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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 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 Beyonce, Factory Floor, DJ Rashad and more in the line of fire.

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Peter Gordon & Factory Floor – ‘Beachcombing’ / ‘C-Side’ (7.1)

Chal Ravens:
This release must be longer than the rest of the week’s tracks put together. With the 14 minutes of ‘Beachcoming’ you’ve got a dynamic and Germanic pulse under a meaty variety of choppy, splashy guitars and acid synth lines, then the eight minutes of ‘C-Side’ offer a kind of deconstructed disco as orchestrated by Harmonia. I would probably love it anyway, but Peter Gordon’s wild and billowing sax overdubs and the all-round live feel of Factory Floor’s music make this so much more than just well-executed revivalist krautrock. Cannot wait for their album. (9)

Chris Kelly: For most of its 14 minutes, ‘Beachcoming’ does little more than persist. The last minute nearly redeems it for me, as warped synths and dissonant overdubs give the song an air of dissonance, but statistically, that’s about 7% compelling. The no wave/New Age dichotomy of ‘C-Side’ gives me Muzak (RIP) flashbacks. (2)

Joe Moynihan: Crikey Moses this is pretty special isn’t it? ‘Beachcoming’ is insane: a hugely immersive and visual cyberpunk trip, all wonderfully automated synth arpeggios punctuated by bursts of superb soprano sax and icy processed vocals that sound as if Siri has escaped from within her smartphone shackles and has taken up a residence within Nik Colk Void’s larynx. Not feeling ‘C-Side’ so much, but it has its moments, particularly when it ascends into an inspiriting new age poppy dreamland in the second half. (7)

Maya Kalev: I’m a rabid Peter Gordon fan and a sucker for most things Factory Floor-related, so this collaboration fairly groaned under the weight of my own expectations. Happily, ‘Beachcombing / C Side’ more than measures up to them, which comes as a relief after the eight-minute intro that was Factory Floor’s ‘Fall Back’ single earlier this year. Gordon’s sax vacillates between quietly elegiac and portentous over ‘Beachcombing’’s tectonic bassline, and Nik Colk Void’s wordless vocals are so ethereal they’re effectively textural veils. The whole thing peaks in a brilliant clamour at the end, jarring and strange. (8.5)

Joe Muggs: Well the long track is magic. It’s so easy to be over concerned about retroism and where influences come from and all that, but you can’t fake this sort of thing – it’s either proper blissed-out vibes or its not, simple as that. And as someone who’s spent a decent amount of time on beanbags in chillout rooms with eyes spiralling in different directions towards infinity, I reckon I can spot when it’s not. This is real deal music, and not a minute too long with it. The other track, with the spiritual saxophone all up in your grill, um… it might make sense when you’re peaking on something or other but I can take it or leave it. It’s a bit creepy yoga teacher if I’m honest. But for the long track, top marks. (8)

Lauren Martin: This is fantastic. The way that ‘Beachcombing’ dissolves in its latter movements is gloriously chaotic but of the two, I feel that the brightness of the melodies and super treated vocals on ‘C-Side’ evoke that spirit of the Love Of Live Orchestra and the 1970s New York avant garde composer a la Arthur Russell best in that at it’s core, it shows how uplifting and daring pop can be.  (8)

John Twells: The problem with this one is I know how good the collaboration’s supposed to be. I know how important Gordon is and I know Factory Floor can hold their own, but it just doesn’t do it for me at all. It starts nowhere and goes nowhere, and that saxophone, as ‘period’ as it is (I’m guessing that title ‘C-Side’ is a Terry Riley nod) I just can’t handle it. Kosmiche slop. (4)

Steve Shaw: If you’d told me that my life was in dire need of more Kraut-pulsed synth, saxophone and dirge vocal jams, I’d probably have taken a moment to reflect on that and then said ‘Yes. Yes it is.’ It’s therefore a beautiful coincidence that I discovered this gaping, trembling hole in my existence at the very moment Gordon and Factory Floor were filling it. I think I’m in love. (10)

Mutya Keisha Siobhan – ‘Lay Down in Swimming Pools’ (8.1)

Chal Ravens:
You can’t beat the first 50 seconds of this. Chorus is a bit post-Siobhan, though – I was hoping the ‘Babes were gonna get back to the sulky, sultry teen vocals of their unimpeachable first album. The vocals are really raw, actually – they’re amazing singers but it’s weird to hear relatively untouched voices on a pop song now. Mutya absolutely kills it. (9)

Chris Kelly: The all-grown-up Sugababes make one of the past year’s tightest beats their own, and the whole thing is coaxed into existence by It-producer Dey Hynes. It may be FACT bait, but it works: just as the original was loosing its luster, Mutya, Keisha, and Siobhan prove to be infinitely more exciting than that other reunited pop-R&B trio. (7)

Steve Shaw: Pretty derivative, and doesn’t really suit them, but as the info on the Soundcloud page explains, it was made for a laugh more than anything. Despite being a rip-off of the whole Timbaland/Dark Child/Danja style, I like the male vocal interjections. (6)

Joe Moynihan: At the time of writing this track has had over 200,000 plays on Dev Hyne’s Soundcloud, and I’m willing to bet serious $$$ that at least half of them are mine. If you’ve hung out with me in the last week or so, I sincerely apologise for being that prick who keeps talking about how wicked this tune is, but come on. Just listen to it. From Mutya’s verses to the girls one-upping Kendrick’s own chorus, it’s a self-described “bit of fun” that’s resulted in one of the most uplifting tunes of the year so far. Bow down, Beyoncé. (10)

Joe Muggs: If they genuinely came up with this just dicking about in the studio then it’s amazing… and if they didn’t then it’s amazing too. Essentially this is just amazing. I’m sure there are people who are proper pop or R&B dorks who can explain exactly why this isn’t cool, or how someone did it before – but come on, it’s the original Sugababes, on the Swimming Pools rhythm, singing their hearts out. How was this ever not going to be amazing? (9)

Maya Kalev: In theory at least, I like this. Mutya’s silk crepe voice is still one of the best in British pop, and the other two deliver great harmonies, the internally rhyming lyrics with their “can’t put me down” spirit far better than usual chart fodder. So why does the whole thing leave me a little cold? I don’t know, but somehow the sum of its parts is less than their individual worth. (6)

John Twells: How can anyone dislike the original Sugababes? Hearing them together again reminds me what made the trio so good in the first place and taking on ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ was a well-informed choice (I’m guessing Dev Hynes might have had some input). We might be drowning under the weight of Kendrick reworks right now (and that includes a pretty great one from the man himself) but Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan trump them all with a blend of charm, humour and that instantly recognizable harmony. Apparently it was just them messing around in the studio – if this is the three having a laugh then I really need to step up my game. (8)

Lauren Martin: I love the OG Sugababes and I especially love Mutya Buena. Her voice is truly unique – sultry and gravely, easy and assured – and I feel as if I ‘get her’ even though I’ve never met her, which I suppose is one of the marks of a great singer. On this, it really does feel like the teenage girls of One Touch are now women who have laughed, cried, drank and danced through enough heartache and joy to merit what they’re singing about: “When I lay down you can bet / I have found where I wanna be / And all around where I tread / Are all the sounds that I’ve found for the love of me.” I believe them when they sing it and everything else about this is sick too. Dev Hynes flipping the Lamar track like this keeps their sound super contemporary and it’s an excellent reminder of how they all have their own distinct voices, yet still sound so beautiful together. The harmonies are just sublime. I gush, I gush, I gush. (10)

Ruff Sqwad – ‘Cold’ (4.4)

Chal Ravens:
Great electro-funk stab opening. Feeling far too well-disposed to all of this week’s tunes, but I’m not gonna deny Ruff Sqwad their final victory lap. Even the Autotune. Even the double denim in the video. Even the stigmata stuff. (7)

Steve Shaw: Why is Robert Miles producing Ruff Sqwad? (3)

Laurent Fintoni: Why does the line at 1.38 sound like it’s been phoned in on a poor quality mobile connection? Instrumental is another ‘du jour’ trick, would have been interesting to hear something rawer but I can see why some might think this has pop appeal at least. (4)

Joe Moynihan: I think this is an unfortunate but fitting illustration of how grime has been split into two lately, with instrumental grime sounding stronger than ever and the MCs, well, sounding like this. Tinchy has lost all his tantrum, Rapid’s auto-tune singsong is uncomfortable and the synth-heavy trap beat, produced by Merlin, just helps to further distance the collective from its outside the box productions and at times intense presence as MCs (see Roachee and Dirty Danger’s ‘Move 2 Dis’ freestyle on Risky Roadz 2 for a perfect example). Even the artwork, seemingly lifted from some motivational tumblr blog, spells the crew’s name wrong. It’s a sad way to say farewell to our beloved Ruff Sqwad, and for all the wrong reasons. (3)

Maya Kalev: I admire the guys for doing what they want (autotune and shit bars) rather than what I want (a track half as good as ‘Anna’) but I’m not really down with this. On its own merits, it isn’t awful – nice hook, decent synth melody and a solid verse from Prince Rapid – but the gulf in quality between ‘Cold’ and the stone-cold classics is so wide it’s a bit like comparing Riff Raff to Dilla. (5)

Joe Muggs: This isn’t bad as such by any measure, but a) production-wise, obviously in comparison to the mad invention of Ruff Sqwad when they didn’t know what they were doing it’s all a bit depressingly normal and b) the Jesus stuff freaks me out a bit. Nothing wrong with people expressing their religion in their music – some of the greatest music of all time is devotional – but it just sounds a little bit “recruiting pamphlet”, doesn’t it? (4)

Lauren Martin: As much as I love Ruff Sqwad, if ‘Cold’ is indicative of their recent tastes and efforts then I’m kind of glad that this is meant to be their swansong. The nostalgia and romanticism that surrounds them means that although it’s great to see them all together like this, I can’t help but feel that this beat teeters on the edge of being quite dull, and departed from the agony and ecstasy of their previous work.  It’s all a bit too auto-tuned and the percussion leans too close to a lower-level trap, but at least the cheesiness of it is balanced out by the fact that they’ve retained the introvertedness that makes them so compelling. The way the last hook repeats until it fades makes me want to quietly stand and salute them all. (5)

John Twells: I want to like this, I feel like it’s chock full of elements I’d usually go for; slightly mis-handled autotune, tough snares and woozy 8-bit synth business, but something just doesn’t sit right. It all ends up coming across as a little too earnest and ‘fists in the air’ and there’s more than just a hint that Tinchy’s been taking pointers from his mate Dappy. If this really is the Sqwad’s swan song I’d rather forget it exists at all. (4)

Beyonce – ‘Bow Down’ / ‘Been On’ (6.9)

Steve Shaw: 
Beyoncé does my head in most of the time, and I can never take her seriously when she’s trying to be a bad motherfucker (‘Videophone’, ‘Diva’) rather than a soul heavyweight. But her message in this is definitely the kind of ladies’ anthem that nobody else could be doing, and possibly a first? Hit-Boy’s production – positively Drexciyan at first, dissolving into weird Dirty South Autechre opera with Mellotron flutes and a screwed Beyoncé – is brilliant, and I’m impressed by the adventurousness of the pair of them. So I shall, indeed, bow down for this. Spot-on cover art too, damn. (10)

Chal Ravens: The second of this week’s pop tracks to lift a trap vibe and do it with aplomb. If anything the first chorus even has a footwork vibe, the way she’s cutting and repeating her own vocal. This is absurdly good and exactly the kind of thing I want Beyonce to be doing. Then from two minutes in the operatic vocal and doomy synths and sick 808s combine to make something that completely scrambles my brain – not sure what it has to do with Beyonce at that point but pretty into it anyway. (8)

Laurent Fintoni: Whoever decided this was a good idea needs to reconsider what constitutes a good idea. It’s ‘du jour’ granted, but that’s about it. With 2 million plays and going though I probably don’t ‘get it’. (2)

Chris Kelly: The musical equivalent of last month’s scorching GQ spread: Beyoncé in post-mommy mode, tearing up the Girl Power script over a Hit-Boy banger and then playing both sides of the feminine/masculine divide with a cinematic bit of chopped-and-screwed angst. Her next album could still be heavy with 4-styled balladry, but for a moment, she has thrown down the gauntlet against targets old (Rihanna) and new (A$AP Rocky and other pretenders to the Houston sound). Long live Queen Bey. (8)

Joe Muggs: I’m looking really excitable this week, because I basically want to give top marks to just about everything. The first half of this is Beyonce telling the world to “bow down, bitch”, which is only right – then the second half is seriously head-wrong hi-tech deep south drug music, which is just great. It’s all good. (9)

John Twells: Hit-Boy’s beat for ‘Bow Down’ is just astounding, it’s his little touches; the paper-thin synths in the background, the neck snapping snares. The Houston tribute ‘Been On’ is a fun addition – I just love the fact that a bunch of kids are gonna be hearing her slowed-down shoutouts to Pimp C and UGK and be totally confused (“what’s ‘trill’ mommy?”). Who knows, some of them might Google it and end up jamming Screw tapes on Youtube, and a new generation of Witch House producers could be just around the corner. Thanks for that Beyonce. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Wow, the reaction to this was a bit nuts eh? A little misdirected too in my opinion, all the vitriol focused on Bey’s supposedly inappropriate “bow down bitches” refrain. Surely, in 2013 a grown woman should have the freedom to brag about her career and use the word “bitch” without accidentally dismantling all feminism has achieved so far. Context, mate. Anyway, what surprised me is how that managed to overshadow the fact that the tune is just a bit crap. The beat to ‘I Been On’ is pretty cool though, with Timbo back on a Crystal Castles referencing hype. Unfortunately Beyoncé’s sub-A$AP Rocky vocals sound like Topshop’s grasp on the zeitgeist and kind of kill the vibe. (4)

Lauren Martin: Bey’s been given some flack for apparent contradictions on this one: naming her new world tour ‘The Mrs Carter Tour’ yet singing “I’m not just his little wife” and fashioning herself as a pop culture feminist icon yet singing “bow down bitches”, which has riled – amongst others – Keyshia Cole for not being a very nice thing for a lady to say about other ladies.  Well pull up a seat next to Keri Hilson, ma. Every male rapper alive tries to shit on each other from a height but the biggest female star in the world can’t do the same without being deemed pushy, arrogant and selfish? Female r’n’b artist in ‘spends more time trying to rip chunks out of their peers than nailing their own work’ shocker. Besides, I was starting to find Bey’s “brb gonna make love to my husband whilst we sing Coldplay to each other” talk a drag. It’s nice to hear her be arrogant for once and if this is what Hit-Boy’s got in him, then I can’t wait for the new M.I.A. album.  (7)

Sinden and Brenmar – ‘1-2’ (5.4)

Chal Ravens:
Surprisingly restrained and uncluttered, with those nauseating booty bass and baile funk sounds kept neat and minimal. The bassline is doing all the work here and that’s quite as it should be. Confused by the intro and interlude, though, which sound like hastily spliced-in leftovers from the Work in Progress folder. (5)

Joe Muggs: Love Sinden. He’s quite misunderstood, maybe because he’s such a natural with so many styles that people can’t quite get a handle on what he is really about, but he is a don. This track doesn’t leap out, though. It’s absolutely rock solid, and at the right party at the right time would serve its purpose perfectly… but… mmm… (7)

Chris Kelly: Two masters of the new club music craft a tropicalia-infused house groove. This one feels more like a song than a track, thanks to a deft use of white space and some surprising touches (like those Big Band orchestra hits at 2:40). Sinden has spent most of his career collaborating; here’s hoping for more from this pair. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Fairly inoffensive and functional house track. Intro had a nice vibe going on and I enjoyed the postponed drop but the main rubbery bass riff seems totally disconnected to the build up and it just trails off into zzzzzzzzzzz from there. It’s the tune that plays while I fuck off to the bar. (4)

Maya Kalev: While this big dumb house track might sound good at a beach party in Miami after the kind of cocktail that comes in a bucket, I’m bored silly by it. The vocal repeats “one-two” again and again like it means something over a standard-issue beat, and though the bassline is nice and deep, do we really need another house track that’s just fine? (4.5)

Lauren Martin: Before I pressed play I was expecting more of a brash, quick-fix banger but I’m pleasantly surprised by how slinky and laid back it is. It’s all very subdued and nicely arranged. None of the sounds try to outdo each other in terms of volume or jostle against each other to show off in the foreground, so the overall effect is that of a stripped back, confident electro cut that’s cool with taking its time to warm up.  (6)

John Twells: I think I’m the one person in the world who didn’t find The Count and Sinden’s ‘Beeper’ aggressively annoying (I still love it too), so whenever I see Sinden’s name on a tune I’m always prepared to give it at least a fair chance. Saying that ‘One Two (1-2)’ is a real snoozer; I’m sure it’d work well in the right setting but on its own I can barely get through the whole thing without needing to crush a case of Five Hour Energy and soak in a vat of coffee to offset the sheer boredom of it all. (5)

Steve Shaw: 123 > 1-2.  Sorry guys. (5)

DJ Rashad, ‘Let It Go’ (7.8)

Chal Ravens:
Oh right, it’s drum and bass. With “cinematic” strings and earnest diva vocals. Is footwork having its Saturnz Return moment? Alright, that’s a bit strong – this is fantastic and it’s great to see Rashad releasing on Hyperdub and bringing some North American blood into the gene pool. Honestly, I love every single thing about this except the fucking vocal, which isn’t nearly chopped or mangled enough for me – it sounds like he wants us to actually care about her painful emoting and heartstring-tugging, which is all wrong for the abrasive heartlessness of footwork. In my opinion, like. (8)

Laurent Fintoni: I actually prefer ‘Drums Please’ from that EP. Good to see Rashad on Hyperdub after all the recent exchanges between them. The ravey vibe thing is cool, but it’s been done better by other people. Still a solid jam and footwork’s stripped back simplicity still hasn’t got boring either. (6)

Joe Muggs: Well, this is tingles-up-the-back stuff. It’s not even about the nostalgio-buzz of the rave reverences or getting excited about spotting the connection between the rhythmic mathematics of Essex in ’92 and Chicago in ’13 or any of that bullshit, it’s the fact that it hits those precise frequency combinations at that tempo and uses the human voice in that way with those words – it’s just brain chemistry. You know it makes sense! (8)

Chris Kelly: Rashad pulls out all the stops and the resulting track is one of his most captivating yet. A jungle-footwork hybrid, it’s simultaneously frenetic and romantic, with the familiar wailing of soul samples but a newfound musicality that moves it beyond rhythmic curiosity. A personal favorite on an impressive Hyperdub debut. (9)

Steve Shaw: Chicago footwork jungle is definitely something I can get behind in concept – is there more stuff like this around to compare it to? This track feels a little awkward in the sequencing at the moment, but I’m sure Rashad’ll quickly turn into something really fresh. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Badman tune. Like Om Unit and Machine Drum’s Dream Continuum project it’s hugely successful in recognising and utilising the crossover in jungle and footwork. Following an explosive introduction it holds back for such a wonderfully frustrating time, taking some very surprising twists before the pounding low end tumbles back in just before the curtains. (8)

Maya Kalev: The appeal of footwork is ordinarily limited to the dancefloor, but this exhilarating track – and the whole Rollin EP – works away from it too, thanks to the looped vocal sample and blip melody towards the end, and a vaguely lugubrious vibe typical of the label. It’s all about the drums, though: visceral, frenetic, and more than a little junglistic. What’s not to love? (7)

John Twells: This is ridiculous, DJ Rashad’s take on classic jungle? I have to admit when I saw him spin last year and he ramped into amen breaks I was wondering if it would creep into his releases and ‘Let It Go’ is more than I could have hoped for. I just love how he’s snipped the beat into bits to pull out all the swing, only to add it back subtly as the tune develops. It’s the best track on the EP for sure and shows just why Rashad is leagues ahead of his footwork contemporaries. I wonder if he’s heard Lee Gamble’s Diversions? (9)

Final scores:

Mutya Keisha Siobhan – ‘Lay Down in Swimming Pools’ (8.1)
DJ Rashad, ‘Let It Go’ (7.8)
Peter Gordon & Factory Floor – ‘Beachcombing’ / ‘C-Side’ (7.1)
Beyonce – ‘Bow Down’ / ‘Been On’ (6.9)
Sinden and Brenmar – ‘1-2’ (5.4)
Ruff Sqwad – ‘Cold’ (4.4)

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