“They’re going to build a statue of this guy”: DJ Marfox, Deftones and more reviewed in 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. This week, DJ Marfox, Boogie, Bodega Bamz, the return of Deftones and more.

Last Japan feat AJ Tracey – ‘Ascend’

Aurora Mitchell: Last Japan’s previous release was a slab of beautiful HD instrumental grime on Tomas Fraser’s rising imprint Coyote Records, and now he’s back on the label with an MC on board. He plays to the strengths of London MC AJ Tracey on this one –his flow as smooth and direct as its accompanying production. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Firstly, AJ is the guy. If he’s not on your radar you need to get a refund. He’s got more golden bars than the Bank of England. He’s got the kind of bars that increase the value of shares in AG Barr after the sugar tax announcement. Listen to how reactive he is to Last Japan’s pristine NASA space shuttle beat. When it rises, it’s all triumphant, anthemic gunfingers. When it’s sparse, he’s got the quiet flow that makes you crouch down with the low-key gunfingers and listen to his every word. They launch into hyperspace at the very end and I could swear I saw a glint in the night sky. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Last time we checked in with AJ Tracey, he was all cheek and easy charisma chirping at ‘Bare Girls’, while here he’s firmly in dubplate-eating mode. He’s swift and clever but still growing into his talent – for every perfectly enunciated bar lacking a certain quality, he pulls out a line so simple that you wonder why nobody ever said it in his way before. “Check your pulse like doctors / Then take your blood like nurses” cuts through the barrage so cleanly that you can’t help but stay enthusiastic for Tracey’s continued development. (7)

Chris Kelly: Last Japan knows exactly what AJ Tracey needs: a menacing beat that doesn’t get in the way of his threats (and that gunshot-outta-nowhere). But he also knows when to step it up, building the tension with piano arpeggios before unleashing a Carpenter-esque melody. (7)

Son Raw: A year and some change into the Radar Radio generation’s rise, we’re starting to hear some truly outstanding songs from what’s soon to be grime’s A-list. ‘Ascend’ is basically a torrent of words, but at a time when Jamaican and American vocalists are mostly finding creativity in Auto-Tune and onomatopoeia, AJT still makes uncut RAPPING sound like the most thrilling vocal technique imaginable. Wisely, Last Japan keeps the beat sparse, landing somewhere between grime’s Final Fantasy obsession and Tubular Bells, and it’s yet more proof that grime’s instrumental vanguard and young MCs are unstoppable together. (8)


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Deftones – ‘Doomed User’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: There’s a special sound that Stephen Carpenter’s guitars make, where his seven or eight strings dislocate themselves from the idea of a traditional riff and rumble violently. This is an approach you could say is also true of Meshuggah’s Frederick Thordendal, but where he aims to roll over the listener at all angles with blasts of sound, Carpenter instead aims to deep-six you into the depths. It’s pummelling and plummeting. When you come up for air from that sound on ‘Doomed User’, it’s into some surprisingly traditional metal riffing, the type you would imagine vocalist Chino Moreno would have made fun of by this point – but it works due to the intensity at play and that delicious contrast of metal’s sonic hallmarks. (8)

Aurora Mitchell: How do I get a refund on the four minutes I just spent listening to this track? (1)

Chris Kelly: Surprisingly trebly and one-note, this lacks the dynamics and ominous energy of their best material (or even their previous single, ‘Prayers/Triangles’). I’m not expecting ‘Change’ (which is more than 15 years old at this point!) but give me something to work with. (4)

Tayyab Amin: That’s a staggeringly hefty piece of metal Deftones are wielding there, but the vocals can get a little lost in the sauce on occasion. I’m about it at its most punchy, though I could do without the deceleration of the chorus. (6)

Son Raw: I’m going to get death threats from the Canadian white boy contingent of my friend list, but having lived through a non-stop barrage of this distorted bro-grunge through high school, it’s time to let it die. This will supply freshness to every roadside dive bar throughout my country but it’s so similar to everything else in its vein, no one will be able to tell the difference. (3)


Wheez-ie – ‘Questionable Taste’

Son Raw: I’m so used to hearing techno of the straightjacketed and self-serious variety that I love this on principle, given that I continue to ride for the era where the genre was at its dirtiest and druggiest. Wheez-ie’s footwork always struck me as a step below the masters, so this genre misstep approach is a great look, allowing him to ratchet up the intensity with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink gusto. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back to 2012 and blow my past self’s mind by telling him this’ll come out on Skrillex’s label. (7.5)

Aurora Mitchell: Questionable taste is exactly what you probably have if you think this grubby “dubstep” track is good. Imagining this coming on at 2am at a student night at XOYO as everyone wonders why they didn’t just stay at home and save the money they spent on £8 doubles. (0)

Chris Kelly: Wheez-ie crafted this EP of “genre missteps” with his DJ gigs in mind, and the title track seems well-suited for them: it’s a crowd-pleasing mix of divergent sounds – a ghetto house chant, a rave breakdown, some womp-step bass – that work together better than they do on paper. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: As an asthmatic kid that grew up next to a chip shop, the cover art to Wheez-ie’s Questionable Taste EP could not be any truer a visual metaphor for my youth. And this is as much a distillation of youth culture, meshed together in a compact package and playing with techno tropes with little regard for where those tropes were developed. Utilised thrillingly yet haphazardly, these sounds are simply signifiers of a past – the same way my inhalers and chips were. (5)

Tayyab Amin: Texturally this is mash-up patchwork, so I’m impressed that following its narrative is quite a seamless experience. But part of that might be because it’s nothing groundbreaking when it comes to tearing these genres apart – its ambition goes unmatched by its execution. And with so much breadth spanned by each of the stylistic umbrellas it deals with, I don’t know how illustrious any “genre misstep”, short of pulling from the roots up, could be. (5)


Bodega Bamz – ‘Ghost’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s easy to lump Bodega Bamz in with what could be very loosely defined as a post-A$AP Mob NY sound, something made even easier due to his personal relationship with the late A$AP Yams. ‘Ghost’, released to celebrate Bamz’s 31st birthday, helps to shade in a little more personality to the Harlem rapper beyond co-signs and general blog-friendly aesthetic kinships. Take this burst of energy as a sign of his promise, then listen to last year’s ‘Woopty Woop Blahzay Blah’ for an intriguing direction that this loosie sidesteps. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Love hearing rappers duke it out with Hudson Mohawke’s more bombastic beats. The hook sounds like a placeholder for itself, it’s that limp. It’s too much hype when Bamz enters though – got me coming through with the moves like a Pokemon, hit ‘em with the Seismic Dab. (6)

Chris Kelly: Bodega Bamz has his moments, but I feel like he’s exactly the type of rapper who has made a career out of simply being from New York at a particularly fallow time for the city’s rap scene. ‘Ghost’ is fine but unmemorable: one paint-by-numbers verse over a bit of HudMo’s video game trap. (5)

Aurora Mitchell: The volume dynamics of this are super strange, HudMo’s 8-bit instrumental quietening itself to wrap around Bodega’s distorted verses. It strips away the power and gut-punch reaction that’s needed here. (5)

Son Raw: Speaking of Skrillex, A$AP Yams had nearly impeccable taste, so it’s a shame his followers keep reprising his single most questionable move: that terrible EDM-trap song on LongLiveA$AP. I look forward to the molly massive putting up questionable gun fingers to this during Flosstradamus sets, and by “look forward to” I mean I’ll run to any other stage the festival. (3)


DJ Marfox – ‘2685’

Chris Kelly: Marfox returns to Príncipe Discos with a hypnotic, flute-looped reminder of why label co-founder Pedro Gomes has said, “They’re going to build a fucking statue of this guy.” (8)

Tayyab Amin: Honestly, this tune is such a problem that I wanna write a letter to my MP about it. The artwork was the first thing to take my breath away. Even loving Príncipe didn’t prepare me for the hand drums, and I don’t think anything could’ve led me to expect that woodwind over crunching percussion. The track is a storm and those isolated moments of flute are the eye, daring you to step in and dance to this. (10)

Aurora Mitchell: Pure euphoria – that beautiful, glistening flute melody sails above everything else and makes you want to be at the heart of a Príncipe Discos party. (8)

Son Raw: This has “what the fuck” factor for days, but just as importantly you can instantly MOVE to it, the syncopation and counter-rhythms never undercutting the propulsion. I’m always wary of “discovered” underground scenes, since the potential for exploitation and co-opting is rife on all sides, but Príncipe has been doing a brilliant job at promoting batida and this Marfox track feels like a Rashad moment where outside influence strengthens a sound instead of diluting it. DJs, ignore this at your peril. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s interesting to hear something cluttered with polyrhythms from different worlds and an almost incidental pulse driving it onward, and have it be so precise. That’s Marfox’s gift: to make the chaotic glimmer without losing its anarchy, to the point it’s fine enough for him to marinate in it a minute too long. (7)


Boogie feat. Tink – ‘Catching Feelings’

Son Raw: Boogie, Anderson .Paak, Isaiah Rashad… the list of earnest, post-Kendrick Californians orbiting various Interscope sublabels is getting a bit long, isn’t it? And they’re all good, but it’s an arms race to see who becomes “great” before the money and hype runs out. This is just good, but it does benefit from Tink, who deserves better than the thankless task of providing hooks while waiting on Timbaland to put out her record. (6)

Chris Kelly: Boogie and Tink is a perfect pairing, especially over Keyel’s sweeping beat (those drums punch, whether they’re live or not). My only complaint is that it’s all too brief; a verse from Tink would put this over the edge. (7)

Tayyab Amin: This beat is lush – I’m a sucker for string movements and faded, pitched vocals, but it’s the swelling bass that ices the cake. Boogie’s raps are cool, he’s flowing loud and clear, playing with words yet he’s always direct. How he passes the baton to Tink is a thing of beauty. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: After this harmless glimmer of romance ‘n’ bullshit, I have accepted I will never really ‘get’ Tink’s vocal shimmies. Boogie is nondescript. (4)

Aurora Mitchell: Tink always finds a way to perfectly complement whoever she’s collaborating with. The pairing is unsurprisingly suave, their voices gliding over the clicking production. (7)


Final scores:

DJ Marfox – ‘2685’ (8.25)
Last Japan feat. AJ Tracey – ‘Ascend’ (7.8)
Boogie feat. Tink – ‘Catching Feelings’ (6.4)
Bodega Bamz – ‘Ghost’ (6.2)
Wheez ie – ‘Questionable Taste’ (4.7)
Deftones – ‘Doomed User’ (4.4)

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