KATALH3H (Beats Deluxe) is the extended and largely instrumental version of Stereo Mike’s long-awaited fourth album, six years in the making. Featuring 69 original tracks and spanning over four hours of music, it represents the final instalment of his album trilogy – following XLi3h and ANELI3H – in the form of an epic, dark and densely layered “beatscape”. There is a reason behind the madness. Soon after ANELI3H, Stereo Mike dropped out of his major-label deal to pursue beat-making on an uncompromising scale, independently recording – over a number of years and locations – all the source samples that power KATALH3H’s beat-based soundscape. Blues and punk jams, manipulated voices, folk instruments, distorted guitars, soulful keyboards, industrial textures and cathedral organs all get glitched, processed, chopped and juxtaposed over a hypnotic and, in equal measure, brooding boom-bap foundation.
The album doubles as the musical body of work Stereo Mike crafted in parallel to writing his PhD-borne book, Reimagining Sample-based Hip Hop: Making Records within Records. The two go hand-in-hand. The book is a testimony of the artist’s conceptual pursuit of the ‘phonographic’ qualities in source material that drive Hip Hop’s sample-based aesthetic. The album is the sonic crystallisation of years of experiments in vintage recording techniques, learning and playing more than a dozen instruments, collaborating with over 20 musicians, and tracking sources everywhere from home studios, to classical halls and large cathedrals. The rich tapestry of layers created, however, serve a classic hip-hop recipe: Becoming a palette of “mini records” on the pads of his sampling drum machines, they get remobilised as loops or percussive stutters, mixing operatic chanting with relentless 808s, salsa horns with Augustus Pablo-inspired melodica, noisy riffs with world instrumentation, and jazzy keyboards with otherworldly vocal textures. Tying it all together, the powerful underlying beats: Boom Bap in their essence, but owing equally to Trip Hop, lo-fi Electronica and industrial angst.