A lot of electronic music is rooted in the virtual, like the soundtrack to some massive multi-player sci-fi epic. It's bright and bold, sure, but it so slick, and often so interchangeable, that it fails to make an impression. Koffins, an electro House outfit made up of Hakeem, who holds it down and programs the beats from a military base in San Diego, and DB, keeping it real and punk rock, couch-surfing college towns in Iowa, make electronic music, rooted in the real. With greasy synths, outdated drum machines that are older than the musicians, and a battered bass guitar, they produce a stomping analog dance party, perfect for freeway underpasses, back alleys, and concrete-floor basements.
Koffins are equally inspired by hardcore punk, house music, and hip-hop. Their music would've slotted in nicely in what was once considered 'electroclash', which is to say epic trance jams, played live and with punk rock fury and intensity. A lot of the material on Koffins' debut EP started off with shreds of songs that DB had intended to use in hardcore bands, which Hakeem arranged and programmed, transforming them for the dancefloor.
The punk rock leanings and aged quality of their gear might lead you to expect Koffins' to sound lo-fi, but actually quite the opposite is true. They may start with junked equipment and real-world sounds, but each element is carefully mixed and arranged, creating a perfect whole. Look at the opener, "No Mask"; its boom-bap beat is strong and solid, its basslines growl with more menace than dubstep has managed to gather in 7 years, while particle accelerator synths gather on the horizon. These recordings are deep, and fully realized. Very impressive, for a debut .
Koffins sound steeped in influence, while still remaining unique and original. "Pure Passion," (an album highlight), sounds like The Faint when they were still young and vital, but devoid of vocals and cinematic gloss. "Runners" is like a less metro and cosmopolitan LCD Soundsystem - it's got the same sexy disco swagger, but is less polished and adorned. Straight up music for the dancefloor, for losing yourself at 3 a.m., locked into a groove, raging until the dawn. And then all hell breaks loose, on "Heads Up Display", when the bass guitar is unleashed for pure sonic fury, bringing in a doom metal element that is mostly unheard in dance music, that brings to mind the recent collaboration between Sunn O)))'s Stephen O' Malley and Pan Sonic's Mika Vainio, as ÄÄNIPÄÄ.
Koffins is exactly my kind of thing right now, and for anybody who has been paying attention to the dance music underground the last couple of years will feel the same way. It's electronic music for the real world - it inspires wildness and passion. Makes you want to stay up all night, jamming on drum machines. Makes you want to wander and explore. Makes you want to see the sun rise.
While Koffins may deal with the internet, as a collaboration between Iowa and San Diego wouldn't exist otherwise, they are taking the best of what the web has to offer us - technology, community, inspiration, good taste - and dragging it into this realm of blood and dust and sex and metal. They remind us to go outside. To throw parties. To be wild and free.
A very good debut. One to watch!
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