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nile_rodgers singles club

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 pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time. On the chopping block this week: Leon Vynehall, Nile Rodgers, Baauer and more.

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Gucci Mane feat. Chief Keef – ‘Top In the Trash’

 

Walker Chambliss: VINTAGE GUCCI. For all the problems that surround him, this track is the best thing he’s done in some time, and a perfect distillation of why we should care about his music. His incredible swagger, a penchant for left-field phrases and bizarre wordplay (the line about having sex to spoken word!), and a tendency towards excess and arrogance that verges on transgressive are all on display here. Paired with the crazy, distorted Mike Will beat, this might have been a track of the year contender had Chief Keef not shown up to slur off-time all over the end of it. That takes it down a few points, but it’s still quite a feat. (8)

Chal Ravens: In a week of some very, very strong shit indeed, this is maybe the Track Most Likely to Make Me Do The Cooking Dance in My Seat With A WTF?! Face On. Mike Will has gone beyond. (9)

Alex Macpherson: Is it even possible to really, properly follow Gucci Mane’s career these days? Are there enough hours in the day to sift through the deluge of material he releases without any thought for quality control? Are there fans with the patience to put up with the drama, the meltdowns, the arrests and the dickishness? I wish I could answer “yes” to those questions, because ‘Top In The Trash’ finds Gucci’s wheels spinning on to something approaching his best form, sounding sharp and authoritative over a Mike Will Made It beat with uncharacteristic bombast. “I use Cristal for Listerine, I brush my teeth with pure codeine”: Gucci’s instinct for finding new ways of exaggerating excess is undimmed, and certainly puts Chief Keef’s unremarkable contribution in the shade. But as much as this bangs, another reason I’ve lost interest in keeping up with Gucci Mane is the lack of evolution. This could have come out at any point in the past five years – so while Gucci still does Gucci well, it also still feels as though he’s stuck in his own personal rabbit hole. (7)

John Twells: This is insane – not only has Mike Will dropped another absolutely ridiculous beat (this is up there with ‘Move That Dope’ right?), but Gucci sounds more urgent than he has for years. Since he’s banged up right now, I guess the spike might be because his contribution was actually recorded some time ago, but it’s hard to argue with fire. Keef, on the other hand, sounds like he’s not quite sure if the mic’s on. (9)

Chris Kelly: Well, Mike Will Made It is certainly not going to get Lex Lugered. Just when I thought we had a handle on the “Mike Will Sound,” he returns with ‘Move That Dope’ and now this: a twisted ride through a funhouse, squeezed in a cart between Gucci and Keef. As for the vocals, let’s hope this isn’t a “phase” as Gucci claims, because his verses are amazing, making conspicuous consumption tropes seem fresh. Keef seems over his head on this one, but a focused Gucci is tough to match. (8)

Joe Muggs: This morally reprehensible piece of trash debases just about every race and gender on the planet. And good god, it’s great. Who’da thought MWMI would ever sound so punk? (8)

Aidan Hanratty: I love this beat – the distorted ’50s thriller music really sets the tone, and then when it gets trapped up it gets even more impressive. It feels like it can only get bigger and bigger. Then Gucci’s punchlines really bring a smile to my face, making me smirk and chuckle in complete opposition to the deeply ominous beat. Keef? Well, Keef is Keef. Total banger, this. (8)

Joe Moynihan: Gucci’s bars behind bars are still better than the bars you hear in most bars (special shouts to ‘he faker than Harry Potter’ on this one). Is there an all-Gucci night in London yet? I would like to go to that. (7)

8

Tricky feat. Francesca Belmonte – ‘Nicotine Love’

 

Angus Finlayson: What’s going on here? Did Tricky take a verse and a chorus from different songs and stick them together? If he did then the results really ought to sound more like this and less like an anaemic Soft Cell with a bit of moody whispering thrown in. (5)

Chris Kelly: Did a double-take when I hit play. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. Tricky brings sexy back – why not? (7)

Joe Muggs: Well that’s the best thing from Tricky in a very very long time indeed – which I guess isn’t saying much, but actually this is really lush in a saucy electroclashy sort of way. The collaborator list for the new album looks great, and it seems like the !K7 hookup has done him the power of good… prematurely cringing at how dodgy the lyrics of ‘My Palestine Girl’ are going to be though. (7)

John Twells: It wouldn’t be fair to call this a return to form as last year’s False Idols was way better than most of us expected, but ‘Nicotine’ is Tricky’s best tune in years. It’s got all the elements we’d want – eerie tonal shifts, grubby beats, indistinct moans, bizarre appropriation of club sounds – and more importantly it sounds like a tune only Tricky could manufacture. Proper job. (8)

Joe Moynihan: The 16 that sounds like a Mr Oizo tune after 90% of the serotonin has been sucked out of it is wicked. The subdued electro paranoia provides a surprisingly welcome backdrop for Belmonte’s very smoky and cool, albeit a little where-Martina-Topley-Bird-left-off, vocals too. The other 16 is a bit nah mate. (5)

Walker Chambliss: I actually fell asleep listening to this. Made for some beautiful ZZZZs, though. (5)

Aimee Cliff: Finding it hard not to whip out some kind of groan-worthy addiction-themed line here. Tricky’s the king of showing that making people crane forward can be so much more powerful than blowing their hair back. (7)

Chal Ravens: I’m sold on the concept but the transition from strident electro-squelch to moody string-sweeps feels a tad clunky, like we’re still in the planning stages of a potentially great track. Excited for the album, though. (6)

Alex Macpherson: Every Tricky album since 1996’s Pre-Millennium Tension has been trumpeted as a “return to form”, and every Tricky album in those 18 years – all seven of them – have ended up being various shades of dreadful. Recently, though, he’s been popping up in some interesting places – not just wandering inexplicably around on Beyoncé’s Glastonbury stage, but on the brilliant debut albums by Creep and Maya Jane Coles last year. Something seems to have rubbed off: ‘Nicotine Love’ is like a forgotten minor electroclash hit (is it time for the electroclash revival yet? Can it be, please?) as exhumed and lovingly polished by Coles. Singer Francesca Belmonte deserves much of the credit, dominating the track like a slightly less icy Miss Kittin while Tricky contents himself with the occasional background mumble, but what’s best about ‘Nicotine Love’ is that Tricky’s hauled himself out of endlessly retreading the same old circle to throw a genuine curveball. Not so much a return to form, then, as finding a new form. (7)

Aidan Hanratty: Tricky? Really? While Gucci brought a smile to my face, this just elicits a grimace. Musically it’s not particularly interesting, the vocals aren’t very engaging and the vocal sample seems forced – even anachronistic. (4)

6.1

Baauer – ‘Clang’

 

Angus Finlayson: There’s a beautifully pure logic to the one hit wonder; that moment of cultural consensus which makes an artist ubiquitous for a few sweet weeks and then forgotten forever after. In an alternate universe Baauer threw in the towel post-‘Harlem Shake’, and decades hence will wistfully tell his grandchildren of the time a song he wrote made people on university campuses and military paradegrounds jump about like idiots. Instead he soldiers bravely on and, like almost every other artist on earth, will have to come to terms with the slow but inevitable heat death of his career. ‘Why are you so bitter, Grandpa?’, they’ll ask, and the answer will evade him yet. (6)

Chal Ravens: Can’t really get my head around how much I’m liking a Baauer track rn. Imagine speeding it up! Imagine slowing it down! Imagine how outrageously boss it would be with Rome Fortune on it (say). Gah, big points for the meme-maker-in-chief. (8)

Joe Monyihan: Some of the sample chops are cool and all but I’m getting more turnt off the guy next door playing drums appallingly. At least it’s too boring to go viral. (5)

John Twells: I’m not the kind of person who thinks ‘Harlem Shake’ killed music, but this newie is dull as ditchwater isn’t it? If it was in the soundtrack to some kind of PS4 action game I’d barely even register that music was playing, let alone actually care. It’ll probably be used on some quirky TV advert for rubber gloves or gluten-free baby wipes by fall. (3)

Walker Chambliss: Baauer gets kind of a bad rap because of the whole “Harlem Shake” meme, but he’s always been a fairly talented producer. ‘Clang’ is way better than I expected it to be – it’s still trap, but it’s much more on the Rustie end of the spectrum than the festival trap bullshit. This track floats more than most in that genre, and the beat is nicely off-kilter. The prolonged ambient breakdown at 2:10 feels like a knowing joke, a fuck you to everyone looking for ‘Harlem Shake pt. 2’. Best Soundcloud comment? DJ FlasH: “I named my bong to this song”. (7)

Alex Macpherson: This isn’t bad given the horror of ‘Harlem Shake’, a chintzier take on J Dilla that switches gears with euphoric synths just as you think it’s going to ride one idea into the ground. Confession, though: I’ve never really seen the point of releasing hip-hop instrumentals to the listening public. What function does this serve in its present state? Get me Angel Haze or Gunplay on this and then I might care about listening to it again. (6)

Chris Kelly: Surprisingly restrained but perhaps by too great a factor. As overblown as it was, it’s going to be difficult to shake ‘Harlem Shake’. (5)

Aimee Cliff: It’s obviously been amazing for him, but in a creative sense I wouldn’t want to be the guy with the ‘Harlem Shake’ albatross round my neck. I can’t quite get that pressure off my mind when I listen to ‘Clang’, which reacts against it with a pool of lush watery textures and a restraint that means it eludes obvious structure. That’s all good, but the result is a bit directionless. I feel like he might be treading water, but hopefully there’s another wave coming. (5)

Joe Muggs: OK I realise that every cantankerous dimwit commenter out there will try and throw “BUT BUT BUT YOU LIKE BROSTEP” at me for this, but all the edits, filter-twiddling and over-egged climaxes spoil this a bit. I’m sure in a DJ set to a humungous crowd it’s the bee’s knees, but really that main groove is so good, I’d happily sit and soak up all the detail pinging around it for ages and completely do without the whistles and bells… (7)

5.8

Leon Vynehall – ‘Butterflies’

 

Angus Finlayson: Am I alone in finding Leon Vynehall’s vision for house music just a little conservative? For all his claims to idiosyncrasy (I remember him once declaring that mastering engineers hate him for his unusual mixdowns), beneath the surface Vynehall tracks share much of their DNA with those of his unadventurous Aus colleagues. Just so with ‘Butterflies’, a well-wrought deep house number that I can imagine myself swaying disinterestedly to on a large-ish dancefloor. (5)

Aimee Cliff: Fill me up with actual butterflies and let me float to the sky and/or play this track on a loop forever; either way, same thing. (9)

Joe Muggs: Heh, this really is the prog house of today, right? Solid, chunky, good-times, bish-bash-bosh sorted, laaaaahvely. (6)

Joe Moynihan: I slept on Leon Vynehall’s album but clearly I screwed up, this is gorgeous. The drums sit in that sparsely populated sweet-spot between dusty and crisp, and the little swells are so immaculately timed here it’s got me wanting to hug everyone outside my flat. And outside my flat is populated entirely by the smelliest of fuckboys so that’s an absolutely whopping yes mate to this tune from me. (9)

Chal Ravens: If you’ll allow me to indulge my own personal, distinctly idiotic notion of the ideal dance record for a moment, this track pushes all my buttons basically because it feels like swimming through glow-in-the-dark plankton in the Maldives or scuba diving through coral beds, you know the sort of thing – hippy paradise nonsense as daydreamed by someone who’s never left the northern hemisphere and still dreams of eloping with The Beach-era Leo DiCaprio. I don’t care, it’s just fucking bliss. The B-side is even more swoonsome and would get an extra point. (8)

John Twells: Pleasant, isn’t it? Nice dusty drums, and all, but I’m finding it very hard to care. It’s the sort of tune that undoubtedly works better in a club setting than it does sitting in front of a hot screen on a 90F day in July, I’d assume. (4)

Alex Macpherson: You know that moment in a rave where you’re plateauing nicely, just floating along in an excellent bubble, and you gradually realise that, actually, the music is making you peak again? I imagine this track’ll make that happen imminently. (9)

Walker Chambliss: Deep, deep, deep. Nice build, nice atmosphere, great structure. There’s a real producerly touch to it, which is sometimes a bad thing, but certainly isn’t here. The vocal sample is a bit corny, but I’m willing to give it a pass. Would love to here this out on the dancefloor. (8)

Aidan Hanratty: I really love this. Bright, sensuous house music with feeling. It feels like sunshine terrace dancing and summer memories embodied in a single track. It’s just one repeated riff, and the breakdown is long, sure, but it’s built of such naked emotion that it’s hard for me to be objective about it. BRB booking my flight to Ibiza. (8)

7.3

Fracture ‘Loving Touch’

 

Aidan Hanratty: Initially I thought “God, Ralphi Rosario sampled again?” but when it all kicks off at the minute mark it’s hard not to enjoy this. (6)

Chris Kelly: Did Ralphi Rosario really need a d’n’b reworking? The original is still hot-as-hell, and with Chicago house nostalgia in full swing, I’d rather just hear that. At least it’s not as tasteless as that ‘Bound 2’ remix. (2)

Joe Moynihan: Sorry, had to stop halfway through this in case it ruined my enjoyment of the utterly perfect original. Toying with big vocals, especially when they’ve been toyed with before you, rarely works. Shame as it’s a decent tune otherwise. Well, the first half was anyway. (4)

Angus Finlayson: It’s difficult not to hear Special Request in this reframing of early ’90s rave ruffness. But the scalpel-sharp slow-fast groove is more contemporary drum’n’bass than jungle recall. The breakbeats get pretty frisky in the latter half, too. Nice. (7)

John Twells: There are so many ‘classic’, ‘nostalgic’ elements mashed together here that I’m incredibly cynical of the fact that I’m enjoying it. As much as I wish this had been a total disaster, it’s not – it’s really good. To hate on the combo of tickly jungle drums, diva vocals and a pop pop bassline that feels like it fell off The Deepest Cut would be to hate on fun itself, and I only do that on weekends. (7)

Joe Muggs: Gun fingers, whooping and hollering, fists in the air, klaxon, lighters, WD40 canister, run up the wall and do a backflip, slap the ceiling, hug a stranger, whistle posse etc etc etc. Banger. (9)

Walker Chambliss: Slow-going on the intro, but once the breaks kick in I’m with it. There’s almost too much nostalgia here (breaks and divas and basslines, oh my!), and the video feels like something from a high school video project, but it acquits itself nicely. Unlike our friend Jamie xx’s tune from last week, at least Fracture has decided there’s no half-stepping if you’re going to try to celebrate the dance music of yesteryear. (7)

Alex Macpherson: A bit of a paradox: a track that trades entirely on the quality of a superior song, yet whose approach to that song has been to surgically remove every last bit of quality from it. Ralphi Rosario’s sexy, ferocious and unstoppable classic has been turned into a serious-faced drum’n’bass dirge. Riding some coattails lazily is barely enough to get annoyed by, though, and at least you never get the sense that Fracture think recasting something fun as something moody automatically makes it more meaningful. (4)

Chal Ravens: Big fat singalong vibes, shoulder-cracking percussion jolts and some expertly crafted reverb on the diva vox – plus, I believe, some clippy-cloppy coconut halves? All is well in the world. (7)

5.9

Nile Rodgers – ‘Do What You Wanna Do’ (IMS Anthem)

 

John Twells: I wanna turn it off. (3)

Angus Finlayson: A song so half-arsed that the label guy had to sit up late every evening waiting for Nile Rodgers to phone in – to literally phone in – the verses. I’m not sure who’s more of a mug: the head of Cr2 records for bidding on this shower of ChicDM shit, or me for sitting through the whole thing. (2)

Chris Kelly: An unintended consequence of Random Access Memories: disco legends like Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder drag themselves out of semi-retirement to release zeitgeist-grabbing pastiches of their past work. Can you tell this was recorded in Ibiza? (4)

Aimee Cliff: I had the opportunity to see Chic live recently, and can confirm freaking out to them and their formidable back catalogue is just as fun now as it’s ever been. That said, all I really have to say about this is 1) that “time to play a little disco” bridge sounds like something that used to come out of a Dance Dance Revolution machine and 2) my flat’s broadband cut out halfway through this track because even the internet itself hates it. (2)

Walker Chambliss: I love Chic, and I’m happy to see Nile getting his due, but I’m not sure this is what I envisioned with a comeback. A disco house track? Sure, that’d make sense. A ‘Get Lucky’ rehash? I could even see that. But this is just a weird hybrid of Chic and EDM, with disco signifiers grafted onto festival beats and turned into some unholy Frankentune. Given his dalliances with the electronic music world, I get it I suppose. But this just feels forced. Dude just made fucking “Move Your Feet 2014”. C’mon. (3)

Alex Macpherson: Competently executed, thoroughly unexciting retro exercise. It hits its spots – strings, corny spoken catchphrase, the same guitar riff Nile Rodgers has been trotting out over and over again lately – mechanically rather than with any sense of jubilation or relish. In other words, business as usual for the Rodgers comeback, a nostalgic indulgence based more on the man’s work three decades ago than anything he’s doing now. (4)

Joe Muggs: Nile Rodgers walks the fine line between cheeselord and holy being so very well, but he’s wobbling a bit here. OK, a lot. Has its moments though. (4)

Aidan Hanratty: I know it’s Nile but I really don’t care about this. It’s easily the most bland and inane thing I’ve heard in some time – listening to the whole thing was a challenge, and lyric videos need to die a slow and painful death. (1)

Joe Moynihan: Sound of yer da’s summer. (2)

2.8

Final scores:

Gucci Mane feat. Chief Keef – ‘Top In The Trash’ (8)
Leon Vynehall – ‘Butterflies’ (7.3)
Tricky feat. Francesca Belmonte – ‘Nicotine Love’ (6.1)
Fracture – ‘Loving Touch’ (5.9)
Baauer – ‘Clang’ (5.8)
Nile Rodgers – ‘Do What You Wanna Do (IMS Anthem)’ (2.8)

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