This album changes everything for the Dream Catalogue mastermind.
With last month’s deep-dive into the Dream Catalogue roster, I became aware that label co-founders telepath テレパシ and Hong Kong Express had each released an incredible amount of material in the past year. Their output rivals that of every other artist on the label combined, and incredibly, most of it is top notch. Sure, a handful of them tread in the same ultra-drifting waters, but somehow there’s a fascinating diversity of styles between the pair, all lit with the signature cyberpunk glow of the burgeoning label.
Their individual work was in addition to the masterpiece the pair released together under the name 2814, an album so good it became Dream Catalogue’s first vinyl release: 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day). As I described it at the time, the album “feels like the musical manifestation of that dream. It’s the fleeting moment, caught and expanded into an hour. The album remains incredibly vibrant and deeply moving throughout that time, coloring an ever-shifting structure with the same narrow band of soothing purple tones. This isn’t music to fall asleep to. It’s the soundtrack to the wandering, exploratory thoughts we have in our best waking moments. It’s an ode to those moments of untethered contemplation where epiphanies happen.”
It ended up near the top of my best of 2015 list.
And now we come to the first release from either artist since that list was published. Hong Kong Express has new become HKE, and his latest album comes courtesy of Olde English Spelling Bee, a label you may recognize as both innovative and definitely not Dream Catalogue. I haven’t read exactly why the switch was made, but one listen has me convinced that the music here simply outgrown the label’s aesthetic. Omnia is a massive recording, reaching vertically instead of draping across a dreamscape.
Hear it for yourself:
Instead of drifting through vaporwave clouds, the album is defiantly active, wrenching in multiple directions at once, perforated from every angle. The sound is dominated by seismic bass drops and crystalline synth spikes. It’s got much more in common with the pristine violence of Aphex Twin than with anything the artist previously crafted.
This is HKE’s supernova moment, the sound of hypercube unfolding, ripping open a new dimension. Omnia crashes the cool precision of Detroit techno into that early Warp Records aesthetic, staccato beats orbiting in the twinkling depths of space. It’s filled with a sense of wonder and confusion, a singularity of the new. This tugs on the one major connection to his past work: a warm embrace of cyberpunk atmosphere, the feeling that the future we’ve all been promised by decades of science fiction is finally arriving. HKE is helping bring it into focus.
The knotty, intellectual approach to beat science sees the album comfortably placed alongside artists like Arca and Roly Porter more than anyone under the cosmic vaporwave umbrella. Rather than setting listeners adrift, this is music to get twisted up and lost inside.
You can listen to the whole thing streaming and purchase Omnia on CD or digitally right on the Bandcamp page.