Inga Copeland & Dean Blunt: Black is Beautiful

    Inga Copeland and Dean Blunt, formerly known as Hype Williams, are among the stranger artists signed to UK dance label Hyperdub. Unlike more dancefloor-minded labelmates such as Burial and Ikonika, Copeland and Blunt craft spacious, minimal experimental rock reminiscent of artists like Sun Araw and Peaking Lights. Their third album, Black is Beautiful, represents a tightening of their sound.

    Opening track “Venice Dreamway” (each of the album’s other fourteen tracks is titled “Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland”) sees the duo in familiar territory, exploring dusty synthesizer atmosphere and cluttered samples. The second track, a cover of Donnie & Joe Emerson’s smooth 1979 soul song “Baby,” is unusually conventional for Copeland and Blunt; its steady drums and clean vocals lending it a sense of straightforwardness that seems almost haunting when presented alongside the chaos of the rest of the album. 

    Other tracks indulge in a more refined version of Hype Williams’ sound. Their usual cacophony of improvised percussion is slightly restrained and their samples bear less distortion than normal. This is still very experimental music though, and sometimes the band’s willingness to explore outweighs their ability to write cohesive songs, resulting in an album that often fails to engage with the listener after repeated listens.

    That’s not to say that Black is Beautiful isn’t a rewarding listen: Inga Copeland and Dean Blunt are talented producers, and they often stumble upon fascinating artistic ground. However, there isn’t enough reward across Black is Beautiful‘s fifteen disorienting tracks to warrant the moments of dull experimentation. (5/10)


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