700 BLISS ‘Nothing To Declare’ (Hyperdub)

Frenetic rewiring of hip hop and electronics

700 Bliss say they have ‘Nothing To Declare’, but I’m convinced their subsonic bass is weaponised enough to cause alarm bells at airport security. This first long-player from producer DJ Haram and musician/poet Moor Mother, two of the loudest voices in Philadelphia’s DIY music scene, is a real wall-shaker. The duo’s 2018 EP ‘Spa 700’ was a staccato punch of audio aggression. Spread across an album, there’s no let-up in their furious frequencies.

On ‘Totally Spies’, guest vocalist Lafawndah’s abraded vocals are aggravated by mile-deep bass. The jackhammer pounds of ‘More Victories’, this time accompanied by the broken vocals of speculative fiction writer M Téllez, has enough gravity to yank the International Space Station from orbit. Even on the beat-light ‘Discipline’, the spoken word seethes so antagonistically over a one-finger keyboard line, you feel Moor Mother is in a constant state of furious battle as she barks out couplets like “Who goes there? / Guerilla warfare”.

The pair are quick to strike a self-deprecating hole in their own apocalyptic reverb. For example, the vocal drops often land in knockabout collages, bass-boosted for maximum hostility, or cartoonishly high, borderline ‘Looney Tunes’. In one interlude, two chatty conversationalists rinse 700 Bliss, complaining that ‘Spa 700’ “wasn’t very spa-like” before roasting Moor Mother’s guttural delivery. Of course, I suspect the dissers are 700 Bliss themselves, and this friendly banter is an interesting contrast to the more serious intention here.

Peppered by bursts of broken electronics, ‘Capitol’ preaches about class war and the state of America in a full-blooded rap, akin to The Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’ doused in battery acid. The pumping club track ‘Anthology’, its beat as delirious as any costumed Pet Shop Boys dance routine, pays tribute to the “matriarch of black dance”, Katherine Dunham.

“She put it all out there, and they couldn’t believe it,” toasts Moor Mother, marking a clear inspiration for this album. It doesn’t take an airport body scan to see ‘Nothing To Declare’ has layers. Just watch yourself. 700 Bliss are fronting for a scuffle, and if you’re not careful, as growled halfway through the album, the “next one they write might be about you”.

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