“At least LMFAO was in on the joke”: Kim Dotcom, Rihanna and more reviewed in the FACT Singles Club

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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 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: Rihanna, Jessy Lanza, Odd Nosdam and more.

Ash Koosha – ‘Mudafossil’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Skittering through Eastern classical and Boiler Room discombobulations, this is a strong effort that doesn’t skimp on songcraft in lieu of beat construction, subtly pushing hooks at the listener moment by moment. (7)

Chris Kelly: Ash Koosha deconstructs and reconstructs maximalism into a ruptured melange that works the same way the album’s cover art does: tropes broken down and collaged into something familiar but disturbing. The brief moments of air let the Persian melody breathe, and even as the track veers into the red, the groove is never endangered. (8)

April Clare Welsh: Sounds like something on Ninja Tune. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Ash Koosha’s focus on the extreme malleability of sound has yielded really engrossing results so far. There’s fascination as well as frustration – I can’t place him exactly. Part of me wants to tie him into the deconstructionist grime-tinged stuff aesthetically, and part of me feels a bit lost for associating the track’s opening strings with Ruff Sqwad’s ‘Xtra’ refrain. Whereas GUUD came across as the zaniest of alien-beats albums, this hints at a little more structure and I’m looking forward to hearing what Ash Koosha does with it all. (8)

Son Raw: I’m feeling the opening groove’s (intentional?) nod to the Diwali riddim, but why muck it up by turning it into glitch hop? A few years into “deconstructed club music” and it’s becoming clear that club music is best left properly constructed. Still, points for the outstanding sound design. (6)

6.6

Jessy Lanza – ‘It Means I Love You’

Chris Kelly: ‘It Means I Love You’ is a far cry from the moody, synthpop-via-Hyperdub of Pull My Hair Back, but that’s not a bad thing: adding the buoyancy of Shangaan electro to Lanza’s diffused and pitch-shifted vocals is a novel approach. It takes a while for the beat to really hit and even longer for the vocals to transform into Lanza’s familiar, ‘80s R&B coo, and then they’re both gone, leaving you wanting more. (7)

April Clare Welsh: Even with the whiff of QT at the beginning, this song confirms my undying love for Jessy Lanza. She never fails to cast a veil of intrigue over her songs and I like how she’s almost mining a new geographical terrain here; ditching the glacial sound of Pull My Hair Back for something more arid. It’s so beautifully tense, without ever sounding uptight, and she’s always got a knack for letting the song and her voice perfectly balance each other out. The only thing threatening to outshine both of them is that cloak. (9)

Tayyab Amin: Refresh yourself with Jessy Lanza’s voice over Shangaan electro-influenced production for soft and supple skin. Nourish your body with the knowledge that Hyperdub’s commitment to quality is dermatologically approved. Exfoliate deeply for a long-lasting, healthy feel using this sea mineral lotion riddim. Apply after showering for best results. (10)

Son Raw: Jessy Lanza uses the physicality of hardware synths to achieve music that isn’t a modular wall of noise: proof that drums can tap and synths can caress instead of bashing you over the head with a hammer and dragging sandpaper across your face. The pitch-shifted vocals are a bit of a novelty for someone whose register is already sky high, but they fit the quasi-footwork minimal synthpop hardcore vibe to a tee. Plus, for once I can listen to Canadian pop without cringing. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Beginning with cute croons run through a ‘queasy’ filter, Lanza turns this into a frantic but gentle stomp, the scattershot programming eventually sounding a tribal-guarachero joint playing at a indoor fete. Morphs but doesn’t escape a sense of twee. (6)

8

Rihanna

Rihanna – ‘Work’ (ft. Drake)

Chris Kelly: Remember those 12 hours between hearing ‘Work’ and the rest of ANTI when you thought the album would be good? Imagine an album of Boi-1da’s muted synths, ping-ponging to a dancehall groove as Rihanna does patois babytalk and Drake spills all of his emotions. Instead, we got the anti-that. Oh well. (9)

Son Raw: I refuse to put more effort into this blurb than Rihanna’s writing team put into that hook. I suppose there’s something to be said for Riri flipping Thugga and Future’s mumble flow for R&B, but this feels tossed off instead of alien, and six months too late to boot. What saves ‘Work’ from being a total disaster is Boi-1da’s hiccup-laden, dancehall gone tech-house groove, and the fact that seven years into Drake’s career, engineers have figured out which plugins make his vocals sound decent. Needs more Elephant Man. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Rihanna uses fame to launch awareness of the slow wine portion of the club night, puzzlingly loses her ability to enunciate in the process. Drake surfs over a keyboard riff that is resisting the urge to become ‘My Jamaican Guy’. Sheer stardom accounts for making ‘Work’ anything more than low-key, while the investment on display denies the possibility of it becoming An Event. (6)

Tayyab Amin: rihanna-tay-2.1.2016 (9)

April Clare Welsh: For me, the more Barbadian Rihanna sounds, the better, and this track shows her voice at its best: totally, totally laid-back. She manipulates it with the confidence of someone who is in control (sadly a rarity for her) and uses it like an instrument; the chemistry between her and Drake probably helps to spark up the song but I think she’s still managed to put her own stamp on it. I don’t know what I make of the album as I haven’t listened to it enough yet, but this is definitely a standout track for me. (8)

7.4

Odd Nosdam – ‘Burrow’

April Clare Welsh: Sounds like something on Anticon. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Reminiscing in the piercing winter sun. Breathe it in, everything’s gonna be alright. (7)

Son Raw: Not sure if the years have softened Odd Nosdam or if the times have just caught up to the swirling hypnagogic haze surrounding his music. Either way, this hits all the right #hypnagogic and #vaporwave marks even if the beat baps a little bit more than it booms. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Flickering cassettes, pairs of knockoff Ray Bans, melting synth patterns, shaky VCR footage of 120 Minutes episodes, bong-hit psychedelia: mix together and leave exposed to glimmers of sun. (8)

Chris Kelly: The beat scene goes prog-rock on this blissed-out cut that could easily be several times as long; as is, there’s not enough time to ‘Burrow’ in. (6)

6.4

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Kim Dotcom – ‘Good Life’

Son Raw: Almost as good an argument for storming the mansions of the entrepreneurial class and disemboweling them in a fit of blood lust as Martin Shkreli’s Ghostface diss. Decimating the music industry wasn’t enough, now you have to take a swing at music itself? (0)

Tayyab Amin: Why is Kim Dotcom out here in 2016 dropping a video for a two-year-old EDM spiritual successor to ‘Perfect (Exceeder)’ that features the most industry of industry guys doing his best LMFAO impression over the top? I find it self-indulgent to the point of sheer irrelevance, which is what I think is most impressive about it. (2)

April Clare Welsh: Excuse me while I go for a lie down in a darkened room, because I don’t even know where to start with this! It’s part masterpiece, part monstrosity, part everything I could have ever hoped and dreamed of from the Robin Hood 2.0 with a predilection for EDM, extreme flashiness and super yachts. Kim Dotcom is an enigma; a self-proclaimed family man with a five-strong brood of little angels, who is also happy cavorting with bikini-clad models, and a man of ‘the people’ fighting for our freedom with stormtroopers on jetskis. I don’t think we would have him any other way though, would we? Also – I can’t believe this cost $24 million to ‘make’ (i.e. props budget) because let’s face it, it’s the cinematic equivalent of Microsoft Paint. (9)

Chris Kelly: At least LMFAO was in on the joke. (0)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The forced portentousness of the intro forced me to pinch myself that I hadn’t travelled back in time to listen to Babylon Zoo. Awful, of course, but the biggest sin is that it doesn’t even reach to hit the high level set by the One Percenter Good Life YouTube Rap God A Samuels with 2011’s ‘Living De Life’. Watch that instead. Watch it a billion times instead. (1)

2.4

ZelooperZ – ‘ISBD’

Son Raw: First up, how great a genre tag is Bothic? Second, is that an Eski click fading into dolphin chirps? I’m still waiting on that Bruiser Brigade album, so I hope ZeelooperZ’s project doesn’t end up in development hell, cause this is the first track I’ve heard from the Danny Brown/A$AP/Odd Future/TDE axis that feels like a coherent riposte to 808 Mafia’s sullen drugginess. A welcome reprieve from style culture rap. (8)

Chris Kelly: ZelooperZ is Danny Brown’s pure id at its most manic, and even if there’s not much to latch onto lyrically, that hook is going to be a rallying cry at a weirdo rap show near you. Bulletproof Dolphin’s take on trap-EDM is refreshing, and the last minute is absolutely vicious. (6)

Tayyab Amin: I’m not really sold on this horrorcore Danny Brown-type business – the track is too feral to be incisive and even if it was transgressive enough for rawer shock and awe, I still don’t think it would be particularly convincing. That beat during the final third slaps like a rubber glove though. (5)

April Clare Welsh: Sounds like a school of dolphins trying to escape the clutches of a maniacal circus trainer. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A lazy comparison would be the digitally-hungry and repentance-savvy Danny Brown, but it wouldn’t be an incorrect one. Still, hollering NYHC bands were a dime a dozen and ZelooperZ’s awed squeals hit as hard and sloppily as the best of that era’s gang chants. (6)

5.8

Final scores:

Jessy Lanza – ‘It Means I Love You’ (8)
Rihanna – ‘Work’ (ft. Drake) (7.4)
Ash Koosha – ‘Mudafossil’ (6.6)
Odd Nosdam – ‘Burrow’ (6.4)
ZelooperZ – ‘ISBD’ (5.8)
Kim Dotcom – ‘Good Life’ (2.4)

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