Slikback – Quoios/Klout (Byrd Out)
GARY STEEL stumbles across a tantalising snippet of greatness in a new EP by Kenyan electronic artist Slikback.
Remember how dubstep seemed to promise so much but how it all withered on the vine as a few hallmarks of the style became stratified and – as always – the market demanded compromise? The first two decades of the new millennium have seen endless micro-movements in electronic dance music and fleeting genres splitting off into even more fleeting fads.
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In the ‘90s there seemed to be a space where artistry and new technology met the dancefloor, but as geographical boundaries were gradually eroded by the internet, the purity of regional creative developments felt threatened.
Slikback gives us evidence that the virus-like spread of technology across geopolitical borders can be a good thing. On this genre-defying 4-track EP, Kenyan DJ/composer (otherwise known as Freddy Mwaura Njau) cannily grabs elements of dubstep and whatever else takes his fancy and skilfully blends them into a tapestry that achieves the seemingly impossible. On the one hand his sound design is sparkling and crisp hi-tech, yet he also builds a vigour into his tracks that imbues them with just enough humanity and organic grit to lift them out of the land of techno sterility.
It’s this blend that makes a Slikback production so splendid, and Quoios/Klout is perhaps his defining moment thus far. His earlier work can at times make for a darkly pummelling, almost industrial experience, and some of the rhythms are surprisingly four-on-the-floor techno. There’s plenty of sonic and compositional exploration in his catalogue to date (a good entrée is the two 2020 compilations, /// and ///II) but with this new EP it feels like he’s found a space that’s simply and defiantly Slikback territory.
These tracks are bold and importantly, unlike its European stylistic predecessors, not hermetically sealed. Slikback utilises whatever takes his fancy, and he’ll fold a variety of found sounds – voices, dog barks, street noises – into the music, then fuck with those files until they assert their own place within the macrostructure.
With enough sonic detail and depth (not to mention its hallucinogenic sound design) to appeal to the audiophiliacs who love German experimental techno and enough kick-ass energy to get people waggling their asses, these tantalisingly brief tracks bode well for what’s to come.