“Better than the sleepy house the dubstep refugees have been surviving on”: Benga and more reviewed in FACT Singles Club

Page 1 of 8

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 it’s 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: Iggy Azalea, Benga, Boards of Canada and more.

Iggy Azalea – ‘Azillion’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It may be the pronounciation of ‘Azillion’ but Iggy is beginning to morph slowly into ex-Roc-A-Fella rapper Amil with a deeper timbre, snappier flow and blatantly fewer high-grade beats. Amil came in through The Tunnel like Princess Di, though, and I’d like to point out that you could build a career off a line like that. Iggy built a career off “first things first, I’m the realest” and is still scuttling around for a fib that sticks. (3)

Chris Kelly: Now that the backlash has died down, Igloo Australia returns with a blast of uncanny valley dance-rap. The beat is infinitely more interesting than Iggy’s Speak & Spell “rap,” with verses reminiscent of something Amanda Blank would tackle and a chorus that is straight up trance-trap. Too bad it’s wasted on this “rap bitch obituary.” (1)

Tayyab Amin: I can’t get on board with Iggy Azalea’s delivery – it’s jarring hearing someone sound like they’re going hard without having any actual bite. The beat’s on some inspirational hands-in-the-air tip but her verses are flat, stuffy and sound like a lecturer going on some tangent. She could be way more convincing than this. (5)

April Clare Welsh: Iggy Azalea can’t resist stealing stuff from other people (in this case, the guy from Swedish House Mafia), but that’s okay, because now she has her own currency. Maybe she’ll fuck off and make a new life on an uninhabited planet azillion light years away? I just don’t understand how you can claim to be trying out a new sound when you’re basically copying an old one: electroclash. (1)

Son Raw: Kendrick’s personal-gone-political exploration of black malaise and Future’s wanton bomb into the depths of darkness meant 2015 was the year rap reaffirmed it had something to say, defying appropriation. So where does that leave a returning Iggy? ‘Azillion’’s naked mimicry just highlights her faults: the stiff flow, the lack of anything to say and the uncanny valley that means she never comes off as truly human. Go away, Iggy. (4)


Benga – ‘Make Moves’

Chris Kelly: When opening up to The Guardian about his mental health struggles, Benga said that his new music “was the only thing I could hold on to.” ‘Make Moves’ is nothing like the dubstep with which he made his name, but there are certainly dots to connect between intensive unit stays and this type of acidic electro. (5)

April Clare Welsh: Having Benga speak so frankly and bravely about his mental health issues was an epochal moment for so many people. And as comebacks go, this is a pretty powerful one, carrying the rave on a brand new wave of optimism. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Every time I check in on Benga, it’s with great warmth, having had the likes of ‘Night’ and ‘Someone 20’ soundtrack formative years as a young adult. The worst that could be said about that period was the occasional dip into Gilles Peterson-approved dinner jazz, but his music was muscular, refined, but not without tinges of paranoia and darkness. ‘Make Moves’ comes after a period of self-imposed mental refreshing and, like always, it’s good to hear from him. It just isn’t good to hear him, judging from this uninspired thumper. (4)

Son Raw: This is a bit tentative: the drums lack the swing and inventiveness that characterized Benga’s best work and the acid wiggles are a bit prefab. Still, I’ll take it over any of the sleepy house Skream, Loefah and the rest of the dubstep refugees have been surviving on for the past three years, and it gives the man solid footing to rebuild his sound. I’d rather see him working with MCs or following Plastician’s lead outwards, but this is a welcome return nevertheless. (6)

Tayyab Amin: This is too lukewarm and sluggish to live up to its own title. Invests too much in an unrewarding melody and doesn’t really go anywhere, though it does sound like Benga’s having fun messing with its elements. (4)


Tiga – ‘Planet E’ (feat. Hudson Mohawke)

April Clare Welsh: You can tell this was made at an airport. (6)

Son Raw: Tiga and HudMo must have scored some bum pills, because I don’t hear any joy here. If you want to revisit the heady days of MNML where fun was verboten and looking like a trashy “model” of the pre-Insta era was the wave, here’s your ticket, I’ll wait at the end of the ride. (4)

Chris Kelly: I appreciate that Tiga brings a bit of humor to a sphere of dance music that is often too self-serious, but there’s not enough to dig into here/I don’t know how much electro I want to hear these days. (4)

Tayyab Amin: It’s as if the vocal in this seeks to hypnotise, but I can’t see myself being snapped awake at this level of drowsiness. I could get with this as an interlude or bridge between two things – as it stands, the things I like about it are its graceful build-ups and breakdowns and those videogame water droplets. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Blog house and ecstasy are the sound of 2016! Hey, Hudson Mohawke’s here! And other fibs! (4)


Loading Video…

Elf Kid – ‘Golden Boy’

Tayyab Amin: Would be so sick if this snowballed into the next dancefloor detonator. Already a healthy balance of gassed and bewildered at the chop of ‘1 Thing’ (sampling The Meters), and then Elf Kid comes through with the livewire buoyancy flow. Next, this guy needs to be putting out World Cup anthems. (8)

Chris Kelly: From the first chopped up bits of Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’, I knew this was gonna be a banger. Elf Kid has loads of charisma and reminds me of another boy in da corner. Plus, Lolingo’s r’n’g chop-job is infectious, like all those Finn and Milktray edits that have been my favorite part of The New Wave of Instrumental Grime. (8)

April Clare Welsh: I can’t imagine this becoming anything other than a Massive Fucking Anthem because, in Elf Kid’s own words, it’s “a stonker!” And with more energy than the can of Stimulation Drink I’ve just been drinking. It’s all going off in leafy Lewisham and I’m not talking about the housing market. (9)

Son Raw: Finally someone who’s actually enjoying himself this week. Novelist may have marked himself as the politically minded one (formerly) of The Square but Elf Kid’s the one repping Lewisham like he’s running for mayor: if he had any more local pride he’d be shaking hands and kissing babies in this video. Everything here’s homespun, from the rhymes to producer Lolingo’s clattering samples to the neighborhood tour, and it’s a blessed reminder that as hard as things are in 2016, a bunch of kids on their PCs are STILL making better music than anyone at a major label. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Thank God for this song, bringing energy to an otherwise dismal week of new music and Bowie’s death and Rickman’s death and Blowfly’s death. That line about “pretty lil’ lightie” is going to grab all the attention, an export of a trend in hip-hop for the darker-skinned women to get upstaged in men’s attractions by those of a lighter skin tone (think Drake’s “young East African girl” line, Google “colorism” and yeah, lose a couple of hours). But having given it enough attention in the past few sentences, it’s also a funny line, the type of ambition you could easily see a teenage boy holding – even over winning a MOBO. Great flip of the opening stabs of Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’, forming a triumphant horn squall that ties Elf Kid to the similarly frantic, brass-led cut’n’paste London hip-hop of the Eighties as much as it does to grime. (8)


Loading Video…

Nevermen – ‘Mr Mistake’ (Boards of Canada remix)

April Clare Welsh: I don’t really understand what Neverman are trying to do but I’m but enjoying this much-needed head massage from Boards of Canada. (5)

Chris Kelly: As a Boards of Canada agnostic, I don’t hyperventilate when they release a remix — especially when I’m equally agnostic about the source material. With that said, the gentle deconstruction of the original’s Anticon cacophony is quite pleasant, bringing the vocals (especially Tunde’s) to the forefront and building to an intergalactic crescendo. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Boosting the Nevermen line-up of cult vocalist Mike Patton, cult vocalist Tunde Adebimpe and cult vocalist Doseone with the talents of Boards of Canada makes this the equivalent of a GOOD Friday track, if Kanye West was aiming to capture the heart of Anthony Fantano. BoC peeking out of their self-imposed exile is always intriguing, but they’re barely trying here, stripping away all the hectic-yet-infectious excitement of the original for a track that could have easily functioned as an upscale yoga studio’s hold music. (5)

Son Raw: I thought I was listening to a cover of Massive Attack’s ‘Hymn Of The Big Wheel’ for a second there. Unless you enjoy the smell of patchouli and think crystals enhance your aura, these lyrics are pretty insufferable, but BoC kick into a quasi-Floyd groove about two minutes in that carries this one to the finish line. Far out, bro. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Dreamy for the most part with one or two breathtaking moments too. There’s a beautiful stillness to this remix, like slowing down time and homing in on each detail of the scene, gloriously frozen mid-flight. Oh, and it’s snowing. (8)


Brood Ma – ‘Nrg Jynx (Daze End Version)

Tayyab Amin: If there’s ever a Blade Runner x Mortal Kombat crossover, this needs to be the soundtrack. ‘Nrg Jynx’ works viscerally on a grand scale. Momentous and monumental, it’s a melted onslaught of mechanised adrenaline. It apparently rounds off the album, and I’m excited to see how we’ve ended up at this smouldering wreckage – so in that respect, I guess it does the business. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s past midnight and I’m legitimately scared by this combination of darkwave synth presets, grunts and what sounds like a gas leak, so well done everyone, my night is truly ruined. Bitchy opinion alert: this is what Oneohtrix Point Never would sound like if he tried making music sometime! (6)

Chris Kelly: I was ready to file this alongside all the other dystopian, deconstructed club music that we’ve heard over the last few years… until that smash cut about two minutes in, when that sludgy dirge takes over and all hope is abandoned. (7)

Son Raw: Calling this “dystopian club music” is a bit of a stretch considering we can barely find club spaces for music people actually dance to let alone this madness, but I guess fourth-world-cyber-industrial-noise-dance won’t fit in iTunes’ genre tags. A chilling vision of things to come. (8)

April Clare Welsh: Just a little sonic expulsion from the bowels of hell! Trust Tri Angle to mother something as filthy and horrifying as this. The thunderstorm is a dramatic finishing touch and I like Brood Ma’s talent for ear-bleeding industrial noise and humour (‘Goldman Sax’ is a great pun). (8)


Final scores:

Elf Kid – ‘Golden Boy’ (8.2)
Brood Ma – ‘Nrg Jynx (Daze End Version) (7.4)
Nevermen – ‘Mr Mistake’ (Boards of Canada remix) (6.2)
Benga – ‘Make Moves’ (5.6)
Tiga – ‘Planet E’ (feat. Hudson Mohawke) (4.6)
Iggy Azalea – ‘Azillion’ (2.8)

Page 1 of 8


Share Tweet