Behind a well-cultivated and intriguing shroud of ambiguity lies the artist known as Copeland, until recently a member of the nebulous, shape-shifting “eighteen year relay project” Hype Williams. Over the course of a few years, she and frequent collaborater Dean Blunt simultaneously enthralled and mystified listeners with their immediately recognisable brand of smeared, dubby and decidedly blunted “experimentalism” (ugh), only to part ways as a combined force last year. Prolific as always, Copeland was quick to pick up the pieces and, after shedding ‘Inga’ from her alias, released her first solo full-length Because I’m Worth It this year.
As with anything Hype Williams-affiliated, her artistic motives remain inscrutable and raise a bunch of questions – is it deliberately obscurantist? Is it a critique of the intrinsic transience of popular culture? Are we as listeners really “in on it”? Or, are we being messed with somehow? Ultimately, attempting to dissect her creative objectives is an exercise in futility and frustration, so let’s focus on the reason we got to this point of fawning obsession: her incredible music. What follows is a selection of ten of our favourite tracks from Copeland’s sprawling back catalogue.
Words by Deva Rao
Hype Williams – Your Girl Smells Chung When She Wears Dior
Found on Hype Williams’ One Nation full-length, ‘Chung’ encapsulates the duo’s music to a tee: dubbed out analog synths, Inga’s sedated-sounding vocals and lyrical reappropriation of a Cassie song: “my addiction”. Bonus POP CULTURE reference: this track is named after a line in a Wiley bar.
Inga Copeland – a&e
‘a&e’ proves beyond doubt that (Inga) Copeland’s sound needn’t be exclusive to the lo-fi ghetto. Atop an off-kilter, Martyn-produced beat, her deadpanned vocal delivery proves surprisingly adept at handling the shift to a conspicuously danceable style.
copeland – insult 2 injury
Her most recent release, Because I’m Worth It, features a surprising number of instrumental tracks – four of its eight songs are wholly without vocals – with ‘insult 2 injury’ coming in as our favourite.
Hype Williams – Rise Up
Languid synths, murky bass and of course Inga’s drawled vocals combine to heady, intoxicating effect on this satisfyingly hazy ode to, uh, not being low.
Hype Williams – The Throning
Inga and Dean are no strangers to repurposing samples for their own devices, and on ‘The Throning’ they reinterpret Sade’s ‘The Sweetest Taboo’ in characteristically sullen, weeded out fashion.
Inga Copeland – Trample
On ‘Trample’, the standout track from her self-titled, debut solo release, the combination of Inga’s delay-cloaked vocals, Dean B’s (uncredited) production and a liberal slathering of tape hiss is unsurprisingly reminiscent of Hype Williams at their narcotic best.
Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland – 2
Half a decade on from the first HW release, Copeland’s name remains inextricably shackled to Blunt’s. ‘2’, a composed, hypnotic cover of 60’s cult faves Donnie and Joe Emerson’s ‘Baby’, is another in a long list of reasons for why that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Hype Williams – Meets Shangaan Electro
‘Meets Shangaan Electro’ channels classic dub and reggae without a hint of the ostensible “””irony””” lazily attributed to them, with Inga’s vocals playing off its bouncy rhythmic foundation to incredibly pleasing effect.
Copeland & Gast – Strict
Changing up the sonic aesthetics from the expected lo-fi, bedroom-produced sound, ‘Strict’, the B-side from a collaborative single with producer John T. Gast, has Inga in high-def mode, going in on a heavily bitcrushed slab of digitised anxiety.
Inga Copeland – B.M.W.
“No order, no space / The city has its place / No truth and no faith / Are gonna pay for our mistakes”. A bass-y tribute to/indictment of the trials and tribulations of #citylife, ‘B.M.W.’ is the perfect complement to late night wanderings or brooding metropolitan transit.
Copeland headlines Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ’s The Rest Is Noise series on 23 August. The show is free for Subbacultcha! members. More info here.