Singles Club: Clams Casino, Neptunes fan fiction and RZA’s decline

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

This week, we rate and slate the latest from cloud rap innovator Clams Casino, Chicago’s Joey Purp and Chance The Rapper, Sampha, Lee Gamble, a collaboration between Interpol’s Paul Banks and RZA, and Exploded View.

Lee Gamble – ‘For Infernomatics’

Haley Potiker: I guess this is preferable to listening to a dial tone or the fax machine busy signal but like, not by a lot. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A lot of the time for Singles Club I write about nostalgia and futurism, because I guess those are my concerns when I listen to and think about music. ‘For Infernomatics’ is no different for reminding me of the early days of leaks on peer-to-peer sharing networks, where a brand new song would pop up and be rabidly downloaded thousands of times, only for everyone to realise it was a fade-in/fade-out loop of the real song’s first 20 seconds. If that was the concern of Gamble’s clattering, that would still only give me a wry smile and nothing more; as it stands, this is just bad music. (2)

Son Raw: Why can’t all techno sound like this? Subsuming jungle’s speed rush to a muted thump should be awful but Lee Gamble knows that the two genres’ workable intersection is their alien strangeness. Somehow both stately and the opposite of boring. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Listening to this tune is like flicking between TV channels of people’s dreams. I’m into the kick rhythms and it’s a texturally gorgeous track – a really lovely procession of phases spanning the outer atmospheres. (7)


Clams Casino – ‘Blast’

Son Raw: Cloud rap back. Clammy Clams has been rap’s secret weapon going on half a decade and the swag-vampires that rinsed his sound over the past few years have done little to diminish the potency of his instrumentals. Incidentally, is anyone missing Lil B or A$AP Rocky on this? Didn’t think so. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It feels like a decade has passed in rap years since Clams Casino bubbled up alongside Lil B and the immortal ‘I’m God’, helping internet-savvy hip-hop sound that little more ethereal and glassily gorgeous. He hasn’t lost his power juggling desiccated femme burbles, although the trick feels more recognisable than out-and-out stunning due to the passage of time. What he has earned is a force that was denied him as a solo artist beforehand – beforehand there were beats for rappers, now with ‘Blast’ he has beats that are songs in their own right. (7)

Chris Kelly: Clams returns with a reminder of what made him so good in the first place: towering rap beats that bleed into the red thanks to far-away vocal samples and drums that crumble into dust. With that said, I still think his best work has sounded even better with someone (Lil B?) over it. (6)

Haley Potiker: I don’t think this song is bad. I just think I would have been way more into it in 2012, the heyday of awkward head-nodding at Boiler Room. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Clams Casino fans always seem to be slightly starved of his production but I’m not sure how when he oozes endlessly listenable ether. The beat knocks each time with such deliberation, and the atmosphere’s a pleasant sort of passive – kinda like watching the world end in the twee-est way. (6)


Banks and Steelz – ‘Love and War’

Chris Kelly: Did RZA learn nothing from BlakRoc? Hip-hop is constantly evolving, incorporating different sounds and breaking new barriers… and hasn’t benefited from guitars since Run-DMC walked this way with Aerosmith. And are we just going to pretend that Paul Banks didn’t release a mixtape called Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed To Be? (3)

Haley Potiker: I really don’t know how I’m going to explain to my children how RZA went from Supreme Clientele to… this. It says a lot about Ghostface’s character that he appears on this record. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The tragedy enveloping RZA’s output since Wu-Tang Clan’s 8 Diagrams LP (way underrated, FWIW) is that there are obvious good ideas, whether it’s a melody or a good line or an audacious sonic lick. The problem is RZA’s penchant for overproduction, slathering those ideas on top of one another, making music that appeals to all of his tastes while rarely appealing to anybody else’s. Let’s not kid ourselves that this is a wrong turn from a great artist that deserves our trust: after A Better Tomorrow, all bets are off for where Bobby Digi’s faulty musical compass takes him. And yet again, it’s a shame because there are two interesting demos at work on ‘Love and War’, but the result is a noisy jumble of Phil Collins-era Genesis, noir affectations and wannabe Morricone soundtrack ambitions. Call us back at the God hour with something better, Bobby. (2)

Tayyab Amin: Quentin Tarantino once said to the RZA: “Two of the greatest writers in American music history are Bob Dylan and Ghostface Killah.” I don’t know how high such praise is, all things considered, but I do agree GFK is the slickest, most clinical operator in the biz. It’s hard to measure how far a track like this goes just because Ghostface immediately runs off with it. (6)

Son Raw: RZA’s descent into hip-hop hippie mediocrity is utterly disheartening for anyone who remembers that Wu-Tang used to be more than a logo on cheap T-shirts. What’s worse? 1. That this a breakbeat spaghetti western nightmare? 2. That RZA’s middlebrow rock-rap festival audience will probably eat it up? 3. That it’s somehow STILL not as bad as A Better Tomorrow? (1)


Joey Purp – ‘Girls’ (ft. Chance the Rapper)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Perhaps it’s the bottle instrument percussion and slyly scaling melody against a bare musical background, but ‘Girls’ certainly sounds like it owes something to Nelly’s ‘Flap Ya Wings’ – and that’s even before the girl talk begins. People will listen for the charmingly scummy Chance verse (ladies, you deserve better than a guy with a mattress but no frame) but Joey Purp acquits himself nicely, his eyebrow-raised tone giving the song meat atop its skeletal structure. It sounds like it could have been a radio hit in 2004, which says something about how much hip-hop singles have changed in a decade plus while also turning ‘Girls’ into something of an exercise in hits from a bygone era. (7)

Tayyab Amin: A man said a whole “Ta-Nehisi Coates” you know! Amazing beat, tight flows, humour too. Kinda joint that makes you wanna play out just so you can form your set around it. Personally I’m thinking ‘Everyone Nose’ on one side and ‘Trini Dem Girls’ on the other. (9)

Son Raw: Bit early for the classic Neptunes revival, but I’ll allow it on the basis that they refuse to dress up that beat, and naked drums are a beautiful thing. Yo Chance: less religion rap and more club tracks about the ladies, plz. (7)

Haley Potiker: By far my favorite part of this song is how Chance tries to wash Joey Purp — not with his verse, because that’s pretty phoned in — but by making his counterpart look disrespectful in the club. Joey is on the prowl for girls with discretionary income who are shy about having sex with the lights on. Chance is wandering around the club asking girls if they read Ta-Nehisi Coates. Joey suggests that his girls wear their hair in a bun when they head home the next morning; the sun rises and Chance is still searching through their purses for library cards and quizzing them about Aquemini. I’ve heard worse Neptunes fan fiction, but I’ve also heard better Neptunes fan fiction. (6)

Chris Kelly: Surprisingly jiggy and surprisingly N.E.R.D.y; unsurprisingly, Purp gets outshone by Chance the Rapper. Chance is NBA Jam On Fire right now and not only shouts out “mid-size girls” but raps about a woman in the club “reading Ta-Nehisi Coates and humming ‘SpottieOttieDope'” because Chance is the zeitgeist. (7)


Exploded View – ‘Orlando’

Chris Kelly: A pleasant but numbingly familiar post-punk pastiche. Wasn’t the lesson of DFA et al that punks could dance to a wider range of music? (4)

Hayley Potiker: There’s a unique beauty to Anika’s voice that actually makes me feel pangs of guilt for not listening to it more often. While I respect the craft, I can’t see how this song fits into my life, unless my life becomes some sort of Hunger Games situation where I’m navigating my city’s sewer system while a crowd of genetically modified bloodhounds tries to rip me apart. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Absolute jaunt of a bassline, this. Those slowly falling gem teardrop keys are a graceful, meditative sort of beautiful. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I will admit, the first minute of dry skip-rope tempo drums and I’m-trying-to-not-be-funky basslines nearly ended me, but this turns into a taut, claustrophobic piece. Perhaps I caught Stockholm syndrome from being left alone with Anika’s muttering for so long. (6)

Son Raw: Goth by numbers. Anika’s voice is brilliant as ever but the music skirts the line between “rough” and “actually just a demo” a little too closely. (4)


Sampha – ‘Timmy’s Prayer’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I will never be able to listen to Sampha’s quite lovely voice again without (a) wishing Kwes was our wonky-soul overlord and (b) remembering The Kid Mero writing that his hook on Drake’s ‘Too Much’ sounded like “THE AMPHIBIAN VERSION OF TRACY CHAPMAN” (his caps). This still isn’t bad low-key caterwauling but Sampha shows me that I am petty. (6)

Son Raw: This is so clean and that suits Sampha like a glove. He’s always had the vocals to be a full-on pop star but now the songwriting and production have caught up, and the result is spiritual and uplifting without leaning on worn out tropes and easy church signifiers. (8)

Chris Kelly: Some of the production choices gave me pause (that broken beat is an anti-groove) but Sampha’s performance erases any doubts about this one: when he sings “that [love] comes and go-oh-ohs” it’s a plaintive cry so heavy with love and loss that you can’t help but empathize. Welcome back. (8)

Haley Potiker: In the years since Sampha’s last album, he’s given some of his best songs away to the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Jessie Ware, and Katy B. ‘Timmy’s Prayer’ couldn’t have been recorded by anybody else; it’s beautiful, personal, and greatly benefits from a lack of the 9-God. (8)

Tayyab Amin: I was actually relieved the day that I clocked we were collectively over #SamphaWave or whatever. Loved the stuff with SBTRKT but he had an irksome whine to his singing – I was low-key impressed my guy could actually be some neo-soul UK bass Sami Yusuf, but I wasn’t sure if it was just his voice. His return is triumphant. This track is pure flames. It’s so elegant in its vulnerability, so emotionally regal, intimately explosive, a total Worms Holy Hand Grenade of a tune. The snake charm psalm melody in the background is wonderful. I’m especially taken with the range of vocals Sampha belts out – through acceptance, he takes command and masters his helplessness. (9)


Final scores

Sampha – ‘Timmy’s Prayer’ (7.8)
Joey Purp – ‘Girls’ (ft. Chance the Rapper) (7.2)
Clams Casino – ‘Blast’ (6.8)
Exploded View – ‘Orlando’ (5.4)
Lee Gamble – ‘For Infernomatics’ (4.8)
Banks and Steelz – ‘Love and War’ (3)



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