- Last month at London's Corsica Studios, Ikonika, AKA Sara Chen, held a launch party for her latest album, Distractions. She played UK funky, techno, dancehall and an instrumental of Britney Spears's "Gimme More" at footwork speed. Ikonika's music can be similarly mercurial, from the angular chiptune of her early Hyperdub releases to the techno of, say, "Position." Distractions is another change: her latest full-length scales back the freestyle-inspired house of her last album, Aerotropolis, for a sound that's darker and more expansive.
The album speaks mostly to a love for the kind of club-ready hip-hop that has become a fixture of underground dance music radio. (See the trap-inflected creep of "Manual Decapitation," "Love Games," a fidgety instrumental, and the bassy bounce of "Not Actual Gameplay.") Elsewhere, Ikonika recontextualises Jammz by placing his grime bars over swirling '80s synths, reminiscent of a method used by Mr. Mitch on the P Money-assisted "Priority."
Ikonika's connection with BBC AZN Network is stamped on the album. The Radar Radio regulars—one of whom, Sweyn Jupiter, coproduced "Hazefield"—are known for adventurous party blends, dropping, for example, Bollywood bangers over bashment. Chen hops across genres in a similar way. Alongside grime, hip-hop and glitchy tracks like "BGM" and "Do I Watch It Like A Cricket Match?," there are whispers of Chicago house and the '80s synths of Aerotropolis.
The album has a few personal touches. On "Girlfriend," a male acquaintance chats to her. The album's artwork, a stretch of Great West Road rendered in video game graphics, reflects her West London roots. Her love of gaming—a regular theme—surfaces on several tracks, including "Lossy," which has echoes of the gold rings on Sonic The Hedgehog. For all that, Distractions is as much about other people—that extends to vocalists, from Jessy Lanza to the lesser-known Andrea Galaxy—as it is Chen herself. As a soundtrack for a wide variety of scenes, Distractions enhances Chen's reputation as one of UK club music's most adaptable artists.
02. Noblest feat. Andrea Galaxy
03. Manual Decapitation
07. Do I Watch It Like A Cricket Match?
08. Sacrifice feat. Jammz
09. Love Games
11. Not Actual Gameplay
13. Hazefield feat. Sweyn Jupiter & Jessy Lanza