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

This week, Wiley nods to Skepta with a massive tune that sounds a wee bit familiar, Sonic Youth icon Kim Gordon breaks free with her first proper solo single and Jenny Hval writes the greatest ever song about menstruation.

Revived French discoteers Justice fail to charm the Singles Club with their latest comeback single, while Clams Casino traces the beat scene legacy with a DJ Shadow remix and Jam City returns with a new mixtape.


Wiley – ‘Can’t Go Wrong’

Chris Kelly: The Godfather returns, spitting over one of Darq E Freaker’s attack-the-block-rockers and shouting out BBK and Skepta, a nod to the similarly-cadenced hook of ‘That’s Not Me’. I don’t know what a full Wiley album will sound like at this point, but this one’s a banger. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The rotating Wiley narrative of a man leaping into the glossy mainstream before hastily returning to the underground scene that birthed him is boring at this point: Wiley is Nasir Jones-esque in the way that his most high-profile pop and rewind-beckoning riddim work all add to a complicated view of a versatile (sometimes clumsily ambitious) artist at work. So while ‘What’s Going On’ is a Darq E Freaker-produced piece of bombastic grime, it’s a clipped track built on the Don’t Bore Us Get To The Chorus mantra that boosted some of his best chart crossovers to a national stage. (7)

Son Raw: Wiley’s mastered an essential skill: selling us the same single year over year without anybody noticing. That’s not actually as bad as it seems: Nas, E-40, Jeezy and countless others have made a career out of consistency, and the schizophrenia of his late ‘00s fluctuations between Rolex electro and underground non-starters was better for headlines than his catalogue. The Skepta shout out is key here: this is the sound of Wiley settling in to his BBK elder status. (7)

April Clare Welsh: Wiley is both the “wickedest grime MC on this earth” and a psychic for dropping this casual ode to Skepta the morning after his Mercury win. If Wiley launches more missiles via his new album then the full-blown attack will be a multi-pronged, cross-generational one. For now, this serves as a good reminder of how grime even got here in the first place. (7)

7


Jenny Hval – ‘Period Piece’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: In a statement about her new album Blood Bitch, Hval cites the “droney qualities of Norwegian black metal” as an inspiration. You can hear that wintery atmosphere and understanding of blank space in ‘Period Piece’, which creeps along while narrating a trip to the gynecologist as a science-fiction meditation, a mix of personal viscera and human advancement. It’s oddly calming, while also sensitive to the fact Hval finds comfort in what makes others uneasy: “Some people find it painful / all I feel is connected”. That’s a modus operandi right there. (7)

April Clare Welsh: A menstruation concept album rooted in black metal, goth pop and ‘70s horror? The standout moment in ‘Period Piece’ happen as Hval repeats, “All I feel is connected,” backed by a choir of soothing coos that act like a natural ibuprofen. For me, she’s elevating the hard slog of periods to a sort of Earth Mother dimension without ever going too hardcore Avalon Fields, and in doing so unlocks the collective burden of menstruation for a world of women forced to endure the indignity of cramps and sanitary towels. (8)

Zoe Camp: Public school systems of the world, I entreat thee: when it comes time to teach the youngsters about the monthly curse that accompanies a girl’s ascent to womanhood, play them this song. It’s the best song about menstruation ever written, and it makes the process sound a lot less scary. (6)

Chris Kelly: ‘Period Piece’ forgoes the spaced-out distance of Hval’s last album Apocalypse, Girl for a woozy heartbeat groove that sounds like what Grimes was attempting on Visions. This one saves its most poignant moment for last: “Don’t be afraid. It’s only blood.” (7)

Son Raw: If these vibes were any more aquatic, they’d come with flippers and a snorkel. The influence of Arthur Russell and classic dub looms large here but things never get too imitative, and Hval’s elfin vocals are nimble enough to carry this one past your average vamp. (7)

7


Jam City – ‘Send’

Zoe Camp: Listening to this song is like suffering a bad case of vertigo, but I’m not complaining – the gauzy synths provide just enough of a cushion for the wailing FX drifting in and out of earshot. What’s more, Jam City’s queasy palette evokes the Earthbound soundtrack, and Earthbound is a marvelous artwork to evoke. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s nearly a year to the day since Singles Club covered Jam City’s ‘Dream ’15’, a track that offered strong aesthetic ideas but squandered them on the keyboard bashings of an audiophile with no interest in shaping music beyond SoundCloud signifiers. Tune in again in a year for the same opinion, probably! (3)

Chris Kelly: Dream a Garden didn’t do much for me, but I appreciate how Jam City keeps confounding expectations. There’s the pop sensibility of Dream somewhere in ‘Send’, but it’s buried under ambience and drum programming that reminds me (I hate to say it, even though I don’t mean it as an insult) Salem. Keep pushing things forward. (7)

Miles Bowe: Jam City’s leap between Classical Curves and Dream A Garden was dramatic to the point of rendering him unrecognisable – now we have something that ties those two releases together while barreling even further forward. ‘Send’ toys with us for nearly a minute, twisting the hard-edged Curves into Garden’s foggy, warmth before a firework climax blows them all together. i’ doesn’t do much else beyond that, but that’s perfectly alright. (9)

Son Raw: This is raging against the consensus, but Jam City has a lot to answer for considering deconstructed club emerged straight out of Classical Curves’ artiest moments. Since then, things have only gotten frillier and more conceptual and my patience for those flourishes has diminished with every vocal, every angular kick drum and every move away from the functional music that made up the best of his music. RIYL talking up how “difficult” your musical taste is. (3)

April Clare Welsh: This is the kind of ‘edgy’ deconstructed pop that’s simply trying too hard. Had it chilled out and taken some downtime, the result may have been looser, floatier slab of psychedelic goodness, rather than a painfully executed attempt at making painfully relevant club music. (4)

5.5


Kim Gordon – ‘Murdered Out’

April Clare Welsh: There’s an industrial-goth sized stomp to this song that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Matrix soundtrack or at Camden’s Electric Ballroom on a Friday night – worshipped by the rubber-clad DJ, air-punched by the freaks and the metalheads. Written about rediscovering LA – and the first track she has ever released as a solo artist – it represents both Gordon’s homecoming and her truly fleeing the SY nest – as a statement of intent you couldn’t have hoped for anything more powerful. (8)

Chris Kelly: Vital and vicious with just the right amount of fuzz and feedback for my tastes. “Murdered out” is such an evocative phrase, even if you’re not familiar with it as a car culture term, and it’s a clarion call when Kim Gordon is singing it, especially the way her voice oscillates like a siren during the hook. A compelling collaboration with a producer (Justin Raisen) who has brought out an edge to pop music for a few years now – Kim can certainly teach him a thing or two. (8)

Zoe Camp: Having spent several decades on Planet Rock, it’s nice to see Gordon taking a stab at old-school IBM. Will the rest of the album sport such a Reznor-ian sound? My bet is it won’t, but at the very least, this song’s a solid experiment. (6)

Son Raw: About as essential as you’d expect from a late game ex-Sonic Youth member, which means it might catch your fancy depending on where your tastes landed in ‘88. Personally, the daughters and sons of the Velvets never much did it for me, not when The Juice Crew was popping then and not when their descendants are popping now. [Weren’t you listening to Sesame Street in ‘88? – Ed.] (4)

6.5


Justice – ‘Randy’

Zoe Camp: Another year, another Parisian duo back from a long absence to remind us that the 1970s were super, super fun. Like Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, Justice’s latest is an anthem for endless trips to the discotheque, more rooted in vocal melody than anything they’ve released up to this point. Despite the occasional bassy tremble, ‘Randy’ stays lithe, with a scoche of sleaze–a nod to the title, perhaps? (8)

Son Raw: Is this a rejected latter-day Timberlake demo? I gave Justice a pass last time they came through Singles Club since ‘Safe and Sound’ was gloriously cheesy, but this sounds like something my folks might put on to clean the house to when I was a kid, and not in a good way. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This can’t groove for shit, but I’m a sucker for an expertly imitated AOR chorus, even if it’s found sprouting out of an airless chasm. (4)

Chris Kelly: More of the same schlock we reviewed a few months back: big dumb synths, yacht rock melody, obnoxious six-minute runtime. About as timely or necessarily as that ‘Young Folks’ drum fill. (4)

April Clare Welsh: Crotch-grabbing high notes and buzzsaw synths ahoy! This has some serious grooves and a killer hook. Admittedly it took me four attempts to arrive at that conclusion, but if this is the sound of the blog house revival, I’ll get my (houndstooth pea) coat. (8)

6


DJ Shadow – ‘Stem Long Stem’ (Clams Casino remix)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: ‘Stem/Long Stem’ was meant to have a vocal track, as DJ Shadow admits in the 33 1/3 book about the making of Endtroducing, but thankfully he decided to release it in its ambient, movie-ready state. Clams is the rational end result of the instrumental hip-hop movement kickstarted by Shadow, his beats adding a similarly airy aesthetic to the hardest music out, but finding its soul in deep YouTube dives rather than in the basement of Rare Records. He makes comedown music, and he makes comedown music out of ‘Stem’. It’s paint-by-numbers Casino prettiness, but the end result doesn’t matter as much as the purpose of this remix – to trace a lineage. (6)

Chris Kelly: Wouldn’t want to besmirch Endtroducing (it’s legendary/influential/etc – I get it), but if you buy this 6xLP remix album, we probably don’t have much in common. Musicians working with their idols and influences can be powerful; this just seems indulgent. (5)

Son Raw: 99% of the time, remixing classic material is a pointless task, but this is just perfect. Clams manages to scrub his tribute free of the original elements but still capture the vibe that made Shadow’s track so nocturnal. The result is less remix than tribute, standing alongside the original rather than behind it. Alternative title: Why beat music doesn’t suck in 2016. (9)

April Clare Welsh: The cello on DJ Shadow’s original version of this song has always (weirdly) reminded me of the Wycliffe theme tune (the actor who played Wycliffe did also have a keen interest in playing jazz piano). Back then, it was a pretty bizarre culture clash in my hormone-addled brain – enigmatic Cornish coastal detective meets cool Californian music producer – but I think I still stand by my comparison. So while I get that the new remix album is paying its dues to the beat scene legacy, for me, incongruity and incompatibly will always make for a way more interesting listen. (7)

Zoe Camp: Clams Casino’s frigid, syrup-soaked take on the Endtroducing highlight accomplishes the rare feat of making an old track sound entirely new again–you know, a remix, rather than a recut version with readjusted bass and a new synth line or two. By taking ‘Stem Long Stem’ on a woozy trip to the Dirty South (à la Lil Ugly Mane), Clams has wiped the slate clear, freeing the song from its gravity. It’s a nice change of pace, but I’ll stick with the original. (6)

6.6


Final scores:

Jenny Hval – ‘Period Piece’ (7)
Wiley – ‘Can’t Go Wrong’ (7)

DJ Shadow – ‘Stem Long Stem’ (Clams Casino Remix) (6.6)
Jam City – ‘Send’ (5.5)
Kim Gordon – ‘Murdered Out’ (6.5)
Justice – ‘Randy’ (6)

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