“There’s a fine line between narcotic and kind of dull”: FKi 1st, A$AP Ferg & Missy Elliott and more in Singles Club

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, A$AP Ferg collaborates with Missy Elliott, an alt-rock supergroup, HudMo remixes BoC and more.


A$AP Ferg – ‘Strive’ feat. Missy Elliott

Son Raw: The merger of Bad Boy jigginess to piano house uplift is the obvious direction for an NYC rap scene that can’t wait to jettison Southern hip hop’s rhythmic consensus – Ferg can’t compete with Young Thug’s mumble but he can SANG with the best of ‘em. A little on the shiny side, but Ferg and Missy are having just enough fun to make me overlook it. (7.5)

Chris Kelly: Until now, the singles off Always Strive And Prosper have been particularly grimdark rumblers, and despite their high-priced features, none has been as anthemic as ‘Shabba’ or as fun as ‘Doe-Active’. ‘Strive’, on the other hand, is as fun as it is unexpected: a three-minute hip-house track with a solid Missy Elliott verse that finds DJ Mustard in his danciest mood yet. Still, this ends before it really gets started – missed opportunities, indeed. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Once the shock of the swerve subsides (going from hip-hop sample staple ‘I Want To Thank You’ into a straightforward pop-house track is bound to cause some eye-boggling) what strikes you is just how earnest ‘Strive’ is. Ferg is a ball of charisma, bouncy where crew leader Rocky is sleek, and his performance is impossible without self-belief and cockiness: badly crooned but with gusto, ambitiously rolling triplets into his mandated eight bars, breaking down a life story in the blink of an eye. For a key member of a group that arguably hawks its aesthetic appeal over its musicality, it’s daring to be this open and this (dare I say) uncool. (5)

Aurora Mitchell: A$AP Ferg and Missy Elliott could be so much more dynamic and fiery together than this DJ Mustard-produced joint. The Chicago house piano backdrop could have been lifted off a number of other Top 40 hits and it doesn’t complement either of their vocal styles at all. Ferg says that his upcoming album is going to be his best work yet, but this track paired with the fact his album credits include both Chris Brown and Skrillex make me dubious. (5)

Tayyab Amin: The decision-making behind this remains a mystery to me but it’s resulted in a curiously rewarding listen. On the one hand you’ve got the EDM-into-blunt house vibe and on the other there’s Ferg’s great flow, which surely comes by the grace of Azealia Banks. Missy Elliott sounds better over beats that are decidedly more characteristic, yet both vocalists resist falling short of the mark on this one. (6)



Xiu Xiu – ‘Into The Night’

Chris Kelly: Xiu Xiu covering the Twin Peaks soundtrack is such a perfect pairing, and their version of ‘Into The Night’ is everything a cover should be, capturing the haunting mood of the original but with their own sonic fingerprints all over it. Angelo Badalamenti should be proud. (8)

Aurora Mitchell: Badalamenti’s score is unbelievably beautiful, in a disturbing, unsettling manner, so who better to reinterpret those compositions than the equally unsettling Xiu Xiu? The essence of the original track from the OST is kept completely intact but made even creepier by the eerie vampire howls of Jamie Stewart echoing into the distance. (8)

Son Raw: What made Lynch and Badalamenti’s work on Twin Peaks so unsettling was the sheer banality of the settings, both literal and musical. The all-American town and the soap-operatic schmaltz that scored it hinted at the slowly revealing darkness. This cover lays it all out there like a barista who still insists on wearing all black, but even if you know what you’re getting, it’s still pretty good. (6.5)

Tayyab Amin: Daunting, devastating and dangerously entrancing. Any Twin Peaks significance is lost on me but there’s plenty to admire here: the glistening eeriness at the forefront, the shattering, shimmering riffs that fall like a crumbling chandelier, the rapture of the climax. An alluring marriage of romantic darkness and thrill. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A meandering burst of passé menace. (3)



RLYR – ‘Slipstream Summer’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Britain’s rock scenes are more than familiar with the vocal-less tumult of luminaries such as Isis, Pelican and Russian Circles – which is to say that these bands have been a lot of UK acts’ formative influences. The issue is that their atmospheric approach was watered down before it had even made it to influencer level, making ‘Slipstream Summer’ a tad overfamiliar. While it won’t surprise, the players are taut, the impact is noisy and the riffs are surprisingly sunny-sounding. (6)

Tayyab Amin: This track flies through as many rings as possible in the spectrum, and there’s a charm to how seamlessly it plays with each style, from punk to post-rock and shoegaze. It’s anthemic in the more naive, fist-pumping sense which always feels more justified in a live setting, but even here it elicits something a little triumphant from me. (6)

Chris Kelly: When I was a child, I pored over Guitar World magazines like a child, I hung out in Sam Ash like a child, I thought a lot about effect pedals and amplifier tones like a child. When I became a man, I put away these childish things. (3)

Aurora Mitchell: Felt myself zoning out during this predictable, droning piece of soft punk. Flashbacks to the duller moments of being a teenager at indie shows – trainers getting stuck to the tacky floor, halfway through a watery pint and staring into space while a support band whacks a load of reverb over everything. Also, the description calls it “guitar-forward indie” – what does that even mean?! (3)

Son Raw: “Is this Singles Club?” “Nah, they moved it to room 105, mate – this is the Kerrang guitar rawk round-up.” “Oh, thanks. Also, this tune is bland like unseasoned, boiled chicken.” (2)



DJ Alina – ‘Bloodline’

Aurora Mitchell: Vaporwave is a sub-genre that tends to float gently a lot of the time but DJ Alina toughens things up a bit and gets meta, delving into a sub-genre within vaporwave called hardvapour, which sounds like a heart-thumping combination of trance, gabba and club music. It gets close to full-on, fist-pumping gabba mode and I’m surprisingly not that mad about it. (7)

Son Raw: You could previously be forgiven for ignoring what looked like Seapunk 2.0, but DJ Alina proves that if you look past vaporwave’s over-memed aesthetic, music that takes our hyper-connected world’s information overload as a starting point for understanding the human condition isn’t just a way forward, it’s our only way forward. (8)

Chris Kelly: I enjoyed this much more before I read about the conceptual underpinnings. Honestly, I’m okay with being too old to care about divisions in the vaporware community. It’s that millennial dilemma: can’t I just listen to some warped, rave-pop-meets-happy-hardcore without getting lost in a subreddit? (6)

Tayyab Amin: If this came on in the club I’d be frozen like an utter bore, but I’d be having a good time, honest! The crunch and thud of the drums plus the woozy wind-up clench-and-release bass really ease a grin out of me. It’s overwhelming in a totally cool way. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Perhaps it’s because I’ve dug my Game Boy Advance out of the closet to play substantial amounts of Sonic Advance 3, but I couldn’t help but imagine ‘Bloodline’ as video game music, pulsating excitedly through fantastical optimism and encroaching challenge. It begins with a mechanical spurt, leading you down a industrial-tinged lane, before bursting into heavy synths 45 seconds in. I keep playing it over and over, hoping to get a grip on its pulsating melodies and bustling background SFX, and then it comes to an end. Like a video game, I expect it to loop over, to keep me in its bleary major-key universe, instead of throwing me out to cold reality. (8)



FKi 1st & NJOMZA – ‘For What It’s Worth’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: 1st Down, aka one half of ass-music impresarios FKi and ergo responsible for classic twerk sermons like ‘Make It Rain’ and ‘Ayy Ladies’, has strong chemistry with developing artist Njozma, especially when it comes to melancholy. This track could seem unexpected from a party-started like 1st, but it builds on some of that eerie sadness projected (and missed by many) on last year’s ‘White Iverson’ instrumental. And what stops this from becoming just another 3am moody complaint in the post-Drake canon is that its vocal admissions are unbelievably sad: “I just wanna live, for what it’s fucking worth” is a quietly devastating realisation. (7)

Aurora Mitchell: FKi and NJOMZA make a beautiful pairing, musing introspectively about the kind of thoughts that race through your head just before you go to sleep at night. (7)

Chris Kelly: FKi’s contributions to rap range from your favorite Travis Porter songs to the worst new artist of 2015. This is somewhere in between: a melody that will grow on you, but stuck on a syrupy production that is starting to show its age. (5)

Tayyab Amin: These two wear their influences on their sleeves, sound completely at home on the track, and go together like cookies and cream. Great performances aside, this track still wallows in itself quite a bit as opposed to going anywhere. “I just wanna live for what it’s fuckin’ worth” begins to sound less like a definitive declaration and more like an exasperated sigh. (7)

Son Raw: There’s a thin line between “narcotic” and “kind of dull” and this flies right over it on the back of self-serious platitudes. If you’re 16 this might be deep to you. (4)



Hudson Mohawke – ‘aMo Bishop Roden (rmix)’

Aurora Mitchell: So last week I said that the new DJ Shadow sounded like a Soundcloud producer’s remix of Boards of Canada. Well, this is literally that, and it’s just as awful. All of the beauty and subtlety that Boards of Canada most likely spent months on stuck quietly underneath a placeholder Hudson Mohawke beat. (3)

Chris Kelly: Second time’s the charm, huh? This is pleasant but totally unnecessary. Anyone else remember when HudMo used to write melodies like this on his own? (4)

Son Raw: Brings me right back to the summer of 2011 when Rocky ruled rap and there was a dubstep remix for everything. Except it’s 2016 and I never want to hear another LFO riff and 808 snare combo ever again, least of all over BoC. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A step up from the last Boards of Canada remix we covered, which stifled the alt-supergroup Nevermen’s inventiveness in lieu of droning yoga mat electronics. Here, it’s Hudson Mohawke doing the honours, turning the group’s 2000 floatwave tinkler into, well, a HudMo joint, with all the juddering, battering and E-numbers excitability that have become slightly passe at this point. He turns the ethereal vibe of the original into high-intensity sensory fanfare, which is amusing but achieves the same result as every metal cover of a hip-hop song you’ve ever heard. (4)

Tayyab Amin: 2016 and we’re on some Mt Eden Dubstep’s ‘Sierra Leone’ revivalism tip – is it that time already?! (3)


Final scores

DJ Alina – ‘Bloodline’ (7.4)
Xiu Xiu – ‘Into The Night’ (6.7)
FKi 1st & NJOMZA – ‘For What It’s Worth’ (6)
A$AP Ferg – ‘Strive’ feat. Missy Elliott (5.9)
RLYR – ‘Slipstream Summer’ (4)
Hudson Mohawke – ‘aMo Bishop Roden (rmix)’ (3.6)



Share Tweet