Perhaps no artist gets into the lows and highs of sound quite like Steve Goodman. When we say "low," we're talking the U.S. military and FBI "psychoacoustic correction" techniques used to root out Panamanian strongman-CIA stooge Manuel Noriega as well as David Koresh's Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, or the pesky anarcho-protesters at the recent G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. And when we say "high," we're referring to an ultrasonic "teen-repellent device" — developed using a sonic register supposedly only heard by those younger than 25 years old — that's a device to disperse kids hanging out in British malls or loitering on a street corner near you.
Goodman, who heads arguably the world's most innovative and prolific underground dance label of the past five years (that'd be London's Hyperdub), records and DJs under the pseud Kode9. He also lectures about sonic culture at the University of East London and publishes incredibly readable academic shit (like the info above from his Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear for MIT Press). He's also who you want when you need to get your bad vibe really on ... and Kode9 is bringing his gear to our shores next week when he plays his first-ever gig in downtown Detroit proper at the Magic Stick. More sick vibes will be provided by Flying Lotus, the L.A.-based dread hip-hop experimentalist whose quality family tree includes great-aunt Alice Coltrane.
Contacting Goodman's North American reps in New York — Backspin Promotions, led by Carl Craig collaborator Gamall Awad — we tried to track down the elusive Kode9 last week using a series of Detroit-centric questions as bait. Like: How did he lure west side wunderkind Kyle Hall into the Hyperdub extended family? The 18-year-old Hall has a new single — "Kaychunk/You Know What I Feel" — out next month, and he remixed Darkstar's sweet "Aidy's Girl is a Computer" for the label last year. Until those answers roll in, if they do, we'll recall the only other time Goodman performed in the area, at Pontiac's Crofoot, in July 2008. We had dinner with him before the show and walked around an eerily uninhabited city center. He chain-smoked, consumed no alcohol, politely took questions from our friends about Burial — the breakout, off-center dubstep star Goodman "discovered" in 2004 and whose "South London Boroughs" was Hyperdub's first release: HDB001 — and we later watched him fight (more or less) successfully with the sound and lighting guy to get the live specs he wanted. He proceeded to rock a room of about 20 people with obscure riddims and dubs in sublime total fucking darkness. Perfect. We didn't even have to break out our sunglasses on the dance floor.
The last 20 months have seen Goodman ascend to great heights on a global scale. Last fall, a combo retrospective, with a disc of new material called 5: 5 Years of Hyberdub, was released to a consensus of glowing reviews. It included newer signees Cooly G ("Weekend Fly") and Ikonika ("Sahara Michael") — two female artists not afraid to mix it up on the low-end with the bad-ass bass boys; contributions from Zomby, Joker, former Ann Arborite Samiyam (now based in L.A.), Rustie, plus a tasty reinterpretation of the Specials' "Ghost Town" by Kode9 and frequent collaborator Spaceape. Flying Lotus' hip shaking "Disco Balls" was also included, as were tracks by the Bug and King Midas Sound, two brilliant (we don't use the word often, only when we're forced) bass-groove-poetry sound systems led by Kevin Martin. If you were really paying attention, you might remember him from Techno Animal and his contributions to Sonic Boom's Spectrum and Mark Stewart & the Mafia way back in the 1990s. Forgivable if you don't. But worth the check.
After scouring our electronic mail boxes and Twitters, etc., for signs of the mighty Kode9, we think he's out there in space somewhere, insanely practicing, talking or writing about the dark rhythmic arts. So we detour and turn our attention to his colleague Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison, 26,), who simply killed his audience (every last one of us) when he performed at last year's Movement Festival. In addition to FlyLo playing with Kode9 in Detroit (that's April 1, circle the date), he is also premiering a live score for Harry Smith's Heaven & Earth Magic, an avant-garde animated film made in 1962, at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Screening's this Friday, March 26, at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor.
After the film, the beats roll on at the Blind Pig (208 S. First St., Ann Arbor), where Ann Arbor 24-hour-party-people Dark Matter host Flying Lotus and Mahjongg, with additional tunes from Forest Juziuk and visually projected madness by Dr. Strangeloop. The joint starts rockin' at 9 p.m. It's $15, or $10 with stub from the film festival performance.
Flying Lotus has a highly anticipated new LP, Cosmogramma, out in May on the UK's Warp imprint, featuring Thom Yorke of Radiohead and sax-playing cousin Ravi Coltrane (son of John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane, born Alice McLeod in Detroit in 1937). What a treat for the mind, body and soul. Hello darkness.
Kode9, Flying Lotus and "special guest" TBA play Friday, April 1, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7665. Doors 9 p.m. $5 in advance, $10 at the door.The Subterraneans is a column devoted to Detroit's electronic music. Send comments to [email protected]