Words: James Keith

As a producer, Ikonika erupted into our collective consciousness years ago with the head-turning “Please / Simulacrum” 12”, an attention-grabbing statement of intent that blew away the cobwebs with its woozy, stumbling synth melody and industrial rhythms. Right from the bat, she was making us question everything we thought we knew about the ‘rules’ of dance music, smudging the boundaries between rave music and club music.

Ikonika’s debut album, Contact, Want, Love, Have, released on Hyperdub in 2010, was probably her grimiest outing (and we use that term loosely, of course), employing Eski synths and drums in her atmospheric club sounds and bridging the gap between what had come before and what she was about to do next. In later albums, those grimey elements had, for the most part, been replaced by a more expansive approach and the further you travel through her discography, the more varied and genreless her sound becomes. Even her second album, 2013’s Aerotropolis, still included snarling, dubby bass lines (“Mega Church”), but the 4x4 structure is more prominent among the straight-up dance cuts (“Mr Cake”, for example) and the generally colourful, upbeat vibes.

One of Ikonika’s darkest outings was last year's Distractions, an album recorded after a particularly bad car accident. Terrifying though that surely was, she has since said her recuperation period forced her to take what had been a patchwork of ideas ruminating in her head and focus them into a cohesive album. It’s a dark one, for sure, but it also has an air of rejuvenation and a renewed energy about it. It sounds like someone falling in love with music and creativity all over again. Arguably one of her less club-oriented albums, Distractions is still an utterly engrossing record for the creeping influence of her love for R&B.

Even at her most techno moments—like the arpeggio-led “Manual Decapitation”—Ikonika still draws on her love of dub, grime, footwork (hence her close friendship with the Teklife family) UKG and bass music as a whole. Even on this year’s The Library Album, with its Kraftwerk-esque piano keys artwork, elements of grime can be heard in the sparse dubbiness of “Satiate” or the icy synths of “Gavage”. As with all of her albums, The Library Album was as emotive and danceable as it was experimental, sitting tracks like “Where Is Your Wife?” together with the ominous chill of “Sechansig” and the towering dread of album closer “Upside Down Rain”.

To put it simply, Ikonika’s music bridges the gap between what was considered ‘club music’ and 4x4 techno. Smatterings of bass, dubstep, R&B, footwork/juke and even hip-hop crept into her idiosyncratic take on what you could loosely call techno. Her music has evolved enormously, even between albums. Whether dark and gloomy or bright and colourful, Ikonika’s music is always filled with soul and nuance.

Here are 20 reasons to love Ikonika.

Posted on July 12, 2018