"Wrestle a bear to this": HEX, FKA twigs and more reviewed in Singles Club

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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 it’s for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, SoundCloud uploads and more. On the block this week: FKA twigs, John Carpenter, the return of Holy Fuck and more.

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FKA twigs – ‘Good To Love’

Son Raw: I wanted to outright love this, but it’s a bit mannered isn’t it? FKA twigs continues to wield one of the most gorgeous voices in music like a sword, but this never detonates – boudoir music for the make-out sesh, not the main act. She’s frustratingly close to a full star-turn, but this doesn’t take the leap. (6)

Chris Kelly: Usually when an artist turns away from the oblique, it’s tinged with disappointment: calling in someone like Rick Nowels might get you a hit, but at what cost? Twigs is the exception: I’m excited to hear her voice and feel her presence on such a stripped down ballad, and I shouldn’t be so surprised — especially considering what she was able to do with a Sam Smith cover. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Following up the pinballing force of last year’s M3LL155X EP seems like a harder test than following up LP1, which is to say that twigs upended all possible expectations. ‘Good To Love’ isn’t as hard a swerve as that EP, but it may present us with a more accessible form of twigs without throwing away her entire aesthetic. With this piano ballad – effectively building on the Sam Smith cover she performed last year – she proves that she won’t turn pop, but instead pop will turn to her. (7)

Aurora Mitchell: Even in a video that’s essentially just twigs writhing around in bed, the choreography is impeccable. The track is as equally stripped back as the video, her honeyed tones set against soaring piano chimes. If it was anyone other than twigs on the vocal though, this would be a BBC Sound Of runner up-type snoozefest. (7)

Tayyab Amin: FKA twigs continues to dance on both sides of the fence – her album was a letdown, her latest EP was a triumph, and this single tops itself with a bewildering, messy climax. That doesn’t fully detract from what is, on the whole, a stellar vocal performance, written true to twigs. This direction might not be my favourite, but it’s certainly testament to the breadth of her ability and appeal. (7)


John Carpenter – ‘Distant Dreams’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Despite a lead-in that sounds odiously like a Tool song repurposed around Moogs, a laserbeam synth beckons drums to add groove to a sweet piece of spookiness. Jurai bless Carpenter for directing AND composing the score for Halloween, ergo making him good money until the end of time, but this won’t be breaking records anytime soon. (6)

Aurora Mitchell: I still love that Carpenter has started putting out records via Sacred Bones – it seems so unlikely, a legendary decade-spanning composer on a small independent label from New York. (Not that this is the first time the label has played host to an important film figure, with David Lynch releasing on the label in 2012/13.) This track is so powerful – the intergalactic synth loop makes me feel like I’m on an important expedition, but those post-rock guitars… yeeesh. (6)

Chris Kelly: So much of the power of Carpenter’s themes comes from the connections to the films they accompany. Without that, are they really that distinguishable from songs by the legion of Carpenter ants who have turned his style into a genre unto itself? (3)

Tayyab Amin: At first I was torn between the engrossing composition and the slightly goofy sounds themselves. Thankfully, this rewards and surprises on repeat listens – the switch-ups, the eerie sweepers, those tearing synths. It’s struck a chord with the Mass Effect and Vatican Shadow fan in me for sure. Sometimes, you have to make yourself believe. (6)

Son Raw: If ever the internet’s constant trolling gets you down, just remember it enabled the cult of Carpenter to will the man to solo music career. This is a bit heavy on the bombast – 15 years ago El-P might have reduced it to the choice bits for Cannibal Ox to rap on – but the textures still sound like asphalt and cigarette smoke. (6)


HEX – ‘Ruin Value’

Aurora Mitchell: This is the kind of track that will have people either shitting themselves and heading for a cigarette break or smiling and embracing the creaky, pointillistic terror when deployed at a rave. Nothing stands still, each element only saying hello and then moving onto a different conversation. Nestled somewhere between the current crop of breakneck speed club tracks and drone, Liberation Technologies does it again. (8)

Son Raw: Remember when breakcore went from an exciting boundary pushing intensification of jungle to a cacophonous and exhausting pursuit of noise for its own sake? Well, we’re approaching that impasse again, except now everyone still has to pay off their Eurorack modules. (4)

Tayyab Amin: This is the kind of cyborgian locust swarm I can really get behind. It’s named after the theory of ruin value, and I think it’s worth entertaining such a notion in the context of architectural traxx and that overcast cloud of deconstructionist club music this track could comfortably reside in. Whilst the textures may be familiar, this isn’t your typical sculpture by some bionic anarchist or decaying intelligence – it’s actually the residue. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Streams of what sounds like water slurp through the middle of this Surround Sound assault, linking serenity and nature to the abusive and digital. It’s a basic juxtaposition, but it worked for The Revenant, so why not here? Wrestle a bear to this. (7)


Holy Fuck – ‘Tom Tom’

Tayyab Amin: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’s hero garage band Sex Bob-omb sign up with G-Man, later parting ways with him due to floundering with no album release despite a respectable EP and two semi-successful SXSWs. Evil Scott replaces Neil on bass, the group pick up some more pedals and hone their sound at their own pace, and Kim starts writing their lyrics, what with being the only member worth hearing from. This is where they end up. It’s pretty good. (7)

Chris Kelly: Dance punk revival! (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: “Make room to dance,” my best friend told me as we headed over to the tent Holy Fuck played in, eager to lap up some dance rhythms for us, the teenagers who loved record collections but were scared of going in an actual club. Holy Fuck were the gateway drug for many of the indie disco kids towards music that sounded just right escaping subwoofers, and they’ve continued that job with ‘Tom Tom’, which smothers distorted mumblevox between stodgy, unshakeable drum beats and a bassline from hell. It’s frowning at you for not dancing already, even if you will have to dance like the front row at Hullabalooza. However you move, make sure to make room. (7)

Son Raw: I had to go back and give Hex an extra point after listening to this, because at least that fully commits to its noisiness instead of hoping the listener has never heard of motorik. As long as there are insecure visual arts majors, this stuff will have currency, but the pleasure-to-eye roll ratio here is perilous. (3)

Aurora Mitchell: Shit, Holy Fuck are back? Last time they were properly in our consciousness was when the psychedelic sound was reappearing heavily with Tame Impala’s rise. This is pretty by-the-numbers noisy garage rock, it could easily be by The Growlers, Ty Segall or any number of people. (3)


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Aesop Rock – ‘Rings’

Aurora Mitchell: That excessive record scratching at the start is like nails to a chalkboard and it never quite recovers. It all adds to the mid ‘00s nu-metal rap vibe of the track. (3)

Son Raw: Aesop Rock’s arty, mile-a-minute flow was shockingly confrontational in the era of multi-million dollar videos and thug-consensus, but even when Kanye threw the Okayplayer set a rope, it didn’t reach that far underground. That’s hurt rap more than it’s hurt Aesop: he’s a perfect fit for “rap with rock production values” and might be the last rapper out able to push it further. Escaping to the woods to record rap music about death over nervy bass ‘n’ breaks might be a niche concern, but it’s a valid one. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The last we heard from Aesop Rock, at the end of his and Homeboy Sandman’s excellent Lice EP, he confessed the following: “Admittedly, the rest of my life is a fucking shitshow.” That was him cutting loose, rapping over Linkin Park samples and wisecracking about owning dogs, and the misanthrope still seeped out. On the frothing boom-bap, he’s further in his own hole, barely communicating with the “horde”, and even when he does it’s in Cuneiform script. He doesn’t share the same planet as these humans, fun or no fun. He’s busy refining his craft, a craft that still cuts Ginsu-sharp. (8)

Chris Kelly: I haven’t listened to Aesop Rock since Bazooka Tooth and I’m not at all surprised that nothing has changed in over a decade: not his turntablist-kissed beats, not his overstuffed bars, not his verbal dexterity. Unfortunately, everything else *has* changed, which Rock – to his credit – ponders in the hook. (5)

Tayyab Amin: The uninspired instrumental doesn’t really complement what sounds like a track-long guest verse. These academic journal raps make my ears glaze over a bit – it’s like they’re written for esoteric specialists in the trade, all technical and unstyled. Just because it could contribute to furthering research in the area of maximising syllables-per-bar ratios doesn’t mean it’s a rewarding listen. (4)


Final scores:

FKA twigs – ‘Good To Love’ (6.8)
HEX – ‘Ruin Value’ (6.75)
Aesop Rock – ‘Rings’ (5.4)
John Carpenter – ‘Distant Dreams’ (5.4)
Holy Fuck – ‘Tom Tom’ (5)

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