporation presents a new line of zero-star luxury hotels that embody the concept of Fully-Automated Luxury Communism,” “absent of any humans” and “built to attract the global elite”. You join a sentient drone, floating aimlessly through empty halls as a holograph of the late MC and long-time Hyperdub collaborator, The Spaceape, guides you from beyond the grave.

As the experience continues you find yourself lost in isolation, reminiscent of taking a wrong turn in Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider, searching hopelessly for purpose. As the songs weave seamlessly into the story, it’s hard to imagine they were meant for anything else. Tracks like “Respirator” and “9 Drones” build tension and pace to breaking point as things in the Notel start to unhinge and the vacuous ecosystem descends into chaos – “We built it all for nothing…”

By taking what was already a definitive album and using it to soundtrack such an experience is a perfect example of what Kode9 and Hyperdub have done for over 10 years. To give us that foggy squint at the future that is both unsettling and exciting and leaves us wanting more.

A special mention should also be made to the brilliant warm up acts. Radar Radio DJ Martha provided a warm-up set filled with power ambient and drone artillery whilst Konx-Om-Pax provided dreamy synths of raves long gone, set against visuals of neon koi ponds and space-travelling hippie skulls. We immediately went home and purchased his entire back catalogue.

The Clock Strikes 13 Series is over for another year but we look forward to seeing what incredible shows they have in store for winter 2017, should we still be around to see it…

Click here to find out more about Clock Strikes 13.

Words by David March.

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