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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 Cassie, TNGHT, Zomby, Colleen and more in the line of fire.

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Zomby – ‘With Love’

Chris Kelly:
That was underwhelming, no? Layers of atmospherics build into a general sense of unease and paranoia, but this feels like something that needs an album for context – there’s not enough “there” there. (3)

Chal Ravens: This is brilliant – a weighty slab of nocturnal voodoo magic hypnotising you into its treacly embrace. The sense of depth and dynamics is so nuanced – only when you rewind do you notice that it’s steadily been getting quieter right the way through. I’m withholding points for safety’s sake, though – you never quite know where Zomby’s pinched his material from. (7)

Maya Kalev: I’d probably like Zomby if he ever finished a track, but there’s no danger of that happening any time soon. ‘With Love’ may be over three minutes long but I know an interlude when I hear it, and this is a particularly uninspired one. (3)

John Twells: So this is what passes for a hype new track these days then? I love Zomby, but he could do better than what is, in essence, three minutes of the same loop – and this is coming from a William Basinski fan. It just sounds lazy; it’s not really good or even that bad, it’s just something you hear and promptly forget about. Next. (3)

Joe Muggs: He’s a silly bugger, but he’s great. Of course he’s always going to fall short of his claims to godlike genius, but that’s no reason to get disillusioned: he makes real deal music, and this is lush. Sounds totally like something from a 90s crusty rave backroom, which is no bad place to be if you can secure a beanbag. (7)

Lauren Martin: The man! The myth! The troll! Zomby called me an “ugly cow” who should “get a real fuckn job” on Twitter once so in the spirit of living up to expectations, here’s me doing my job. This is pretty good. Granted it doesn’t really go anywhere, and seeing as it’s the Singles Club I should really only consider it as a stand-alone track, but I’d like to think its identity will become more apparent within the context of his forthcoming album, as an interlude of sorts maybe. That in itself though is where a gripe of mine about Zomby’s productions come in. It’s typical of the sonorous malaise of his previous work, with that overall effect of dust gathering on the needle as it plays, but I can’t help but feel that Zomby is now content to just toy with the idea of a track rather than put himself more on the line with something more fully realised – like trying to wretch with subtlety.  (6)


TNGHT – ‘Acrylics’ 

Chris Kelly:
The trap behemoth marches on, annihilating everything in its path.. but especially nuance. One of the defining characteristics of the duo’s EP (and either a strength or a weakness, depending on your perspective) was the space left for vocalists. Now, the white space is gone, as stadium-sized drums and angular synths lumber awkwardly with teenaged angst. No one can rap over this, and they certainly can’t dance to it. (2)

Chal Ravens: Is dayglo maximalist trap-rave about to have its darkside moment? The set-up seems familiar but everything’s gothically inverted – harsh synths, oppressive drums, dissonant chords, and the final drop is positively deranged. I don’t want to be in a club when this is playing, nor do I want to be acquainted with anyone who might request it, but it is brilliantly weird for a song that’s already edging towards quarter of a million Soundcloud plays. (7)

Maya Kalev: I’m not a fan of TNGHT’s big dum-dum trappy schtick, truth be told. ‘Acrylics’ opens with a little baby-mobile melody before the brash synths, kicks and snare rolls come in and though the bombastic builds and drops really aren’t my thing, I can’t deny how well executed it all is. I can’t score it, either; it’s something like 8 in its field / 2 in relation to my taste. (5, then)

Joe Muggs: Festival tune. Some good grime and hard house ridiculousness in it, but the second half’s got that long buildup pomposity that comes of people coming out of clubs and parties and starting to second-guess stadium-sized crowds. Would be so much more fun if it just kept doing the quick-switches instead. Saying that I may well hear it in a field this summer and completely lose my shit along with x grazillion other people in which case I’ll eat my words washed down with warm lager in a paper cup. (6)

John Twells: There’s one word that sums up ‘Acrylics’ better than anything else and that’s messy. The idea is sound enough; take some rave stabs and lolloping drums and piece together a stadium-trap anthem; but Lunice and HudMo just seem to miss the mark dramatically. There’s never much subtlety or restraint in their productions, but where their debut EP was self-aware and measured, ‘Acrylics’ just seems to languish in childishness. Do not want. (3)

Lauren Martin: It pains me to say it, but I think this is dire. The opening drone just made me think of Mweslee’s ‘Eurocarne’ and the lullaby chime / skipping laugh would have sounded better as trigger samples, because the way they’ve been left hanging out to dry like that halfway through just cuts through the momentum of the track for too long. Hud Mo’s earliest incarnation as DJ Itchy means there’s a hood pass for the happy hardcore element here, but I all I can see when I hear this is the cast of Spring Breakers in shredded YOLO vests and plastic Kanye sunglasses braying over each other at Coachella. (4)


King Midas Sound – ‘Aroo’ 

Chris Kelly:
“My Bloody Valentine in dub” might end up being one of the best one-line descriptors in music history. The tension builds for only 30 seconds before being released as waves of detuned, melted guitar that would make Kevin Shields proud. Hitomi’s vocals add an element of seduction, while Roger Robinson’s subdued breakdown is a brief respite from the sonic assault. (8)

Chal Ravens: Wow. Everything about this, from the ethno-grunge-grrrl video to the muddy smears of shoegazey guitars to the belting nonsense-rhyme chorus, seems to have been exhumed from the nineties. “My Bloody Valentine in dub” looked so good on paper – shame it actually sounds like Skunk Anansie. Except I always quite liked Skunk Anansie. (4)

Maya Kalev: Wow. I’ve always been in awe of Kevin Martin’s versatile talent, what with production as The Bug, collaboration with my hero Justin Broadrick, and his band King Midas Sound, whose new single, a slice of blackened, shoegaze-inflected pop-rock, is right up my strasse. Its penetrating low end and seething distortion are brilliantly infernal, and the conflicting textures – glassy melodic chimes, crisp metallic beats and fried feedback – augur well for King Midas Sound’s Ninja Tune debut. I’m sold.  (8)

John Twells: When King Midas Sound hinted at My Bloody Valentine leanings on their new album, I wasn’t convinced. I love both bands, don’t get me wrong, but blending the sounds together sounded a bit like putting buffalo chicken in an ice cream sundae. Thankfully ‘Aroo’ has made a believer out of me, and true enough it does indeed sound like a dubwise take on MBVs patented ear-bending noise. It’s distorted, massive and thanks to two killer vocal spots from Roger Robinson and Kiki Hitomi, it still manages to sound uncanny and unique. This is what I call progression – I can’t wait to hear the album. (8)

Joe Muggs: Thought it was odd that FACT consider it a “surprising revelation” that Kevin Martin is inspired by My Bloody Valentine. Anyone who’s seen both KMS and MBV live should know that they come from the same place, so it’s no surprise at all that Kevin is making that connection explicit. This references the best and bassiest and dirtiest of ‘Isn’t Anything’ era MBV – songs like ‘Slow’ and ‘Soft as Snow (but Warm Inside)’ – yet still sounds unmistakeably like KMS, and that oscillator wigout at the end is something else. Somewhere in the world someone is having amazing sex with this on a loop. With this and the upcoming Bug EP, Kevin is, frankly, on the form of his life. (10)

Lauren Martin: This is magnificent. Tectonic plates of dub and post-rock stuttering and grinding against one another with a confidence as fearsome as it is assured, volume as an all consuming pressure that thrashes you into submission. This is the kind of delirious, masochistic pop I could really lose my shit to. I’d always had King Midas Sound pegged as Kevin Martin’s marginally lighter side compared to the militant, screwface-inducing stomps of The Bug, but now I’ve put them in a whole new, blinding light. (10)


Colleen – ‘Push the Boat onto the Sand’ 

Chris Kelly:
While I don’t have the most complete frame of reference here, there’s something hypnotic and haunting about this one, as if the titular lyrics are being sung by a chorus of sirens. (6)

Chal Ravens: Colleen appeared about a decade ago with a great record built from matted layers of organic textures, eerie found sounds and dusty loops, pretty much mirroring what Dan Snaith and Kieran Hebden were up to around the same time, so it’s interesting to hear from a folktronica artist who’s taken a different fork in the road to those two. Everything on this track is stark, raw, barely-produced – attributes that have become almost radical this century – but intriguing as it is, I can tell I’d need to hear the rest of the album to appreciate it fully. (6)

Maya Kalev: She’s comparable to Grouper and Julianna Barwick in that though she says very little, Colleen manages to express a huge amount of genuine, heartsinking feeling. The pizzicato melody that first accompanies Colleen’s voice and then takes over the track is equally evocative, ringing with sweet unspoken melancholy. Slight imperfections in the vocal and string noise left in the recording lend the song an air of denuded human vulnerability. It’s lovely and I can’t wait to hear more. (7)

Lauren Martin: Sonic diazepam. (4)

John Twells: It’s been ages since we last heard from Colleen, but her new album The Weighing of the Heart is probably the best thing she’s ever done, and this is coming from a die-hard fan of her 2003 debut Everyone Alive Wants Answers. ‘Push the Boat onto the Sand’ is the album’s opener and the big difference between this and her earlier material is that she’s singing for the first time. This isn’t some forgettable, twee breathy coo either, she can really sing, and her stark vocals are the key to the record’s unique and addictive charm. The concepts here are almost doomed to fail – world music, unaccompanied vocals, religious subtexts – in another pair of hands I’d be either yawning or scraping my nails in across the desk in annoyance but somehow Cécile has made it work, and that’s pretty amazing to me. (8)

Joe Muggs: If I can just indulge for a minute, I’d been thinking for a little while how much of what was called “folktronica” a decade ago seems to be coming round again – the re-release of Four Tet’s Rounds, the return of Tunng, new twinkly stuff like Zoon van SnooK and Pascal Pinon etc etc – and then this new album by Colleen dropped on my doormat. She was always one of the most interesting in that acoustic-electronic chillout psychedelic zone, I remember completely falling for her loop pedal based set at Green Man Festival 2004, which itself was a keystone moment for all that stuff. Anyway, this is cracking, a standout on the album. (8)


Jacques Greene & Tinashe – ‘Painted Faces’ 

Lauren Martin:
I feel like I’ve just been basted in warm honey.  (9)

Chal Ravens: All the pairings in this Songs from Scratch series are really clever but the Adidas sponsorship is a bit nauseating and I can’t work out which direction the money’s flowing. Still, patronage is hard to come by and it’s a fine idea in essence, so it’s a shame this particular communion has borne such meagre fruits. It’s basically club music for daytime radio – too hooky and melodic to actually DJ but nowhere near fun or irreverent enough to capture the dizzy joy of truly radiant pop. The giveaway is the miserable clip of Greene hammering out minor chords on a baby grand while Tinashe faux-emotes under knitted eyebrows, as if there’s some real, like, pain and bad stuff hidden under that frisky bass line. All wrong. (3)

Chris Kelly: The Songs from Scratch series is doing a great job of pairing artists who should be working together. Tinashe has an interesting voice, but in the past she mostly stuck with smoky, Weekndesque beats that tend to drown her out. Over a house mutation by a producer who made his name with Brandy, Ciara, and Ashanti samples, she has room to breathe, even if her voice Is a bit slight in the higher registers. I could do without the hi-hat rolls, though. (7)

Maya Kalev: There’s something depressing about an itchy, impatient internet age that demands music production take place in an unrealistically short – and, often, conveniently filmable – space of time.  It’s not a new gimmick, but of late it seems like everyone with a video camera and a DAW has appropriated it. Adidas and Yours Truly’s spin on things is to facilitate collaboration between artists who on paper go well together; pairs so far have included Shlohmo and Jeremih, and Danny Brown and Araabmusik. They continue the “no shit, Sherlock” approach with R&B vocalist Tinashe and Jacques Greene, largely known for sampling R&B vocals into a garagey house blueprint. ‘Painted Faces’, poppier in structure than Greene’s previous releases, isn’t necessarily awful, just a basic, sugary track. Tinashe’s extraordinary if flowery voice and Greene’s gleaming synth timbres are nice, but there’s also a cod-trap bit, and the whole thing lacks any of Greene’s usual depth and nuance. While of course writing and producing a track in a day is impressive, I’d still rather listen to any of his past releases than this. (4)

John Twells: Tinashe is incredibly underrated, and with any luck 2013 will be her year to shine. Certainly jumping in the studio with Jaques Greene was a smart plan, and the two have a good enough chemistry on ‘Painted Faces’. While it doesn’t seem as if she has quite as much to ‘do’ as Jeremih did in his similar collaboration with Shlohmo a couple of weeks back, it’s got just the kind of drive I want from a Greene track, and Tinashe’s lilting vocals work as a suitable embellishment to his fuzzy harmonics. (6)

Joe Muggs: Pretty. Cheesy. Sweet. Reminds me of late ‘90s pop trance and I’d love it if stuff like this started filtering through into the mainstream in the wake of Disclosure and co. It’s only a skip and a jump from this to someone writing a pop melody like this, popping it over a crackly burial beat and coining it in, right? (6)


Kevin Gates – ‘Satellites’ 

Lauren Martin:
Future casts a long shadow. (5)

Chris Kelly: If he can churn out songs like this, Kevin Gates is going to be a star. ‘Satellites’ is almost too simple: Gates takes Future’s vulnerable, melodic approach to rapping, blends drug-dealing and a double-time sex-romp into what is otherwise a pretty poppy ballad, drops the best hook of the young year over some trance synths — and it works. I’ve had this on repeat all month. (9)

Chal Ravens: The beat feels a bit cheap and not in a good way – same old rapid-fire trance stabs, dial tone melodies and portentous piano chords – but Gates’ sing-song voice is deeply satisfying and makes for a properly catchy tune. The square in me is withholding points for the teardrop tattoos (the only acceptable facial scribble is an ice cream) and the gunshot, which made me jump even on the third go-round. (6)

John Twells: Sure, ‘Satellites’ is Kevin Gates’ shot at some of that Future money but the Louisiana rapper can handle it better than most. Gates has one of the most distinctive voices in the game now, and has mentioned before how much love he has for Jamaican pop music, so its hardly out of the ordinary to hear it in this track. ‘Satellites’ doesn’t quite hit the highs that Gucci’s ‘Hell Yes’ did last week, but it gets a thumbs up from me. I’d give a big recommendation to anyone that hears this to go grab The Luca Brasi Story immediately. (7)

Joe Muggs: I wanted to really dislike it because of the bloody Coldplay / Euro-trance piano and chord sequences – that nonsense has been toxic in rap ever since Jay-Z started goofing around with Chris Martin – but I’m won over by the force of personality here. I mean he sounds like he’s had a tracheotomy but his flow is great and super musical, the lyrics are tight, and it drew me in to the point where the cheese-rushes actually sound like they’re doing more than just sentiment button-pushing. (7)


Cassie feat. Rick Ross – ‘Numb’ 

Chris Kelly:
Producer Noel Cadastre has worked as an engineer with Drake and Noah “40” Shebib, and he’s clearly picked up some tricks in the studio. ‘Numb’, like ‘Balcony’ before it, embraces subtly and ambience; Cassie opts for a languid deliver befitting the song’s title and hook (“I make music to numb your brain”), riding the beat with ease. Unfortunately, Rick Ross, fresh off his ‘U.O.E.N.O.’ controversy, and the MMG drop are more distracting than ever. But still, it’s new material from Cassie — beggars can’t be choosers. (8)

Chal Ravens: With every passing year Cassie makes more sense – sultry after-hours R&B delivered in a voice that initially seems meek and diffident but that actually ripples with subtle inflections, which works perfectly with a line like “I make music to numb your brain”. It’s pure Cloud Cassie. But I’m withholding points for Rick Ross’ try-hard Martin Margiela name-check and other recent misdemeanours. (7)

Maya Kalev: It’s hard not to listen to this with Rick “date rape apologist” Ross’ recent activities in my mind, but I’ll put them aside for now. The good news is that Cassie’s back. The bad news is that ‘Numb’ is only okay. Cassie’s voice has never been particularly good and that’s part of her charm, but it needs a good hook to work, and this one is instantly forgettable. The verses have more character, but Rozay’s is lazy, and though the hazy production fits with the lyrical content, the effect of both is vaguely analgesic, in the boring rather than opiated-cloud sense. (5)

Lauren Martin: I’ve always been fascinated by the enduring love affair with Cassie because her mainstay in the R&B consciousness has always been a bit half-baked for me. She has a beautiful voice but it’s tender to the point of being flat, and R&B has grown so much in the years since ‘Me & U’, so it’s interesting to see her take a clearer route into rap. She’s much more enunciated and assured now, and it’s bolstered that brand of aloof, sultry naivety she’s got nicely pegged. The fact that she’s essentially rapping here also makes her less melodic but considering that her voice was never going to be strong enough to compete with her R&B peers (Jhene Aiko, looking at you here) this new sound is the best way she could have developed in the post-Ryan Leslie years without betraying what makes her likeable. It’s also mercifully nothing like ‘King Of Hearts’, which was just crap. Hey Puffy, thanks for Biggie and all, but go home dude. (7)

John Twells: Officer Ricky is on everyone’s shit list at the moment, but he’s on form here dropping non-rapey bars in-between Cassie’s ice-queen moans. I don’t need to be sold on anything she does (full disclosure: I even like the crappy tracks), but ‘Numb’ finds Ventura taking what she knows works and turning it up to eleven. Druggy, filtered synths: check, emotionless yet strangely alluring vocals: check, skeletal beats: check. Yeah Cassie, you know what we like – it’s a fair cop. (8)

Joe Muggs: Well even ignoring the fact that Rick Ross is a gross sweaty rape-lover, he’s not really particularly welcome here. I mean, this is an E song isn’t it? It’s pure velvet from beginning to end – really saucy and blurry-eyed, proper sink-into-it business – only halfway through the fat oaf pops up with his phoned-in verse for no reason other than to keep up his relentless brand extension. It’s like a commercial break in the middle of a really hot dream. Remember that interview Gunplay did where he waxes lyrical about MDMA and about how it’s great, but only when you’re NOT in a situation where you’re surrounded by idiots intent on beef and drama? That. (5, would be a 9 without Ross)


Final scores:

King Midas Sound – ‘Aroo’ (8)
Kevin Gates – ‘Satellites’ (6.8)
Cassie feat. Rick Ross – ‘Numb’ (6.6)
Colleen – ‘Push the Boat onto the Sand’ (6.5)
Jacques Greene & Tinashe – ‘Painted Faces’ (5.8)
Zomby – ‘With Love’ (4.8)
TNGHT – ‘Acrylics’ (4.5)

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