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Jessie Ware, Mount Kimbie and more reviewed in the FACT Singles Club, March 31 2013

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next six pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time – with Mount Kimbie, Shlohmo & Jeremih, Jessie Ware and more in the line of fire.

Don’t forget, you can watch an artists’ panel of DJ Rashad, Ashes57 and Scratcha DVA review the same selection (bar Mykki, because we lost the footage of that one) on FACT TV.

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Mount Kimbie – ‘Made To Stray’ (6.5)

 

Chal Ravens: Mount Kimbie are really all about texture rather than rhythm, melody or mood, and this three-in-one comeback track has stacks of fine detail from bottom to top; perfect for headphones, like everything they do. They’ve also managed to craft a sound that’s recognisably their own – the reedy synth line appearing two minutes in couldn’t be anyone else. But as much as I want to love this, it’s too academic – like three very clever studio experiments knotted together retroactively, the last of which just stops mid-sentence. (6)

Maya Kalev: Mount Kimbie’s back! Now post-dubstep’s been consigned to dance music’s overflowing dustbin (see also: chillwave, moombahton and witch house, all of which were things that existed at the time Crooks and Lovers was released), it seems about right that they’re making vaguely housey music. ‘Made to Stray’ is okay, hardly danceable but not without a nice little groove. The stuttering percussive roll is interesting and the textures pleasantly pillowy, with a high-pitched wavering synth line adding a (tiny) bit of tension. The hook is nice enough, when it finally comes in, but ultimately, this is pretty beige stuff, and if the whole album’s like this, it won’t be worth the wait. (5)

John Twells: I love the production on this; it’s got a ragged noisiness to it that I’m a total sucker for, but the vocals? No thanks. I’m not one of those guys who hits the forums to moan when artists end up almost inevitably whacking vocals on their tracks after signing the ‘major’ deal, but I just don’t think ‘Made To Stray’ needs them. I understand that they’re supposed to be faded and indistinct, but they just end up sounding like a guy singing along doing the dishes while the track plays in the living room. A shame really, those rolling toms are great. (6)

Lauren Martin: Contrary to what Rashad and Scratcha DVA said in the celebrity edition, I really enjoy the long intro on this. There’s enough movement in it to keep your head at a slight tilt in anticipation for what might come next, which is inevitably that delicate Mount Kimbie tingle of soul. ‘Made To Stray’ is quite a different creature from anything on Crooks & Lovers for me though.  The hollowness of the percussion, how the kick drum keeps on driving it, the surface noise graininess of the recording – it’s all been heightened and drawn out here, and ends up feeling very rugged and charming for it. (8)

Joe Moynihan: Having loved Crooks and Lovers so much it was initially somewhat disheartening to hear a straight 4-to-the-floor beat on the first cut off their follow-up, but after repeated listens it’s apparent that this track is just staggeringly lovely. Despite its more straightforward syncopation the percussion is typically Kimbie, comprised of organic-sounding clunks and clicks that are forever shapeshifting thanks to some impeccably subtle automation. Love the foggy, mournful chords that play alongside the ongoing brass dissonance and I think Dom and Kai’s vocals are immensely endearing. They always have been, but having them at the forefront is definitely a big look. (8)

Chris Kelly: This one was surprising. Some of it is undeniably Mount Kimbie – the staticky, Casio beat that kicks it off, the chords seemingly borrowed from ‘Carbonated’, the bewildering dissonance of field recordings of unknown provenance — but the du jour groove (no matter how masterful) and full-throated vocals are not what I expected, even if it’s been early three years since the delicate, off-kilter charm of Crooks & Lovers. (6)

Joe Muggs: I dunno. I’m generally a fan, and I can picture this catching on in a big way, It’s got big festival stage written all over it, almost like they’re reaching for something like an update of Underworld with that kind of semi-chanted hook, and it works in that respect: it’s very infectious and dynamic. But it’s not really moving me. (6)

Steve Shaw: A mate was gushing about this new album the other day and played me this; have to say, I was impressed by its subdued but driving nature, especially those clouds of activity in the background. As usual, I wasn’t into the vocal, but that’s more a personal preference – it’s a nice melody. (7)

Jessie Ware – ‘Imagine It Was Us’ (6.1)

 

Chal Ravens: Scratcha hit the nail on the head in the “celebrity” version of this column (yeah, cheers boss – not glam enough for you, eh? I look forward to Geri Halliwell’s take on the new Randomer white label next week) when he said the beat was a “festival, big room, sunrise sort of moment”. I adore Jessie, but she’s so much more interesting than this, and it’s a shame to dilute her distinctiveness into a rent-a-diva house vocal on a faintly ridiculous bit of pastiche fluff from Bashmore. Mind you, imagine if it got to number one… (5)

Maya Kalev: Just in time for festival season, a pop-house track that wouldn’t sound amiss at Creamfields 1997. For all its faults, Devotion at least had some decently written songs, but this is identikit crap in the vein of Bashmore’s other heinous productions, only this time with a trite hook too. The vocals on Devotion were by no means perfect, but that was part of their charm: they were full of soulful fire and cracked with real emotion, even if the lyrical content was predictable stuff about the dynamics of human relationships. Here, though, the lyrics are facile and, worse, Jessie’s voice sounds enervated, her fire gone and in its wake a whole lot of nothing. (3)

John Twells: I was a late convert to the church of Ware but thanks to some nudging from the wife and a really stellar live show I’m properly on side now. ‘Imagine It Was Us’ is a great example of her strengths and though I’m not as fond of the track as I am say, ‘Devotion’ it’s still got all the power and sultry charm it needs to stand out. I love that within a couple of seconds it’s obvious it’s a Jessie Ware track, and that’s so rare right now. The blunted disco production from Julio Bashmore is good enough but it’s Ware’s personality that carries this one, and that’s what’s important. (7)

Lauren Martin: Well, this is just lush. I’m pretty sure Julio Bashmore is gunning for the title of Summer Festival Anthem Don for a second year in a row with this one, and Jessie Ware’s fragility suits this silky smooth boogie house vibe to an absolute tee. Really Jessie, if you’re reading this, let me buy you dinner some time. You’re exquisite. (8)

Chris Kelly: It may be a transparent attempt to follow ‘White Noise’ and ‘Au Seve’, but who cares? This is exactly the type of song that was missing from the immaculate collection of adult pop that is Devotion: an unabashed anthem that captures the promise of her danciest collabs and finest remixes. With Julio Bashmore and Hyetal (among others) beyond the boards, the song oscillates between the electro-sleaze of Velour and a jacking house beat, both well suited for Ware’s sensual voice. (8)

Joe Muggs: She’s always sounded like lots of middle of Magic FM type things (Whitney ballads, ‘Tango in the Night’, ‘Don’t Look Any Further’), but this time, in parts of this at least, she’s gone the whole hog and is channelling Texas. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that, Texas had some great moments, they made some perfect “drunk in the back of a cab” tunes and this remains a huge sentimental favourite of mine. But there’s more to this too, a lovely glossy house beat, smart hooks, her distinctive voice etc etc: basically it just drips class. Jessie Ware for Queen. (8)

Joe Moynihan: Jessie sounds as strong as ever but I just can’t seem to get on board with anything Bashmore touches recently. The creeping, oh-so-rich-in-vitamin-d chords that flood the second half of the verses are great, as are the delayed guitars in the pre-chorus breakdowns. The brash synths in the chorus are an unfortunate distraction from Ware’s natural sophistication however and spoil an otherwise decent tune. (5)

Steve Shaw: Whoever thought it was a good idea to change this from ‘modern Patrice Rushen’ to ‘awful, mid-90s Island Records Kylie Minogue B-side house remix’ is breaking my boogie heart over here. (5)

Shlohmo feat. Jeremih – ‘Bo Peep (Do U Right)’ (6.6)

 

Chal Ravens: Shlohmo is responsible for some of my most played late night/early morning/why-am-I-still-awake tracks over the past year, so I was dribbly with excitement for this one. The title is a corker, but the lack of a proper chewy hook of the kind Jeremih casually tossed off in abundance on Late Nights With… means ‘Bo Peep’ doesn’t come close to the zenith of Shlohmo’s ‘Fuck U All The Time’ remix. Let’s call it a prototype and hope they come up with version 2.0 pronto. (6)

Maya Kalev: Shlohmo’s version of Fuck U All The Time was one of the better remixes, and his hazed beats and Jeremih’s syrupy vocals should be a match made in heaven. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that the overwhelming effect is of zeitgeist-R&B-by-numbers, with added gratuitous hi-hats. When it’s just Jeremih and a bassline all is forgiven, and I quite like the chopped-n-screwed vocal part towards the end, but the beat just isn’t my thing at all and the whole thing washes over me. Compared to the melting effect of most of the tracks on Late Nights, ‘Bo Peep (Do You Right)’ doesn’t really cut it. If only Mike Will had made it. (4)

John Twells: This is what I’m talking about; Shlohmo’s slinky, flickering sci-fi production is such a perfect fit for Jeremih’s post-The-Dream falsetto that it’d be hard for either of them to drop the ball here. Shlohmo has already proven himself more than capable with his mix of Jeremih’s ‘Fuck You All The Time’, and ‘Bo Peep’ eclipses it in every way with its sultry, lilting charm. Jeremih’s voice inhabits just the right space in the frequency range for Shlohmo to hold back without sounding like he’s twiddling his thumbs, and the subtle addition of strings in the middle? Swoon. (8)

Lauren Martin: I squealed like Amanda Bynes on a Twitter binge when I heard that this collaboration was happening and the results of it are blissful. It’s such a perfect marriage of aesthetics. Jeremih’s falsetto is so endearing for me because it relishes its own imperfections, but sometimes his own beats are too robust and can lead to Jeremih drowning himself out. After the immaculate ‘Fuck U All The Time’ from Late Nights… showed that less is definitely more production wise for him, ‘Bo Beep (Do U Right)’ does justice to the expressiveness of his voice by lulling him into the fold of Shlohmo’s wilting synths, and delivers that aloof, broken-hearted star persona with ease. (9)

Chris Kelly: The collaboration that sent (certain corners of) the Internet ablaze. Shlohmo sticks to the snare rolls and shadows of Laid Out’s ‘Put It’ and comes up with something a tad brighter than the widescreen menace of his remix of ‘Fuck U All The Time’. For his part, Jeremih who proves that his breathy falsetto, vocal gymnastics, and sexy-not-sleazy lyrics are effective no matter the backdrop. (9)

Joe Moynihan: Constant, omnipresent sadness is more relevant than ever during this quadruple-dip recession lyfe and few things make feeling melancholy sexier than Jeremih over Shlohmo’s sinister as all fuck basslines and clattering straight-outta-da-oubliette percussion. Dark, haunting, sensual and just utterly brilliant. (9)

Steve Shaw: Needs more space, everything crashes together messily. The vocal’s pretty forgettable too. Ain’t doin’ me right. (5)

Joe Muggs: No idea if this is “real” R&B or a hipster facsimile, but it doesn’t matter. Don’t like it. Really dirgey. (3)

Demdike Stare – ‘Collision’ (8)

 

Chal Ravens: Ban this filth. (9)

Maya Kalev: Thank you Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker for ‘Collision’, a diamond in this vat of beige slurry. Quite simply, ‘Collision’ is Demdike Stare doing jungle to perfection. The track opens with on-edge, wide-eyed, high-pitched drones, gritty and potent. A kick comes in to herald the ‘ardcore, and then the drums are off, thrashing and frenetic, ratcheting up the assault until the closing synth-crunch before it the whole track fades bleakly. Rather than the grotty, freaky, predacious vibe of so much of Demdike Stare’s music, ‘Collision’ launches a blistering all-out attack that’s unexpected but completely fucking brilliant. ‘Misappropriation’ on the flip is fantastic, too. (9)

John Twells: Full disclosure: I’m pretty biased when it comes to Demdike, but honestly ‘Collision’ is just about as good as it gets. It just ticks all the boxes for me; aggressive rhythms that sound like they’ve been farted out of a broken guitar amplifier and the kind of oblique, atonal drones that make you feel like there’s a palsied hand making its way across your shoulder blade. They’ve been at the forefront of the creepy industrial revival movement since its inception, and to be honest it’s just refreshing to hear them throwing all the restraint of their earlier records out of the window and going balls to the wall. ‘Collision’ is probably my favourite Demdike track to date, right up there with ‘Jannisary’, and I’m looking forward to wearing out my 12” over the next few months. (9)

Lauren Martin: Last month I saw Raime perform a live A/V show for Quarter Turns Over A Living Line, and I was so entranced by it all that I very nearly melted through the back of my seat. This track reminds me of that show enormously. The great lurches of bass keep pinching every last brutal frequency awake, perilous and cruel. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Wow. This is one of those tunes that remind you that there are some artists who think outside the box and a small handful of others who simply never knew that a box ever existed in the first place. Dying to hear something like this out and see the look on people’s faces as that scanning hi-frequency noise and static hiss melts them away. Aside from the deadly subs I think what’s most impressive about this is that, even though breaks have been torn apart by most people’s Nan at some point, ‘Collision’ sounds like no other Amen-based clusterfuck I’ve heard before. (8)

Steve Shaw: Apparently Demdike Stare were involved in someway with that HATE project a few years ago, and it shows here. A well accomplished variant on jungle and noise. (7)

Joe Muggs: Amazing. Funnily enough I was just last week getting nostalgic for the, erm, glory days of “drill’n’bass” when I used to knock about with this lot – and this reminds me of some of the less jokey stuff of that scene, say MDK’s stuff on Spymania. Take a killer break, put it in a dark and spooky noise environment, and just keep twisting it and twisting it until you’re completely absorbed into it… And of course, Demdike Stare as producers are unbeatable – they do it with so much finesse and heft, I have been happily listening to this on repeat for ages at a time. (9)

Laurent Fintoni: An accurate sonic representation of what the current British political climate makes me feel like. (7)

Deadboy – ‘Black Reign’ (6.3)

 

Chal Ravens: Wow. Didn’t expect this to be quite so bleak. The first half is pretty anonymous – a functional building block in a set, but nothing that’d have you jonesing for a track ID – but halfway in he steps it up a gear as a thick fog of mid-range dissonance descends and the drums get irresistibly bouncy. Should be very effective in the right hands. (7)

Maya Kalev: Six minutes of sexless vanilla techno that I can’t imagine anyone actually playing out, least of all dancing to. Grinding their teeth, moving robotically and staring glazed-eyed at the DJ booth, yes, but dancing? No, god no. After a torturously long intro, the track proper begins, and it sounds like a rejected Hotflush beat: horribly gated woodblock percussion, uninspired synth stab and an insipid soulless kickdrum are backed with some affectless synth pads and foggy vocal, all ending in a feeble wash of vapid noise – the sounds of a hundred UK bass boys’ feet pattering to music’s great dustbin of irrelevance. (2)

John Twells: Moody 2-step? Yes please. While it might be lacking a little in the personality department, ‘Black Reign’ does a hell of a lot of things right for me. Shivering, hissing pads and a slippery garage shuffle – I don’t really need much more to be sold on a track. Deadboy handles the arrangement magnificently too, letting it breathe when it needs to and not overcomplicating things with meaningless filler and throwback nonsense. This one fills an aching chasm in my belly and makes me wonder why more artists aren’t taking garage into gloomier places. C’mon guys, help me out here. (7)

Lauren Martin: This is going to be a big one. Not just because it’s Deadboy and Numbers, but also because I can imagine it fitting pretty seamlessly into DJ sets that walk that line between the tougher elements of garage and the recent surge in interest of the more overtly industrial facets of techno. ‘Black Reign’ has a notable warmth and density to it, and I really like how the keys and vocal samples make repeated passages from being uplifting and ominous in equal measure. (7)

Joe Muggs: Really odd demonstration of context. Imagine this in a dark bunker with nothing but strobes and smoke and it sounds great and intense and dark and funky. Imagine it in a big room with lighting rig and whatnot and suddenly the dramatic breakdown and dynamics start sounding a bit prog-house. Would like to hear it in a bunker. (6)

Chris Kelly: Compared to the rest of the Blaquewerk EP, ‘Black Reign’ is practically subdued, forgoing the sawtooths, stabs, and breakbeats that animate the other three tracks. The song definitely grew on me after repeated listens: the restraint pulls the garage-fueled rhythm into focus – altering heart rates with the ebb and flow of a tantric sex session. (7)

Steve Shaw: This is nice, probably my favourite from the new EP. I think that unexpected choral vocal drift and techno thump is the most interesting part of it, could have been a whole track in itself. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Got a bit nervous when I heard all that side-chained white noise since that’s not really up my straße at all, but I’m really feeling that moody low-end and essentially how this tune is devoid of any light whatsoever. The drum pattern’s progression is what makes this I think, moving from a subtle woodblock shuffle into an excitable rolling break before settling into a dank, bottom-of-the-k-hole techno kick. (7)

Matrixxman feat. Mykki Blanco – ‘God Created the Beat’ (5.1)

 

Chal Ravens: Mykki Blanco is the resurrection as far as I’m concerned, and even though I’m predisposed to love this unconditionally it doesn’t disappoint. Reminds me of one of those old Chicago tracks where a snotty diva just orates over a basic-as-fuck beat, telling you exactly where you can stick it. Only problem is it’s way too short to reel me in completely. (7)

Maya Kalev: Now that the mania surrounding Mykki Blanco’s cult of personality has subsided, can we please acknowledge his total inability to rap? The lyrics are the stuff of painful cliché – “On the fifth day, God created the bitch” – and coupled with Mykki’s delivery sound like they’ve been lifted wholesale from a John Waters film. There’s a joke in here about my atheism and God creating the beat in here, but it’s not worth the effort. (1)

John Twells: I’m no expert on NYC ballroom, but last year’s ‘Ima Read’ (from Zebra Katz) was one of my most heavily played tracks. What ‘Ima Read’ had in raw attitude, ‘God Created The Beat’ has in smirking innuendo and I can’t imagine anyone why wouldn’t be charmed by its blatant blasphemy and blank, emotionless pulse – except maybe the church, but they hardly count right? (7)

Lauren Martin: Yeah, sorry, this is pretty throwaway for me. It comes off as something of a super weak Mike Q rip off on the production, and Mykki doesn’t exactly go in either. (4)

Chris Kelly: The two take a momentary diversion from snap0rap tracks to tribute vogue house. It’s in the same class as Matrixxman’s tracks with Dick Van Dick: this is pure ballroom material, pairing a crashing, metallic beat with a very-Mykki retelling of Genesis that devolves into snake-in-the-grass double entendres. Nothing revelatory, but something to drop at the point of the night when the dancefloor gets strangely spiritual. (5)

Joe Muggs: Not as good as that brilliant Bodhi EP that came out on Grizzly the other week, but not bad. Not really up on this “ballroom” stuff, but isn’t it just what we used to call “bitch house” back in the 90s? Apart from flashier production (and the production is super sharp), this is precisely the sort of thing I’d have expected in a Tenaglia set in 1995. (6)

Steve Shaw: A ‘Seven Ways To Jack’ attitude around on-point vogue house is just ideal. Seems to be missing a trick by not having more melodic/harmonic material, but Blanco is flawless as usual, and sounding a lot like Prince here too. Which only ever scores points, of course. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Yeah, more darkness! I’m a sucker for any unexpected drum stab that sounds like the door slam in Wiley’s ‘Ice Rink’ so was drawn into this from the top. Then that bloody vocal came in and I just, don’t… I just never want to hear this shit again. Sorry. Give me a dub version please. (4)

Schoolboy Q – ‘Yay Yay’ (5.3)


Chal Ravens:
Maybe it’s my hangover but standards seem to have slipped since last week’s bumper pack of zingers. Both sound and content are serviceable yet familiar – 808s and string stabs, coke and a side order of strippers – but that cartoonish chorus is sandpaper to my sensitive lugholes. It’s partially redeemed by the whispering voices in the background, mimicking the addled psyche of a coked up paranoiac, but little else is pushing my buttons. (4)

John Twells: Schoolboy Q has failed to excite me in the past; he’s good enough both live and on record but I’ve always felt he was overshadowed by the fact he shares a crew with the really much more reliable Kendrick Lamar. ‘Yay Yay’ is the first cut from his forthcoming LP Oxymoron and jeez, it sounds like he’s been listening and knows he’s gotta step up his game. Production from Drake’s mate Boi-1da helps things for sure with its menacing, low-slung crawl but it’s Q who takes the situation by the horns and raps like his damned life depends on it. It’s not often a single track will take me from utter complacency into actual excitement, but I can now truthfully say I’m psyched for the full-length – bring it on. (8)

Steve Shaw: Nay nay. Though, annoyingly, it’s stuck in my head. (4)

Lauren Martin: Black Hippy had a truly exceptional year last year, and whilst Ab-Soul and Kendrick have so far committed themselves to introspective and politicised monologues, Schoolboy Q is the raging bull with tunnel vision.  He sees the street ahead but rarely the one beyond, and this tale of drug dealing on the corner is as raw and immediate as any of his previous efforts (particularly the immaculate ‘Nightmare On Figg St’). There’s precious little I love more than a lip curling, gutteral rap hook and ‘Yay Yay’ is call and response, fifty-deep-in-the-club heaven. You can tell that Q freaking relishes every last grunt; all slack jawed, half-shut eyes and elbows to the walls.  YAWK YAWK YAWK! (8)

Joe Muggs: Yeah great. Ambiguous, ambivalent, the tone of voice really catches a feeling of claustrophobic, obsessive intensity – love it. I keep thinking he’s saying “All my life I’ve been in Jihad” which would be very wrong but quite brilliant, but obviously he’s not actually saying that. (8)

Chris Kelly: Schoolboy Q and Boi-1da team-up for another tale of his youthful indiscretions, but there’s nothing special here. Boi-1da’s sinister beat is more fun than it is novel, and I took away a percentage of a point for every soul-grating time Q says “yay yay.” (3)

Maya Kalev: The bars are poor and the beat’s forgettable, but worst is the hook, possibly the most annoying I’ve heard in years. Schoolboy Q, I beg you, go a way way. (2)

Final scores:

Demdike Stare – ‘Collision’ (8)
Shlohmo feat. Jeremih – ‘Bo Peep (Do U Right)’ (6.6)
Mount Kimbie – ‘Made To Stray’ (6.5)
Deadboy – ‘Black Reign’ (6.3)
Jessie Ware – ‘Imagine It Was Us’ (6.1)
Schoolboy Q – ‘Yay Yay’ (5.3)
Matrixxman feat. Mykki Blanco – ‘God Created the Beat’ (5.1)

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