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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: Zora Jones, Abra, Lafawndah and more.

Abra – ‘Sick Girl’

Claire Lobenfeld: Without a doubt, Abra is the R&B MVP of 2015, between the Top 5 Albums of The Year-worthy Rose, as well as BLQ VELVET, the standout guest spots on We’re All A Little Trifflin’ — seriously, ‘All My Luv’ might be the best song of the year — and Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First and her take on Beyoncé’s ‘Me, Myself and I’. With this offering, she’s showing finer-tuned production skills and a little bit more pop finesse. If Abra is not a superstar by the end of 2016, I’m doing a butcher apprenticeship and only writing about my experience sawing bones because y’all aren’t listening to me enough. (7.5)

Chris Kelly: Awful’s probable breakout star diffuses memories of the 90s through her gauzy bedroom production, bringing together a dance-pop melody, spacious drum programming and a blanket of layered vocals. Not her most immediate song but an interesting experiment nonetheless. (7)

Joel Golby: Listen to this song once and you’re like, “Oh, yes, this is very good – plinky plonk, plink plink plonk”, but then listen to it again (you’re going to listen to this again, and again) and you realise – slowly at first, but the truth unfurls like a rare orchid – hold on, this is low-key genre defining. It helps, obviously, that Abra has some proper voice-of-an-angel effortless breathy vocals going on, but when that sound comes in – is it garage? Would it be out of place on a Craig David (circa 2001) record? You realise the component parts of ‘Sick Girl’ just fundamentally don’t make sense together. But listen to it a third time, and a fourth, and they just meld, and you’re like, “oh, actually, I’m listening to literal magic happen here.” (10)

Son Raw: Deep house chord presets are the new dubstep wubs. This is thin, verging on demo-like, but it’s not unpleasant and makes a lot more sense if you slot it in as part of Awful’s cult aesthetic as opposed to general pop R&B. It’s not the track that’ll push Abra out of that bubble, but it’ll keep the faithful in line. (4)

Parker Freeman: What sets Abra apart from just about anyone else attempting this kind of lo-fi eclecticism is that her melting pot of influences sound totally authentic. There’s love and obsession in every gated snare and paper-thin stab, and that’s surely what’ll carry her to superstardom in the years to come. (7)

Chal Ravens: Not gonna lie, I don’t really “get” Awful Records. I guess if I think of it as the rap equivalent of, say, the DIY “messthetics” bands that appeared in the margins of post-punk in the late 70s then I can get down with its wilfully basic, warts-and-all sounds and structures, but too often it just feels underwritten and unmemorable. If this was just the intro to something bigger, I could go for it. (4)


Zora Jones – ‘First Light’

Chris Kelly: I love the hypnotic loops and frazzled, footworkish rhythm, but the total system shutdown hinted at by those sirens never comes. (6)

Joel Golby: Ah, no, you’ve taken too many drugs again and your heart’s doing that thing where it reacts beat-for-beat to whatever song is playing at the time. You’re going to have to run on the spot for a bit here or you’re going to die. Where even are you, anyway? In one of those abandoned buildings where someone has put up plywood divider walls and jury-rigged some electricity and a sound system and the toilet situation is extremely, extremely gnarly? Why do you always end up here? (8)

Son Raw: Zora Jones shows a proper understanding for footwork’s rhythms and hypnotic loopiness, but smartly this owes as much to R&B and Europe’s dance music culture as it does anything out of Chicago. That means that instead of an imitation, ‘First Light’ feels fresh – an original transmutation of US hip-hop/club culture with electronic sounds at a time when the trap tap’s run dry. If anything, this recalls the serotonin rush of Girl Unit’s ‘Wut’, more than anything, and that’s something the game’s been missing. (7)

Parker Freeman: Just when I think I’m over plasticky detuned synth wobbles and chipmunked Imogen Heap samples, Zora Jones comes along and makes it all okay again. This is fantastic, not just because it breathes life into a well-worn template but because it adds an element of fun (remember that?). (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: ‘Too Many Tears’ is my personal 100 Ladies jam, but I have nothing but good things to say about Zora Jones. Every time I’ve spilled bandwidth here about someone pushing me as a listener was all in anticipation for Jones’ ability to find that sweet spot between rap production and emerging dance sounds. That is not to say that Jones has completely reinvented the wheel here, but I want to whip in this until whatever she puts out next. Plus, I’m still playing her edit of ‘Birdwalk’ from Bootlegs 2015 at least once a day. (9)


Rocks FOE – ‘Law’

Chris Kelly: Rocks is absolutely on fire here but I can’t say enough about the beat, which updates road rap in the era of Atlanta rap dominance, bringing Lex Luger’s epic bangers and 808 Mafia menace to London. (7)

Son Raw: YES. At this point, forward-thinking electronic music labels signing new-school grime producers is practically standard, so props to Black Acre for fucking with the formula. Rocks FOE is the type of aggressive, uncompromised emcee/producer who’ll make electronica fans faint-hearted, and ‘Law’ is aeons away from beatless experimental excursions. Instead, we get a huge orchestral sample chopped to bits, bombastic 808s more concerned with Atlanta in 2013 than Bow in 2003, and rapid-fire lyrics a cut above your average one-line flows. In a year full of great vocal grime, this is a cut above. (8)

Chal Ravens: Lyrically we’re not quite in the same space but OMG, imagine if Rocks FOE has just invented UK horrorcore? Is that something we need? Um, maybe. Either way, in a year when grime’s big guns have been obsessed with reincarnating the Channel U glory years, my ears are very open to a familiar accent doing something much different, especially when it feels this out of control. (7)

Parker Freeman: Say what you like about ‘Law’ from the confines of your bedroom, this is a track to blow out your car speakers to, to elbow the next man on the dancefloor to, to hurl glasses across the room to, to blow sticky clouds to. And that’s no bad thing. (7)

Joel Golby: Always find it a bit hard listening to a rapper go in hard when they’ve got fewer Twitter followers than your average mummy blogger. Like, where do you get this hubris from, Rocks FOE? Sir, you are going in with two feet, three feet, maybe four separate feet. You’ve got 913 Twitter followers. I don’t understand where this self belief is coming from, but I’m into it. You know you can buy followers on Fiverr, right? No. You’re right. You make songs that feel like being in a 300-person strong crowd of secondary school kids wearing Umbro backpacks and shouting “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” Social media traction is not your main concern. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: No trap-horrorcore-grime for me today, thanks. (3)


Alight – ‘The Fog’

Joel Golby: If you ever need to kill anyone at midnight in a highly illuminated city – Hong Kong, maybe, or the proper City bits of London – you’re checking and reloading your rifle while wearing black leather gloves, gameface on in the mirror, sniping the fucker through a high window from a building a thousand yards away: the song you want as your background music to this is ‘The Fog’ by Alight. (8)

Chal Ravens: If you’re going to call your track ‘The Fog’ you need to really bring it in the Nail-Bitingly Grim And Unpleasant department, and FKA Throwing Snow has accordingly thrown everything he’s got at this slab of zombie-jungle without going anywhere near the button marked Carpenter-esque. It’s a carpet-shaker. (7)

Son Raw: This makes me wish I was a boxer so I could use it as my theme music walking up to the ring, barring that a proper club night will have to do. The track title makes it a bit obvious, but ‘The Fog’ practically demands a dark room and a smoke machine: everything here is desaturated into monochrome aggression, and while I can’t figure out a context to play this in (maybe next to a Shackleton track?), I’d dance to any DJ who can. (7)

Chris Kelly: While I’m not well-versed in the touchstones here, it doesn’t take an encyclopedia of the UK continuum to know that this one bangs, from those garbage can breakbeats to those gaping maw synth swells. (8)

Parker Freeman: Is this what “cavernous” sounds like? One for the 4:30AM walk home (fists clenched), I reckon. (7)


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Lafawndah – ‘Tan’

Son Raw: Maybe it’s hearing this after the whole body experience that was Alight’s drum patterns, but this feels slightly safe. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly listen to this 100 times before going back to the Bieber/Adele/Gwen Stefani trifecta Singles Club subjected us to a few weeks back, but it’s a post-FKA Twigs world and we all know it. (6)

Parker Freeman: Getting the same chills as when I first heard Leila’s Like Weather; Lafawndah isn’t doing anything particularly new here, but her construction is impeccable, bizarre and, most importantly, unsettling. If she can maintain this level of quality for a whole album we’ll be in for a treat. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: You took some of the most sumptuous singing of the year and put it over totally gruesome production to make something weird and wild? Here for it. But, frankly, I’ve already developed an ulcer knowing what this is going to be compared to. Still, it’s a multiple replay for me, especially considering how it’s world-melded so seamlessly. (7)

Joel Golby: I just feel like really trendy girls at house parties who smoke and have septum piercings and absolutely do not want to talk to me would be bang into this. They’ve got to get up early to sell their Depop haul at a car boot sale, those sort of girls. Always Carrying A Little Bit Of MDMA At All Times sort of girls. Purple lipstick. Contempt so thick around them it’s like a fog. More than 20 denim jackets and 30 denim skirts. That said, I’ve never had a short-lived green tea phase like they have, so there’s too much going on for me here to really understand. (6)

Chris Kelly: Lafawndah makes the top of globetrotting electronic pop that M.I.A. would make if she wasn’t so far up her own ass. A seductive teaser for her Warp debut. (7)


Cavern of Anti-Matter – ‘Melody in High Feedback Tones’

Son Raw: This is pretty, but I started talking to someone on Facebook chat while it was playing and didn’t notice that the track had ended for about five minutes. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is cool. Builds on the Stereolab and classic indie sounds with some progginess to it. But, really, this got me thinking about the majesty of Dots and Loops and… there has to be some Reddit thread somewhere about how ‘Hotline Bling’ sounds like the halfway point in ‘Refractions in the Plastic Pulse’, right? (6)

Parker Freeman: Motorik grooves, library music synths, fluttering samples? Those vintage Stereolab hallmarks are all over this latest from Tim Gane’s new band, and I’m sold. (6)


Final scores:

Zora Jones – ‘First Light’ (7.6)
Alight – ‘The Fog’ (7.4)
Abra – ‘Sick Girl’ (6.7)
Rocks FOE – ‘Law’ (6.66)
Lafawndah – ‘Tan’ (6.6)
Cavern of Anti-Matter – ‘Melody in High Feedback Tones’ (6)

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