HKE – Loop Matrix
Recommendation: ✂ (“God Energy”, “Memories”)
Loop Matrix is one of three inaugural releases on the Pyramids label in August 2016. Created by Dream Catalogue co-founder HKE, Pyramids is dedicated to the release of “global/spiritual tech music for ghosts” – also known as “ghost tech” – which combines the ambiance and cyberpunk imagery of dreampunk with elements of IDM, hardvapor, and techno music. Loop Matrix is HKE’s first album ostensibly produced in this strange hybrid genre after dabbling with Halo Acid on the No Dreams split, which was released on the similarly-themed tekres label in mid-2016.
Spiritualism, god energy, cosmology, and transcendence had always been major parts of HKE’s body of work, but the latter half of 2016 is when these influences became more apparent and more ingrained within the kind of music he makes. The concept of Loop Matrix is expansive for any album: tracks explore the rings of Saturn in “Saturn Song”, the hypnagogic state of mind in “Dreamjumping”, and the very essence of ghostliness in “Ghost Dream”. “This World” opens the album with a voice singing the eponymous phrase and over and over again while underpinned by a synth arpeggio and driving bass line; the result is a meeting with the sublime.
Loop Matrix uses hip-hop microsample loops against mid/high tempo, four-on-the-floor percussion in a manner similar to footwork music from Hyperdub and Teklife, with substantial downtempo affect on several tracks – no doubt a holdover from HKE’s previous works in vaporwave. “God Energy” is the highlight track there, in which HKE uses icy progressions and anamorphic rhythms akin to Crystal Castles’ second album. There’s also quite a bit of the dreampunk distortion in “Ghost Dream” and “Dreamjumping” – both of which evoke the unorthodox freedom that comes from being lost in fog and knowing that any direction taken is equally likely to lead one to their intended destination. “Saturn Song” features a toy piano melody with rhythms made from breaths, drops, and glitchy synths; fans of Aphex Twin’s “Nannou” from the Windowlicker single would like this track. “Lost” recalls the romance of ELECTRIC▲L TE▲RDROPS from the DARKPYRAMID project.
There are two album features from Dream Catalogue alumni, both of which result in songs that are quite different from the rest of the Loop Matrix milieu.1 VAPERROR – of the genre-defining vaportrap release Mana Pool – arrives on “Safe”, which features some of his trademark polyrhythms and glitchy backing (although played down a bit here) with HKE-centric vocal samples. COCAINEJESUS shows up on “Howl”; this artist is mostly known for his wonky and manic approach to dreampunk and hardvapor music, but “Howl” shows his refined side, taking the craziness down a notch for something a bit more classic, akin to the aforementioned track “Lost”. Either track is well-produced, if lacking a bit of each artist’s personality – it’s a hard balance to make on album features.
As a whole, Loop Matrix is decent, but not the most impressive HKE album. “Memories” and “Dreamjumping” sound like outtakes from another Dream Catalogue project than they do a Pyramids release. More often than not, Loop Matrix is a really good selection of demos, where the tracks seem a bit more simple or a bit more bare than one’s typical HKE, relying too much on repetition and the same-old glitches and inserts used on projects such as Subaeris and Sandtimer and therefore not coming into its own all that much. A lot of the tracks “sound” good, but that’s just HKE doing his thing instead of HKE crafting tracks as a ghost tech producer. Not too shabby as a piece of music production, but after a series of such incredible works as I am Chesumasuta and Transcendent God, it can’t help but feel like a slight let-down in terms of focus – and one that consciously uses previous “tropes” rather than one that seeks to stand out for and on its own.
1. This World – (4:22)
2. God Energy – (5:12)
3. Ghost Dream – (4:09)
4. Saturn Song – (4:06)
5. Lost – (4:36)
6. Safe (feat. VAPERROR) – (3:31)
7. Howl (feat. COCAINEJESUS) – (5:07)
8. Sphinx – (4:49)
9. Dreamjumping – (2:56)
10. Memories – (5:54)
1… and both of which have all-caps names.