Hypo is a relatively obscure French electronic act that creates beautiful music by pick-pocketing other genres -- though they're not above borrowing from their own scene-mates. On Karaoke A Cappella
, Hypo creates a cool amalgamation that swings gently between laptop beats and Max Tundra-esque pastiche. The disc includes dense collaborations between Hypo principal Anthony Keyeux and various electronic and glitch artists, including label mate O. Lamm, Michiko Kusaki and Ceweceee.
The songs are dreamy and hypnotic, and often rely on soft beats or no beats at all, instead letting tiny clicks and the edges of sampled sounds act as rhythmic elements. A plethora of vocal samples and scraps of found music reinforce the disc's dreamy qualities; while the songs don't necessarily segue purposefully from one to the next, the themes are so fluid that if certain tracks didn't fade, the disc would be a continuous experience.
Even so, several compositions stand out. "NewOldOrder", despite starting with a silly scat segment, is particularly strong, highlighting Keyeux's arrangement skills and sense of melody. The piece gives an affirmative nod to Max Tundra's work on the excellent Some Best Friend You Turned Out To Be. The brief "Birthday" is also strong -- driven by fuzzed-out vocals and cut-and-paste trickery.
Hypo doesn't take the beat-needy for granted; "RFM Koalamm" quietly clicks along and boasts a weird electronic sheep sample that sounds like it was lifted from Nine Inch Nails' earth-shattering early single "Sin". However, the album's most conventional highlight is the beautiful break-beater "Nice Day", featuring Kusaki on vocals.
Heavier beats appear toward the end of the record (see "What About Fish"). "Something Must Break", which may or may not be intended as a truncated cover of the Joy Division song, crams all electronic elements in the left channel, juxtaposing them with a solo cello in the right channel. The Joy Division/New Order references keep coming, too, as evidenced in by song titles like "NewOldOrder" and the excellent "IanCurtisMayfield".
If you enjoy more esoteric electronica -- or even if you haven't seen the point 'til now -- Karaoke A Cappella has a lot to offer. Hipsters will be pleased to hear a record that boasts consistently strong songwriting and production, while newcomers will discover an easy access point to more demanding electronic music. Hypo's fairly regular use of vocals sets its music apart from many contemporaries, and makes the record an easy listen even for the non-techno friendly. Still, be ready for a healthy dose of glitch and, when the album opens, a fairly grating scratching noise. Be patient; sublime melodies temper the disc's sharpest edges.