Singles Club: Tinashe has a quarter-life crisis and Bonobo commits a cardinal sin

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

In our sights this week: Tinashe returns to sultry R&B form, Toro Y Moi is nostalgist-in-chief for the Urban Outfitters generation, and Bonobo oversteps the mark by sampling Brandy.

Pixie Geldof makes her pop entrance in the shadow of Lana Del Rey, Bala Club’s Kamixlo climbs in the wrestling ring and Moiré delivers a monochrome banger from his new album on Ghostly.


Tinashe – ‘Nightride’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: “I’m so sick of appeasing people,” Tinashe says at the start of the video to ‘Nightride’, and it’s not hard to read that statement as the frustrations of a performer who’s been pulled in every other direction in 2016 while her album remains in unexplained major label limbo. She’s lucky to be limber enough to match whatever context is given to her, but the tortured quarter-life crisis on show in ‘Nightride’ is an excellent sound for her. There’s an element of Janet Jackson in the way she connects with bubblegum pop with as much conviction as she does with more introspective sounds, and that’s a neat thing to remember about Tinashe: as much as she doesn’t need to appease people, she can glide from situation to situation with ease. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Yes! This is gorgeous. It feels like a homecoming, and a victorious one at that. Tinashe calls back to her Reverie days in a way that feels more like a step forward than anything else. Her spoken word brings stillness, calm and a sense of place to a track that seems to linger just outside our grasp. It’s a statement of affirmation for anyone with faith in Tinashe, including herself. (9)

Zoe Camp: Ever wonder what it’d sound like if you took an otherwise decent FKA twigs song, subtracted all off the psychological frisson and left it face-down in the bathtub to drown? (4)

Chris Kelly: Tinashe is “sick of appeasing people.” That should be clear to anyone who listened to the full project and expected more songs like ‘SuperLove’: Tinashe is more interested in being the next FKA twigs than the next Rihanna – or, based on this one’s exotic strings, slow-mo groove and eerie backmasking, Björk with Beyoncé’s range. (7)

Jibril Yassin: *Yawn* The most telling thing about ‘Nightride’ is its lack of inclusion on the mixtape of the same name. Ultimately, this works better as a soundtrack accompanying the visuals than as a standalone song. Tinashe sounds lost and confused trying to ride the FKA twigs wave, which isn’t exactly a great look for her. (4)

5.6


Chaz Bundick meets the Mattson 2 – ‘Star Stuff’

Jibril Yassin: There are elements that speak to this being a “meet halfway” collaboration for everyone involved – the fine attention to detail and stuck-in-the-clouds vocal could fit on any Toro Y Moi album, but the snarling guitar riffs and boom-bap drums from the Mattson 2 are quite the new look, and inject enough drama to make this spaghetti-slash-futuristic theme for an unwritten TV drama quite compelling. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: In a conversation with my girlfriend yesterday, I noted that the man I (genuinely) call Bigg Chaz Bundwick rarely goes and repeats himself. The mid-90s college rock of What For? didn’t stick with me past the summertime and Samantha was too obvious an odds-and-sods compilation effort to stay in rotation, but I appreciated how different they felt sat next to each another. ‘Star Stuff’ – peep that unconmitted song title, folks – sounds a little too much like a mash-up of past glories, with the straight-ahead rock songwriting from What For? and the spacey guitar work that made up a big chunk of Underneath the Pine. It’s fine enough, as Bigg Chaz couldn’t make an unlistenable song if he tried, but I have slight trepidation regarding Chaz Bundwick Meets the Mattson 2’s shelf life past summer 2017. Either way, judging from past evidence, expect autumn 2017 to have another Toro Y Moi project heading in the complete opposite direction. (6)

Zoe Camp: Sounds like Mr. Bundick’s been listening to a lot of Unknown Mortal Orchestra lately–not that I have an issue with that. ‘Star Stuff’ one of those rare psych songs that can pull off the orchestral additions without coming across as over-indulgent; rather, the cinematic flourishes are an extension of his band’s rudimental potency. (8)

Chris Kelly: Since moving on from chillwave (‘member chillwave?) [I ‘member! – Memberberries Ed.] Chaz Bundick has taken two paths: deep-ish house and lightly psychedelic rock, dressing up in his parent’s clothes and going through the motions. On ‘Star Stuff’ (or is that ‘Big Star Stuff’?) he sings, “I don’t know what’s behind me,” but I don’t believe him – the past is all he seems to be interested in exploring, like the nostalgist-in-chief for the Urban Outfitters generation. (4)

Tayyab Amin: The more I listen to this track, the more I’m convinced I’ve heard 10 different support bands play it at the Brudenell in Leeds. Or maybe it came on just after Stealers Wheel in Reservoir Dogs? Or maybe I heard the lead guitar in a circa-2000 pop song. It’s such a lovely mix though – just swoon over what those drums do. (6)

6.2


Bonobo – ‘Kerala’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A quite lovely spiral of melismatic ad libs over dense-enough programming: an interesting, calming few minutes of lifestyle music. Play this as you cook, as you talk, perhaps when doing some fitness. An encompassing type of zen, with the overall sheen that makes it as accessible as possible. (7)

Chris Kelly: This is certainly more propulsive than Bonobo’s usual brand of downtempo lounge music, but I can’t get past its chief sin: sampling Brandy in 2016 as a shortcut to “soulfulness.” I liked this song better when Jacques Greene made it six years ago. (5)

Tayyab Amin: As much as 2010 Amin vowed to hold onto Black Sands as an eternal favourite, I’ve become detached from Bonobo’s music since, and his brand of downtempo feels clinical to me now. Even taking the Brandy sample out of the picture, this sounds like the populist electronic music of some yesteryear – like watching the same sunset over and over again, probably at a Croatian beach festival filled with Brits.

I appreciate that his personal life has directed him to the themes of the album, but I’m wary of his approach. Globalised identities have been an inescapable aspect of both pop and electronic music these past few years, and taking that into account along with the climate for migrants, particularly in Europe, Bonobo’s recent musings feel ham-fisted: “It’s interesting how one person will take an influence from one part of the world and move with that influence and affect another part of the world.” When I consider how staggeringly massive a platform this “quiet, self-effacing” artist has, I can’t help but hope he has something more to say. (5)

Zoe Camp: ASMR fans rejoice – ‘Kerala’ has enough skittering, popping snares and crisp whispers to stir even the most sensory-deprived soul to the aural bliss typically reserved for YouTube compilations of 30-something women giggling softly and tearing up wrapping paper. Who needs dynamics when you’ve got high fidelity? (4)

Jibril Yassin: This song prominently features a Brandy sample so I need to state this: I am here for Brandy samples. The world would be a better place if more artists sampled Brandy, no joke. Anyway, ‘Kerala’ succeeds at shifting textures and momentum while maintaining a gentle feel and pace. There’s never a moment when the song explodes, but it doesn’t really need to when it juggles all these layers – guitar arpeggios, aforementioned Brandy sample, waves of synth – so well. (8)

5.8


Kamixlo – ‘Bloodless Y’

Tayyab Amin: The track title is pure lies because I had the taste of blood in my mouth by the end of my first listen and I’ve no idea why. Kamixlo’s doing what Kamixlo does best – his alloyed industrial riddims turn wherever they’re being played into a dedicated listening space, drawing out spirits from whatever’s in the vicinity. For me right now, that means Ninja Gaiden and Soul Calibur. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A couple of weeks ago I went to Camden Jazz Club to take in a remarkably un-jazzy showcase by the Mexican collective N.A.A.F.I., where I heard a whole lot of clattering, aggressive and mixed-up beat music, jams that sucked in reggaeton and tríbal and hip-hop and nu-metal and spat them back out as this daunting but utterly alive species of dance music. Kamixlo does something fairly similar to what I heard that night, with a sweet, distant dream-pop vocal bludgeoned by drums falling like John Cena dropping 23 steel chairs on Wade Barrett. And Kamixlo named his collective after the Bullet Club, so I know he’s into wrestling enough to appreciate that reference. Too sweet me, paisano. (7)

Zoe Camp: This song is terrifying and heartwarming at the same time. As a writer, I’m supposed to express such sentiments by way of musical example, but I think this gif of a skeleton eating a box of Cheez-It crackers is the perfect corollary. (N/A)

Chris Kelly: Unlike the wave of deconstructionists that he emerged from, Kamixlo knows that club music needs less navel-gazing and more movement. ‘Bloodless Y’ distorts a pop vocal beyond recognition and pounds on those metallic drums but never loses sight of the “happy and sweet” world of Bala Club. Too sweet. (7)

Jibril Yassin: PC Music for the would-be industrial fan. I wish it felt as foreboding and entrancing as it clearly wants to be, but one can only take the plod of sheet metal clanging together for so long before rushing to stuff one’s ears with something more comforting. Also, adding flanger to everything? That’s unnecessarily cruel. (2)

6


Moiré – ‘Lost You’ feat. MC DRS

Tayyab Amin: Shout out to everyone who quietly hates the fact that literally anyone else is at the same club as them. DRS is insular, introspective and assured in his misanthropic, after-dark confessional. Moiré’s textures are always on point for me, consistently making well-directed, restrained music that never feels stale. This is another notch on that belt. (7)

Chris Kelly: Moiré soundtracks our contemporary dystopia but opts for seduction over submission. And while I’d usually find this type of vocalization distracting, DRS finds the pocket and brings gravitas and specifics to the album’s “No Future” message. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A sad dirge, invested in nothing but closing up emotional shop for the winter, but unable to stick much beyond that. Maybe I’ve less pity these days for paranoiac sad electro; the weather’s almost at Vespertine temperatures, I’m trying to stay blessed. (6)

Zoe Camp: Moiré has framed his new album No Future as a playful prism through which to view the world’s current political state – which, I’m not sure you’ve noticed, is kind of screwed up right now. “We should react and speak up about these issues openly, he recently told Resident Advisor, “rather than just as observers.” Perhaps that’s why MC DRS’s voice sounds so ghastly on this track; he’s less a rapper than the musical manifestation of cold, carefully calculated powers–and these “issues” always come down to powers, after all. (6)

Jibril Yassin: Moiré returns with another nihilistic, monochromatic club banger, wringing paranoia and menace from a few trusted elements – constant claps, DRS’s monster of a lead vocal, ghostly synth notes floating in the atmosphere. (8)

7


Pixie Geldof – ‘Woman Go Wild’

Jibril Yassin: I was afraid this was going to be boring but Pixie comes through with some thrilling pop balladry. ‘Woman Go Wild’ makes no bones about being indebted to Lana Del Rey’s mode of songwriting and honestly, it’s exactly what keeps this ballad from turning into a very AOR-inspired dullfest. What we get instead is sharp, albeit a little basic – but when this ends up in an indie film sometime in the next year, I’ll be out here catching feelings regardless. (6)

Zoe Camp: This Bland Lana Del Rey business does absolutely nothing for me, but after seeing the music video, I take it all back – as an angsty lesbian, I am very much for angsty lesbian representation in the arts, even where snoozy pop visuals are concerned. Also, Carol is a very good movie. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s almost as if the idea of being turned wild with desire is as sad as anything else in this world – the strings certainly agree, aiming for tragic Lee Hazlewood but content to stop at second-rate Lana Del Rey. (4)

Tayyab Amin: If this was somewhere near Lana Del Rey levels of melodramatic, it’d hold my attention that much more. (5)

Chris Kelly: A pleasant-enough slow dance, but the medium is the message: this song is brought to you by Semaine, an “immersive, elegantly designed lifestyle platform” that “offers a window into the lives of the chic and famous.” We all know music and media in general are in a precarious place these days – but you don’t have to rub our faces in it. (3)

4.2


Final scores:

Moiré – ‘Lost You’ (7)
Chaz Bundick meets the Mattson 2 – ‘Star Stuff’ (6.2)
Kamixlo – ‘Bloodless Y’ (6)
Bonobo – ‘Kerala’ (5.8)
Tinashe – ‘Nightride’ (5.6)
Pixie Geldof – ‘Woman Go Wild’ (4.2)