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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 pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. Up this week: the first cut from Hud Mo’s Lantern, Leafcutter John, Lil Durk & Jeremih and yes, T-Pain’s penis.

Hudson Mohawke – ‘Very First Breath’ (ft. Irfane)

William Skar: I’m looking forward to Lantern (it’s got ‘Scud Books’ on it, after all), but ‘Very First Breath’ is hamstrung by a drab and directionless vocal line – a problem that’s bedevilled HudMo from his Heralds of Change work through to Butter and beyond. (6)

Brad Stabler: Man, once the whole TNGHT and trap thing passed Hud Mo stopped paying attention to the sounds around him, didn’t he? I can’t absolutely say for sure, but it definitely sounds like it. This is really bland and quite the regression, the synths wrapped in the gloss that caked every post-dubstep song from 2011, the kind that made most tunes from that year show their age before they were even played out. Irfane’s vocal needs to be in a better song. (3)

Selomé Samuel: The best part about Hudson Mohawke’s work is the harsh juxtaposition of textures – the way he combines light twinkly synths with core-shaking bass, and has them exist harmoniously. However, with the introduction of a vocalist, all of those delicacies get pushed to the background. Irfane’s strained vocals worked perfectly on Breakbot’s ‘Baby I’m Yours’, but they don’t quite fit in this chilly environment and I could do without them. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: I really loved Butter and was hoping for a return to form with his new solo stuff — well, return to form in the sense that it would be paradigm-shifting or, at the very least, something we hadn’t really heard before. What he’s delivered is pretty unremarkable and unmemorable. (2.5)

Son Raw: Shite, but it’s the kind of shite that’s tough to pin on Hud Mo: he’s got festival dates to fill and this will get hands in the air. Until we can define a concept of musical success that doesn’t involve hour-long sets for crowds who have no idea who an artist is, presented in large impersonal contexts, this is what we as audiences deserve. (2)

Tayyab Amin: Is it too much of a stretch to suggest this sounds like someone influenced by Hudson Mohawke more than it sounds like Hud Mo himself? It lacks the mischief, the attitude, the eccentricity I’ve come to associate with him. Hearing Irfane’s voice struggle to stand ground against those tidal synths is a bit of fun though. (5)

Mikey IQ Jones: My favourite Hud Mo release is Pleasure, where he’s hotwiring classic r’n’b and rap jams to race along his neon-splattered tracks. I’ve been secretly hoping that Lantern would be an attempt to tackle that vibe with original material, but this isn’t a promising start. There’s nothing wrong with scaling back when you’ve got a tune that can proudly strut half-nude with complete poise and confidence, but this sounds like it’s nervously shivering down a runway; a faceless playlist filler for affordable streetwear shops. It’s been more than five years since Butter, time to go big or go home. (3)

4

Marquis Hawkes – ‘Raw Materials’

Selomé Samuel: This is minimalism at its best. It’s elegantly sparse but with enough changes in the textural narrative to maintain interest over seven minutes. A++ (9)

Brad Stabler: Marquis Hawkes is probably the best of the Houndstooth roster at identifying the tastiest part of the groove, and then just letting that shit ride. The second the organ swooped in and began to play hide-and-seek with the vocals, I was all set. Glad he’s back in the fold. (8)

Son Raw: This type of dark, sensual house has been done ad nauseum, but there’s a reason for that – it works just as well in a sweaty room full of people as it does in your headphones after a long night. While I wish it’d let go of that steady pulse and really fly, the rhythmic accents remind me enough of the ghost of UK Funky’s past to forgive it. (7)

Mikey IQ Jones: I actually like the two tracks on the b-side of this EP considerably more than this perfectly pleasant (albeit boring) piece of work, but if this is what represents Hawkes’s idea of “rawness,” I cringe a bit thinking about the amount of Crisco and velvet needed to make something he’d consider smooth and silky. (5)

William Skar: This isn’t going to change the face of dance music – it’s not even going to chafe the pinkie – but as robust clubland classicism goes, this is strong stuff, and suggests Hawkes’ Fifty Fathoms Deep form is still ongoing. Hawkes’ pointillist percussion programming is like braille for the ears  (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: We talk about hotel lobby house a lot on FACT at BBOX and while this doesn’t completely fit the bill, it’s just way too docile for me. I kept waiting for something more and never really got it. However, even when I am bored by tracks with not enough going on for my tastes, if it makes me want to be somewhere else — and not in some snide, anywhere else but where this song is playing way — then it at least made me feel something. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Marquis Hawkes is back, though it’s not like he went anywhere – he had a prolific release schedule last year, though I guess you have a bit more time to play with once you ditch a name and a Twitter profile. Sometimes, artists aren’t simply anonymous, they assume an identity. Being called up on his assumed identity led Hawkes to enshroud himself further. For me, ‘Raw Materials’ is as nameless and faceless as they go. Inoffensively drifting and wallowing in and around itself, undercooked and shallow, it’ll do all it needs to: stitch the two tracks it’s mixed with together. (5)

6.4

Leafcutter John – ‘Resurrection’

Brad Stabler: A well-intended clusterfuck. (6)

William Skar: Leafcutter John helped mint folktronica back at the turn of the millennium, and I admire the knottiness, patience and soft-touch at work here. But ‘Resurrection’ doesn’t so much drift into the background as run there at full-pelt. (6)

Mikey IQ Jones: Holy shit, Leafcutter John! I can’t say I’d ever expected to see this name in contempo contexts, but it’s a welcome return. At 11 minutes in length things get quite proggy here, but on the whole that’s a good thing; it evokes some imaginary collab between Alva Noto and Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, which I’d honestly love to hear. This tempers the distracting acoustic troubadour tendencies of LCJ’s last album into a more refined concentration of the IDM-folk-concrète avenues explored on his 2003 Planet Mu classic The Housebound Spirit, which I highly recommend all unfamiliar heads to seek out immediately. Consider me fully psyched. (8)

Selomé Samuel: I set myself up to explore a delicate soundscape, and Leafcutter John did not disappoint even if halfway through the track, my mind started to drift. Hell it’s 11 minutes long, even my computer fell asleep. That’s not to say that there aren’t intriguing sounds here, but it’s impossible to remain actively engaged, and maybe that’s not the point. I’m happy to drift in and out, but I doubt I would turn to this for anything besides background music. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Feeling the atmosphere change and the environments shift as we listen from the same spot is really invigorating. Swathes of uncertainty, a procession through waterfalls and clouds and finally, the tranquility of repetition, back and forth on an acoustic rocking chair. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: The guitar on this really fucked my ass up. A completely unexpected sound turn that is so beautifully off-putting that I feel totally unsettled right now. I was already captivated by the seamless transitions of tone, knew I was already being made to be put in a vulnerable place but the track’s construction, but Burton really crossed the finish line with something emotional – stirring in a way I never would have imagined. It’s not something that I am going to bump regularly at all, but I’m impressed. (7)

Son Raw: Anyone who tells you they paid attention for the whole 11 minutes is a liar, anyone who lit up a joint midway through has the right idea. (7)

6.9

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Lil Durk – ‘Like Me’ (ft. Jeremih)

Brad Stabler: How this didn’t happen sooner is beyond anyone’s guess, and how it came out even better than it sounds on paper is beyond scientific measure. I’m running out of superlative profanities and adjectives for these two so it’s an easy (9)

Tayyab Amin: Lil Durk and Jeremih sound great on record together. Jeremih’s vocals tend to be slick and easy to ride with, whereas Durk holds onto pain. Even when he’s talking something explicitly sexual, there’s some overbearing weight or darkness looming over. It’s always bad news, it always sounds great, it’s like film noir and I love it. (7)

Selomé Samuel: Jeremih is really working hard to make sure we don’t forget about him, but I can’t describe this song as anything other than forgettable. It sounds like every other song on the radio, can’t wait until I go insane after hearing this for the 10,000th time. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: Jeremih is an automatic 10 for me, but that’s neither here nor there. Last week, I talked about “crushwave” and, considering Durk’s rumored relationship with Dej Loaf, I think this fits the bill of the trend. Durk also completely pulls of the sudsy romantic vibes and the whole thing just makes me feel really good. (10)

William Skar: This bored me witless, I’m afraid – a pallid cocktail of reheated Weekndisms, pre-fab gloom and a lyric sheet with more clangers than Oliver Postgate’s studio. (4)

Mikey IQ Jones: This beat is a straight-up killer, but it got used a hell of a lot more effectively by Adrian Marcel last year on his Weak After Next mixtape, and then again on last week’s new Reloaded tape. What’s funny is that both Durk and Marcel seemingly want a slice of that Fifty Shades of Pie, and while I can dig Durk’s take on the rhythm, Marcel’s tape pretty much should have been the actual Fifty Shades soundtrack (and features the best damn version of ‘Girls Love Beyonce’ you’re gonna hear, kids). I’ve got no problems with different vocalists and MCs riding the same rhythm (what’s up reggae, how you doing?), but Durk loses points here – while he and Jeremih rose to the occasion here, they still got bested. Download that Adrian mixtape for your silky skunked sex vibes. (6.5)

Son Raw: The rap internet’s warring factions are constantly debating where the real conversation is, and truthfully, there’s no single answer. New Atlanta’s rapid-response mixtape culture is a thrill to see evolve on a weekly basis, but there’s just as much to be said about the properly curated full length statements we’ve seen from Drake, Kendrick, Bronson and Earl. One area that’s definitely not winning? Middle of the road, major label rap and sadly, that’s where Durk’s landed.

You’ve got to feel bad for the guy, he has to give Def Jam something to get an album release date, but throwing Jeremih on Drake’s scraps isn’t going to do anything for him. This is as limp as early Chicago Drill was potent and that’s just not going to cut it in a year this competitive. (4)

6.4

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T-Pain – Let Your Hair Down – ‘I’ll Be There’ (ft. The-Dream & Vantreasec)

Mikey IQ Jones: “Keep shakin that gummy bear on my gummy worm.” T-Pain just compared his dick to a flaccid Haribo helminth confection over a beat that is 2015’s ‘I Need Love’ and threw in a bonus Scrunchie reference at verse’s end to boot. He wins. (9)

Selomé Samuel: “Keep shaking that gummy bear, on my gummy worm”. I’m just going to let that sit there. In spite of this song’s many ludicrous lines, if I’m going to tolerate anyone singing about off-work strippers drinking “shots & champagne” it’s going to be The-Dream and T-Pain. Conveys the “you deserve it, girl” message better than Lil Durk ever could. (6)

Brad Stabler: None of T-Pain’s new tracks are breaking any new ground for him, and that’s fine– after the NPR performance stopped social media for a couple of minutes there’s really nothing else that can be done outside of completely changing the formula. This doesn’t, and once again, totally cool, you can just kick back late at night and listen to The Dream and the Pain try to out sleaze each other and relax. Great cool down tune, this. (7.5)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is actually the most perfectly synthesized mixture of both T-Pain’s and The-Dream’s styles, to the point that I almost can’t believe it isn’t a parody. Not a bad thing, though! While I love it, I just find T-Pain’s output to be decidedly unsexy whereas The-Dream, uh, does things for me. I am finding a hard time grappling with this as something that would get me anywhere, but it sounds really good. (8.5)

William Skar: Stand down, Yeezy and Macca this is how you do an AutoTune devotional. It’s not often that stripper love letters have such a monkish quality, and the production is sumptuous – listening is like sitting a jacuzzi of molten metal. (9)

Son Raw: Musically, this is like floating on a cloud of crown royal while eating the finest hors d’oeuvres. Lyrically, the word cliché doesn’t begin to cover how predictable these words are coming out of The-Dream and T-Pain’s mouths. But hey, if you’re sober enough to care about lyrics then you probably shouldn’t be listening to this anyways. (6)

Tayyab Amin: It’s got all the right ingredients: The-Dream. A spruced up, properly smooth T-Pain. A sparkling, softly moaning beat. A shitload of finger snaps. Random third guy singin’ ‘bout that ladidadi – perfect. The new T-Pain tape has its fair share of great moments, and it sees him trying on various new styles, though “Let Your Hair Down” is one of the tracks where we can really tell he’s in his element. Plus he drops a line about a scrunchy – truly strong in the way of the chirpse. (9) 

8

 

https://soundcloud.com/kxnxv/air-coltan-carbon-lithium/s-1DAo7

Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf – ‘Air. Coltan. Carbon. Lithium.’

William Skar: Will it start soon, Mum? (6)

Brad Stabler: Biberkopf is one of those cats that make me eternally thankful for The Astral Plane. Their compilations have been nothing but fire, but it’s Biberkopf that still gives me the most pause. All of his tunes manage to pack in enough setup for a 10 minute epic, and they all about face right when the build is about to go somewhere. Normally this would be a case of bass blue balls but Biberkopf is so skilled at getting his atmosphere and texture on that they end up winners by where they don’t go, versus the other way around. Can’t wait to see where Knives goes after this. (8)

Selomé Samuel: My interest was piqued after the musique concrète opening, but I’m left with sounds I can’t reconcile. It transitions from footsteps and rain to horror movie soundtrack with its only saving grace being the one minute of melody smack in the middle. It quickly returns to cacophony and as the melody fades so do my hopes. (4)

Tayyab Amin: After listening to Biberkopf’s outstanding Functions of the Now mix (full disclosure – Truants are family), and later his Astral Plane one, Nothing Was The Same. I’d never really considered grime and its extended family in a texture-focused frame of mind before – it was like receiving a new set of ears to listen with. For all my hyperbole, I’m glad to see Biberkopf come with the goods with a track from the new EP.

The sequence of precarious string refrains is the centrepiece of the track. It’s like a moment to feel organic in a world that can’t. A moment that’s been artificially constructed. As the pitter-patter of dissonant footsteps rain in, the dream falls apart, deconstructing into raw machinations. Synthesised noises are spliced throughout the entire thing, revealing the moment’s artificial nature like lens flare illuminating the presence of a lens we look through but can’t see. (9)

Claire Lobenfeld: This totally tested my patience and kind annoyed me, but in a way that I found slightly impressive. I need a little bit more Zero Fucks Given attitude in my electronic music. (6)

Mikey IQ Jones: I love that this suddenly jump-cut from a Luc Ferrari-inspired artificial audio-vérité environment intro into something that sounds more like Bernard Parmegiani recording a single for Blackest Ever Black, as ridiculous and amazing as that idea may sound. Biberkopf provides no easy answers here, and approaches a number of currently “cool” sounds in the techno/avant underground with a fresh context and deft approach. Early musique concrète filtered though Coil’s gothic industrial sex magick with extra synth futurism and bass weight? I want more. (8)

Son Raw: I kept waiting for this to kick in, but it never did. Bit with the guitar was nice. (5)

6.6

Final scores:

T-Pain – Let Your Hair Down – ‘I’ll Be There’ (ft. The-Dream & Vantreasec) (8)
Leafcutter John – ‘Resurrection’ (6.9)
Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf – ‘Air. Coltan. Carbon. Lithium.’ (6.6)
Lil Durk – ‘Like Me’ (ft. Jeremih) (6.4)
Marquis Hawkes – ‘Raw Materials’ (6.4)
Hudson Mohawke – ‘Very First Breath’ (ft. Irfane) (4)

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