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. This week, the return of Garbage, Mala in Peru, L-Vis 1990 & Egyptrixx and more.


Singles Club - Garbage

Garbage – ‘Empty’

Chris Kelly: The dream of the ‘90s is alive! It’s great that Shirley and the boys can still make loud-quiet-loud pop-rock anthems that are darker than they first appear. The lyrics do most of the heavy lifting here: what was the last rock song about imposter syndrome? (7)

Son Raw: If you are both excited to hear new power-pop from survivors of the grunge era and a FACT reader, you’re in luck, ‘cause this is very solid meat and potatoes rock. For the other 95% of you, see, in the ‘90s a band could reach world tour status under the name Garbage. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Notes trickle into one another to create a leading riff and Shirley Manson refrains from being anything less than reserved. Garbage remain cool, inching towards effortlessness while basking in their laminate-sleek production. And ‘Empty’ is polished as can be but un-involving – ironically, similar to the beau-obsessed protagonist. You can be un-involving and self-involved, it seems. (5)

Aurora Mitchell: Surprisingly, this doesn’t leave me feeling empty. Garbage have been doing their thing for over 20 years now and they still manage to sound as fresh as they did when they started out. Probably says something about me that my first thought about the lyric “ideas die on the vine” was that it was referring to the video platform. (6)

Tayyab Amin: This has an irresistible charm to it, maybe stemming from its familiar aura. I love how punchy the breakdown is. It’s got an alt edge yet it’s catchy enough for Match of the Day highlights. Pretty much a perfect popular radio song, no? (6)

6


Singles Club - Mala

Mala – ‘Kotos’

Chris Kelly: Mala is one of the few artists who can subsume the music of a place into his own work while avoiding all-out appropriation. For me, ‘Kotos’ was definitely a Mala track when that first snare snapped into frame, but did anyone else first think of Dawn Richard’s ‘Calypso’ when hearing this? (6)

Aurora Mitchell: Using different cultures as the basis for your musical project can have embarrassing results but Mala executes it with the utmost respect. First Mala was in Cuba, now he’s musically settled in Peru. With the help of panpipe group Asociacion Juvenil Puno, ‘Kotos’ was born. It’s those whooshing panpipe melodies that dominate the track, providing a beautiful instrumental choir in front of the smouldering bass. (7)

Son Raw: The problem with Mala in Cuba was that the destination overpowered the artist – there was no escaping that it was Buena Vista Social-step. ‘Kotos’ feels like a step in the right direction, making more subtle use of local sounds and dodging the fatal bullet of sounding like Mala’s jamming with your local plaza’s pan flute buskers. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Part of me is hoping that Mala gap year albums don’t become too much of a thing, though I really can’t deny how good the pan pipes sound with his drums. It can be slightly deflating when a musician works with new sounds by simply looping a refrain these days but Mala pays really great attention to the depth of their sound. And then there’s that chilling final third, wherein the two styles are at their most unified. There’s a history of dubstep tracks that flirt with musics far from London in a gimmicky way, and though it might not mean much, at least Mala spends a little more time with his fusions. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Whenever I think of Mala and his recent forays into ethnomusicology (and/or collaboration, hence him crediting Asociacion Juvenil Puno in an attempt to dispel the murky lines in-between), I come back to Julianne Escobedo Shepherd on Mala in Cuba: “The very thing he was trying to make happen has BEEN happening for years”. ‘Kotos’ is good – it kinda slaps, with a hypnotic approach to crushing sub-bass, while the pan pipes sound remarkably un-hokey.

But the issue remains: the internet exists, and we can access the information granted on the Orejon peoples, the variety of ethnic and social intricacies in Peruvian lifestyle and the under-represented electronic music that’s coming out of that country and within the Latin diaspora. Here’s a name to start with if intrigued: Dengue Dengue Dengue and their fine 2013 album La Alianza Profana. (6)

6.8


Singles Club - Roisin Murphy

Róisín Murphy – ‘Mastermind’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Goes as follows: bubble bubble bubble intonation intonation in search of a tune key change key change burble stop. Somehow still intriguing despite its well-intentioned brainy aimlessness. (4)

Tayyab Amin: It’s like playing every level of Mass Effect at the same time: the beautiful landscapes of impossible worlds; the intriguing conversations and conspiracies that can change destiny as we know it; the comically awkward dancing at techno-jazz space bars. However I feel about this, I’m sure she’d boss it on stage. (6)

Chris Kelly: Róisín Murphy is certainly a ‘Mastermind’, especially in a three-in-one tour de force like this. But as impressive as the composition and her vocal performance may be, I’m left cold by yet another trip to the synth-pop disco. (4)

Aurora Mitchell: Spooky, extra-terrestrial disco that could be the theme to a slow-burning retro sci-fi film. (7)

Son Raw: Boilerplate electro that’s spacious enough for Róisiín Murphy to save it, which means it doesn’t reach the heights of her best work while nevertheless remaining compulsively listenable. (7.5)

5.8


Singles Club - Alexis Taylor

Alexis Taylor – ‘I’m Ready’

Aurora Mitchell: Get your tissues out, this aims for the tug-at-your-heartstrings John Lewis Christmas advert soundtrack effect. Piano ballad man is definitely not the strongest musical costume that Taylor can wear. (4)

Son Raw: If this gets popular, it’ll severely undermine our generational ability to phase out overwrought piano balladry from the musical discourse. Do you want that? (4)

Chris Kelly: I was all set to just pun this one (“Hot Shit”) and move on, but that seems unnecessarily harsh. Maybe I’m just not the audience for a dance-pop piano man. (3)

Tayyab Amin: I’ve never expected to hear Alexis Taylor’s voice in this context before. His singing usually sits in the calm of the storm, but now it sounds as if he’s bottling the tempest within. It’s as if he’s making peace with himself, but that doesn’t have to mean resigning oneself to defeat – I guess I wish Taylor was sighing less and stating more. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Taylor going sparse has seemed like the right extra-curricular move since the start of this decade, when One Life Stand glimmered and ached through Hot Chip’s trickster image, transforming Taylor’s gawky dancefloor coos into quietly trembling pleas.’I’m Ready’ finds him performing over a piano and little else, as classically ‘intimate’ as any artist can get without sacrificing his open-hearted charm. The format could devolve into smarmy showmanship. That it never threatens to do so is a reminder of one of Taylor’s gifts as performer: his ability to remain subtle no matter how grandiose or minuscule the backing. (7)

4.6


Singles Club - Limit

Limit (Egyptrixx & L-Vis 1990) – ‘LIMIT#01’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Clangs and batters, an impatient two-note blare hanging on the start of every bar, repeating until its repetitive noise starts transforming into words: “TIME’S UP TIME’S UP TIME’S UP”. ‘Limit’ appropriately sounds like it’s only increasing in intensity, functioning as a warning to everyone dancing – perhaps as the opening track on this duo’s latest release, it’s a salvo. Times will be tougher sooner than you think, and the beats too. (7)

Aurora Mitchell: It’s been really interesting watching a rise in gritty, distorted grime and club tracks that lend from noise, techno and industrial. Limit does that in a way that you would expect from these two Night Slugs-affiliated producers, it’s a familiar but enjoyable journey. (7)

Chris Kelly: I can’t think of another pair of artists that are better suited to explore industrial and EBM in today’s club landscape than these two, and this only whets my appetite for an entire EP. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Just as an aside, it’s so lovely to see an industrial-derived club track have quite colourful artwork. The tune itself is like metal tube filled loose drum parts chucked onto a bouncy castle, it’s a total womp-fest – watch out for that inflating bass. One to marshal the dancefloor with. (8)

Son Raw: I picked up a call while this was blasting and the person on the other end thought it was a muffled car alarm, which might be the platonic ideal of small-run, industrial revival. (7)

7


Singles Club - Nigga Fox

Nigga Fox – ‘Lento Violento’

Chris Kelly: Príncipe meets Halcyon Veil, and the online club music community loses their shit. True to its “slow and violent” name, this track weaponizes synth-bass and car alarms at a syrupy pace that dares you to dance. (7)

Son Raw: This makes footwork’s rhythmic matrix sound like motorik in comparison, accelerating way past the point of no return into the territory danced solely by drum & bass nutters and apparently, Afro-Portuguese futurists. Better yet, it refuses to stick to an idea, switching from what sounds like a ‘Woo Riddim’ sample to ‘Pulse X’ bass drops to a furious gabber lead at the drop of a dime. The kind of risk that makes DJ sets worth listening to. (8.5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Laser gun rave bursts, light speed percussion rumbles, earthquake drum programming, chiming from the otherworld, Tesla coil buzzes for texture. Truly exciting electronic music, shifting and evolving before your ears with the sheer force of violence. (8)

Tayyab Amin: This is the sound of a rubber duck being rolled into the middle of a live dancefloor as everyone proceeds to unknowingly stomp it out. Every squeak is a big, stupid grin on our faces amidst this twisted revelry. (8)

8


Final scores

Nigga Fox – ‘Lento Violento’ (8)
Limit – ‘LIMIT#01’ (7)
Mala – ‘Kotos’ (6.8)
Garbage – ‘Empty’ (6)
Róisín Murphy – ‘Mastermind’ (5.8)
Alexis Taylor – ‘I’m Ready’ (4.6)

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