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Sophie, Kanye West, M.I.A., Machinedrum and more reviewed in the FACT Singles Club, June 23 2013

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 Kanye West, Sophie, Machinedrum, Mark Pritchard and more in the line of fire. Oh, and we won’t spoil what it is, but this week’s edition sees one track score the lowest average in FACT Singles Club history.

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Sophie – ‘Bipp’ 


Brad Rose: On the surface this is clearly awful, but at the same time I keep listening to it, trying to understand what the fuck is happening here.  The production is fine, though hardly memorable, but the vocals are the obvious focal point here and it sounds like it was sung, off-key, by a six year-old.  Weirder, though, I’d say that should be considered a selling point. It’s totally horrible and yet I’ve now listened to it ten times in a row. This is some serious Stockholm Syndrome shit or something. I seriously can’t decide if I should give this a 0 or a 10, so I’ll just split the difference. Sidenote: can we please stop with the whole ‘male producers adopting female names’ thing?  Thanks.  (5)

John Twells: Someone’s been looking at my secret diary again haven’t they? ‘Bipp’ manages to blend together so many things I absolutely love it’s not even funny – it sounds like The Secret Vampire Soundtrack-era Bis doing a cover of Shanks & Bigfoot’s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ then getting themselves remixed by Aphex Twin circa ‘Windowlicker’. The track is held together by a fucking microfiber – it feels as if it could all collapse any minute and end up as a totally misjudged disgrace (hi Sir Paul), but inexplicably Sophie esolutely powers through and makes it to the finish line. I’ve played it almost a hundred times in the last week; I think I’m ill. (10)

Lauren Martin: I can almost taste the synth lines melting, dripping and bouncing off a dense metal surface far below, the droplets splattering everyone in the room in a thousand shades of neon. A wee belter. (7)

Tom Lea: Didn’t like his last single, but this is fucking great. I’d murder a whole album of it. (9)

Chal Ravens: Everyone’s got a bit barmy for this already but after a couple of listens I can’t really be arsed anymore. It’s expended its value on my home speakers, is what I mean – need to hear it on a dancefloor, go bonkers and hope to god the club’s got a foam machine. I’m fascinated by the voice though – is it one of those virtual reality Japanese pop stars? Whatever’s been done to make it sound so freakishly un-human is fantastic and should be applied to all pop music forthwith. (6)

Laurent Fintoni: I can see people liking this. I’m however not one of them. Unless i’m in a club and drunk, in which case I’d probably dig it. I am large, I contain multitudes. (5)

Chris Kelly: Now That’s What I Call Numbers! (8)


M.I.A. – ‘Bring the Noize’


Laurent Fintoni: Errr… whoever got left loose on the effects racks needs to chill the fuck out for a minute. (1)

John Twells: Those skittering drums remind me of Autechre’s Chichlisuite, which is a good thing, but I’m still not certain exactly what I think about this one. M.I.A. sounds more bored than provoked, and while the production is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s a bit of a maximalist mess to be honest. I’m confused. (5)

Chris Kelly: ‘Bring the Noize’ is the type of lo-fi, cut-and-paste collage which M.I.A did so well on her early efforts; it’s more ‘Bucky Done Gone’ than ‘Bad Girls’. Fueled by stripped-down club beats and reconfigured synth stabs, it’s skittering, glitchy, and a bit off-kilter; the free-associative lyrics are built more for rhythm than message, and that’s fine. Perhaps the wait for Matangi will be worth it after all. (7)

Lauren Martin: A fairly enjoyable arrangement of organised chaos. The word “maximalist” has been thrown about a fair bit in the past year or so with Rustie, TNGHT and Lockah, but this is maximalist in the sense that it’s just a lot; a lot to hear at once and fully take in, it’s less devoid of nuance than nuance smothered with a thousand other nuances all in simultaneous play. All these years on I still don’t know how sincere M.I.A.’s activist-pop persona is but I suppose like any pop star, the emphasis is on persona first and foremost. I’m going to reserve a more searching judgement of this new work until Matangi drops. (6)

Chal Ravens: Four songs for the price of one, not bad. Big fan of the creaking door percussion, and overall I reckon the uncompromising noise-piled-upon-noise bodes well for the new album, although it’s hardly got the infectious silliness of last year’s one-off single ‘Bad Girls’. Is that even going to be on the new one? No wonder she’s pissed off at her label, she’s been in limbo for more than a year waiting for the green light. Anyway, this is solid stuff, classic M.I.A. If you don’t like her already this will not be the track to sway you. (6)


Bloody Beetroots feat. Paul McCartney – ‘Out of Sight’ 


Brad Rose: I’d be weirdly okay with a string of shit Paul McCartney collaborations seeping out of his withered, old veins until he dies.  It’d be the perfect way for Sir Paul to go out.  Ugh. (0)

Laurent Fintoni: Potentially further proof that the real McCartney died years ago and this is an impostor hell-bent on fucking with the original’s legacy. (1)

John Twells: I didn’t think it was possible, but McCartney has actually found a way to craft a track that’s more offensive to me than ‘The Frog Song’. It’s not even that I’m opposed to the whole idea of EDM either, but this unholy union is pretty much like hearing an audio interpretation of The Human Centipede. Bloody Beetroots is shitting his ear-molesting production into McCartney’s mouth, and McCartney is shitting it all into ours whilst yelping his muffled words into Beetroots’ messy asshole. I’m going to need a family pack of Doublemint to get the taste out of my mouth. Fuck Wings too. (0)

Chal Ravens: Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to listen to this. I’m sure the kids love it, though, and you know what they say about kids, right? They’re ignorant little gobshites. (0)

Chris Kelly: Courtesy “Default retirement age … has been phased out – most people can now work for as long as they want to.” Damn shame, ain’t it? (0)

Lauren Martin: Bloody Beetroots are going to get a slagging for “butchering” a McCartney vocal and layering it over with the kind of horrible, early 2000s, KKKK-rated emo drum blasts that remind me of the under 18s punk club I saw more than a few fat goth girls get fingered in, but Sir Paul shouldn’t get off lightly for this one either. This is a man who seems incapable of resting on one of the most influential pop legacies of all time with much regard for self-preservation, instead happy to be carted out for every British event imaginable to play ‘Hey Jude’ to sodden crowds for the umpteenth time and get involved with things of this ilk. Sit down Macca, you don’t need EDM and EDM doesn’t need you. That aside, the publishing department at EA Sports are probably doing the collective Birdman hand-rub right now. I’m giving it 1 just because I don’t think I could give something even this thinly attached to the Beatles a 0. (1)

Tom Lea: I was drunk watching last year’s Olympics opening ceremony and made the solid professional move of writing “fuck off McCartney” with FACT’s Twitter account. I couldn’t stand by that more right now. (0)


Kitty – ‘Barbie Jeep’


Brad Rose: I was late on the Kitty bus, but her D.A.I.S.Y. Rage  EP earlier this year made me a full-fledged convert.  There’s this great dichotomy in her tunes where she clearly takes what she’s doing very seriously without really taking herself too seriously, and in the past year her flow and general skill as an MC has grown in leaps and bounds. ‘Barbie Jeep’ shows Kitty’s continued progression. Extra point for Hot Sugar’s killer production.  Keep disregarding Kitty as a “real rapper” (whatever the fuck that even means) at your own peril cuz she’s got game.  (8)

Chal Ravens: I’m expecting this track to provoke oodles of hatred against this really quite original and weird sounding young white girl who dares to mess around on the fringes of hip hop (yes, she’s not a rapper, let’s all get over this “so-and-so can’t rap” nonsense, we’re in the post-Lil B age now, people). I’m reminded of Gwen Stefani’s rock-solid first album and I’m totally sold on the hands-off-my-body-in-the-club theme and the Harry Potter cursing. (7)

Lauren Martin: Ah, 2013, the year of White Girl 2.0. A glitch in the system inspired by Pamela Anderson and later caricatured by Ice T’s wife Coco, White Girl 2.0 has become the kind of post-noughties phenomenon that Buzzfeed and EDM butters their bread with and fuels awkward bursts of tweets about cultural appropriation and “white people lol” when White Girls go above and beyond; when Spring Breakers saw Rachel Korine party with Gucci Mane, when Mike Will Enabled It with Miley’s “new black sound” and when Amanda Bynes – well, a list of what she hasn’t done yet would be shorter. Please, aspiring White Girl 2.0’s everywhere, go home and update your Tumblr.  I can’t take your shit being rolled in glitter like this any longer. (0)

Chris Kelly: Kitty’s LiveJournal stream of consciousness doesn’t usually do much for me, but she seems to be — gasp — actually rapping here (albeit with a half-sung, half-lidded cadence). The found sounds of Hot Sugar’s “associative music” beat gives the song a twisted-Disney vibe. (5)


Machinedrum – ‘Eyesdontlie’


Laurent Fintoni:
A nice refinement and continuation of the potentials he hinted at in the Room(s) album for Mu a couple years ago. Machinedrum is one of the few producers working in the 160/170 tempo range that really gets how to channel the energy that lies there without hammering you over the head with it. Then again I’d expect nothing else of someone who’s been at it for over ten years. (7)

Chal Ravens: Footwork has proved to be a powerful fertiliser for underground dance music on both sides of the pond, and it’s fascinating to hear how different producers have incorporated those hyperactive tick-tocking drums and pitchbent vocal snippets into their own styles. The synth-washed breakdown is  kinda cheesy and I’m not sure Machinedrum has really made the most of footwork’s itchiness, the way it assaults your ears and throws you off balance. Decent, but not groundbreaking. (5)

John Twells: I can always pick out Travis’s productions – he’s essentially making the same tunes he was back in the Now You Know days, just with more developed rhythms and bass. ‘Eyestontlie’ is as huge a track as he’s put out and sounds like a grab bag of all the influences he’s managed to dribble into his productions to date: there’s a bit of rap, a bit of footwork and a lot of jungle (for those of you that don’t remember, that was there back in ’01 too). Bring on the full-length. (7)

Lauren Martin: Machinedrum’s back catalog is as faultless as it is numerous for me. Room(s) was a near universal critical triumph, so whatever he followed it up with was always going to be subjected to an even harsher edge of scrutiny than previous work. Luckily, this sounds excellent and bodes well for a new full length. I love the way the vocals are warped to different speeds, like they’re being dragged back on their heels in bursts. I’d say more but, I feel tired just thinking about what else he could come up with at this point. (8)


Ata Kak – ‘Daa Nyinaa’ (Noema’s Tribute Edit)


Laurent Fintoni: Sexy time. (7) 

Brad Rose: Love this.  I remember downloading the original on Awesome Tapes From Africa ages ago, but this was a nice surprise.  Truth is, you could put Ata Kak’s vocals on just about anything and it’d be solid, but the simple, bass-heavy disco mix here is the perfect foundation for Kak’s infectious voice. I want to party at this club all the time.  (7)

Chal Ravens: Sublime. There’s only one thing not to like about this incredible piece of Ghanaian highlife-disco-funk sorcery, and that’s its length. Six and a half minutes? I’m afraid I require an extended edit. Half an hour should do it. (10)

John Twells: There’s very little to say about this other than that it’s bonkers and brilliant. Writing about Ata Kak is kind of like dancing a letter to the local council to get a refund on a parking ticket – pointless. (8)

Tom Lea: Anyone giving this less than an 8 is just fronting, sorry. The only possible reasons I can see to take off marks are a) it’s not long enough (surely if you’re going to re-release this, it needs to come with a proper extended edit?), and b) if it takes off the way it deserves to, you’ll be sick of it by the end of Summer. But that’s it. (9)

Lauren Martin: What the? This is excellent – some of the most inspiring, fun and clever music I’ve ever heard. A funky proto-disco-rap record with a four-to-the-floor sprinkling of dreamy 80s pop? That’s the best I can do right now, sorry. What’s really cool about it though is that even though it’s been re-mastered it’s still got this wonderful ‘raw-lite’ sense to it. Not quite straight from tape because from listening to both recordings as a point of comparison this version sounds much more driving and robust, but it still retains a muffled otherworldliness that keeps it so dreamy and joyous. I’m going to find it very difficult to listen to this in headphones without do some serious dad-at-a-wedding dance moves down the street. (10)

Chris Kelly: There’s a reason the entire FACT staff was grooving to this one: it’s pure bliss. (7)


Kanye West – ‘Black Skinhead’


Laurent Fintoni: Talking of containing multitudes, Kanye is a poster boy for that entire idea. I kinda like the beat on this, reminds me a bit of ‘Jesus Walks’, which I’ve realised is nearly ten years old. As for the lyrics, well… someone else put it rather well. (5)

John Twells: I don’t feel like I need to be yet another dude weighing in on how amazing Yeezus is, but the rumours are true. It’s fucking great. ‘Black Skinhead’ might not sample Marilyn Manson (it’s Gary Glitter, which is possibly even darker) but with co-production from Salem’s Jack Donoghue even Lupe Fiasco’s involvement can’t put a dampener on this noisy beast of a track. (9) 

Brad Rose: Yeezus is definitely my favorite Daft Punk album at this point. Seriously though, I’m still digesting Yeezus as a whole, but as a start it’s a relentlessly visceral punch to the gut. ‘Black Skinhead’ is a microcosm of this with that blown-out bassline and ‘Beautiful People’-esque drum pounding (even if it’s not an actual sample, come on).  It’s impossible not to have an immediate reaction to a track like this and with Kanye increasingly frenetic, yelling louder with each verse, I’m done. Sign me up. It’s all so deliciously raw. (8)

Chris Kelly: Put Kanye, Daft Punk, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, Mike Dean, Lupe Fiasco, and Salem’s Jack Donoghue in a room and this is what you get: a ragged, ‘Beautiful People’ meets Black Power anthem that could actually be a single. And that bass during the chorus absolutely destroys subwoofers. (8)

Chal Ravens: I feel like I know this song inside out already. Can’t argue with the raging drums, the synth buzz that sounds like a choir of wraiths (or are they voices strangled to sound like a machine?), the way the beat drops out in the middle leaving that churning, super-heavy swell underneath Kanye’s feet. Not such a fan of rhyming shit with shit seven times over. The title is a red herring – this song isn’t political at all, just provocative, littered with naughty words delivered in foamy-mouthed grunts. Kanye had the chance to make a grand statement, a “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” type of statement – but all we get is “300 bitches, where’s the Trojans?”. It’s a shame. Production’s still stunning, though. (6)

Tom Lea: Yeezus is miles ahead of any album released this year for me, and although ‘Blank Skinhead’s one of my two least favourite tracks on it – plus, despite having perhaps the most loaded title on the album, it’s one of the one’s I’m least interested in talking about – it’s still a 7 or so. (7)

Lauren Martin: Kanye is as much about narcissism as self-loathing, the intensity of both following a clear arc with each successive album that runs parallel to his political themes, and ‘Black Skinhead’ sees the arc narrow towards a harsh point. Before the release of Yeezus I was happy to say that he knows exactly what he’s doing. That he used Chief Keef as way of signalling to “middle America” that the threat they perceived from Keef – the angry young black man, aimless and reactionary – was misguided. That Kanye is in fact the threat because his influence, wealth and success grant him a stage that no other rapper enjoy sand loathes more, and that to command that stage in front of “middle America” is to confront us with his default setting of contradiction and question why he’s there in the first place. Yeezus is being almost universally touted as his masterstroke, but I get the distinct feeling that “the personal is political” has taken his ego down a convoluted path. Pulling through the Malcolm X reference from ‘Good Morning’ – “I’m like the fly Malcolm X/Buy any jeans necessary” – into “Leather black jeans on/My by any means on” on ‘Black Skinhead’ should be a reaffirmation of his varying political under/over-currents, but the later line about King Kong feels less about interracial relationships and more about his self-awareness becoming bloated to the point of obese, and in turn reminding me of ‘All Falls Down’: “It seems we living the American dream/But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.” How ‘Black Skinhead’ will come to do justice to his contradictory core remains to be seen, but the crux of it all is that he still fascinates me like no other rapper has or probably ever will. (6)


Juliana Barwick – ‘One Half’


John Twells: This is so good; Julianna Barwick has managed the impossible and injected some much-needed humility and bashfulness into the Icelandic bombast of Sigur Ros. Apparently she recorded this in Iceland with a bunch of the band’s collaborators, and I wouldn’t have expected it but her very introverted chamber pop loveliness sounds better than ever. The sun’s shining and I want to have a little cry now, and think about, I dunno, clouds or trees or Betamax tapes something. (8)

Chal Ravens: Barwick sails dangerously close to manipulative heartstring-tugging on this one, but its brevity keeps your lacrimal glands in check. It’s not really a single, though, is it? But a mouthwatering taster for the next album. (6)

Lauren Martin: It’s perfectly lovely and everything, but it kind of makes me long for the rawness of Julia Holter instead. (6)


Mark Pritchard – ‘Ghosts’


Brad Rose: Decent first outing for Pritchard after retiring all his pseudonyms, though it’s a bit of a rollercoaster. Minimal 808s and monotone, heavily-effected vocals are a combination that will get me every time, but as the track jumps into gear with quick-hit rolling arpeggios, it loses me a bit.  There is a nice contrast between the slow rhythm and rapid-fire synths, but compared to the subtle, bleak shifts of the beginning and middle it just leaves me a bit bored. (5)

Lauren Martin: I’ve always enjoyed Mark Pritchard’s ability to create a dense expanse of sound out of the simplest elements, but this is a bit unremarkable. It’s got a really good sense of balance in how it creates movements and teases out the sounds without fraying them, but it’s not unlike much of the footwork inspired house records I’ve heard this past year or so. I’m not mad at it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to it again. (6)

Chal Ravens: Bit disappointed to report back from this one. Despite the strong start, after the first couple of minutes I want it to break out of its template, maybe take a more psychedelic twist? I mean, it’s still Pritchard, the production’s incredible, so subtly finessed, especially when you turn up your headphones as loud as you can stand. Plus its relative simplicity should make it a much stronger track for the clubs, so I’d be keen to hear it skillfully dropped into a set. (6)

Laurent Fintoni: Like Machinedrum, Mark Pritchard is one of the few who gets the sweet spot between old and new 160/170 bpm dance music. If there was ever a track that could breach generations and show the kids of today what made the jungle/dnb of yesterday so exciting, this is a worthy contender. (9)

Chris Kelly: Even if I shouldn’t have been, I was still pleasantly surprised when analogue synths came skipping into the picture, falling over itself like the footworked percussion. (6)

John Twells: Slow to start but once that slippery synth appears I’m there. Sadly it’s a long way from DJ Elmoe’s unsurpassable ‘Whea Yo Ghost At’ – footworkin’ ain’t easy. (6)


Final scores:

Ata Kak – ‘Daa Nyinaa’ (Noema’s Tribute Edit) (8.5)
Sophie – ‘Bipp’  (7.2)
Kanye West – ‘Black Skinhead’ (7)
Machinedrum – ‘Eyesdontlie’ (6.8)
Juliana Barwick – ‘One Half’ (6.7)
Mark Pritchard – ‘Ghosts’ (6.3)
Kitty – ‘Barbie Jeep’ (5)
M.I.A. – ‘Bring the Noize’ (5)
Bloody Beetroots feat. Paul McCartney – ‘Out of Sight’  (0.3)

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