Singles Club I by I 21.03.17

Singles Club: Arca hits new heights while Actress splits opinion

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, Actress takes his sound to new extremes on ‘X22RME’, the first track from his upcoming new album AZD, with Rick Ross also returning to cement his reputation as the king of luxury rap excess on Young Thug and Wale collaboration ‘Trap Trap Trap’, taken from Rather You Than Me.

There’s also the small matter of a new Arca single, another pivot away by Feist from the twee indie folk she’s best known for, and a stonker of a new release by Nan Kolè. See what FACT writers made of them all below.

Actress – ‘X22RME’

Haley Potiker: The first 30 seconds or so sound the way biting into tin foil feels, but then it opens up into a nice groove. Actress is one of those producers you always feel a bit too dumb to fully understand (a “test frame for linking circuits using various forms of language”?). But it will be interesting to get a peek into the future when AZD drops. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I try to avoid approaching Actress tracks with the view that he’s an outsider to his influences and similar sounds but he doesn’t make it easy. This whole video, with its Dutch angles and inward zooms, is filmed as if by extraterrestrials new to Earth and solely able to interact with the planet’s modes of aesthetics. As for the tune – it’s nice, just my type of techno, but disappointingly unambitious on its own. Maybe that’s just the hype, though – I’ve always enjoyed Actress most when we just let him cook, and a taste is unlikely to do the meal justice. (6)

Chal Ravens: What a beaut. It’s so quintessentially Actress and yet so reassuringly heavy and purposeful after the spindly exhaustion of Ghettoville and the Levantis album – a reminder that Darren Cunningham can of course do proper techno for a proper dancefloor. Not that there’s anything regulation about this track, but it sounds better and better the louder you crank it. The synths are so perfectly ‘Xtal’-ish, aren’t they? (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Look, I’ve listened to this four times and can’t think of anything beyond its status as bleeping background SFX. It certainly… bleeps, though! (6)

Jibril Yassin: While ‘X22RME’ is not as grey-tinted as previous material would have us to expect it would be, it does feel a tad underwhelming, almost as if Cunningham would throw a few ideas into the pot and move on before they could start to settle. (5)


Arca – ‘Reverie’

Haley Potiker: These outtakes from The Revenant are amazing. (6)

Chal Ravens: I’ve managed to fall behind with Arca, having not given due attention to Mutant after being lukewarm on Xen, but it seems he’s evolving like a virus. This is one of those rare tracks that can reasonably be compared to Björk, both in the scope of its experimentation and its commitment to a warped pop sensibility. It’s a clever one. (8)

Tayyab Amin: It feels like everything we’ve seen from Arca so far has been building up towards this point. There’s so much more weight in the balance of this ambitious, operatic statement when you consider his refinement of his production and sound, his songwriting development and his performance persona – now with added voice. The artist on camera is now as enthralling as the artist in the studio for me, which is such a journey to make. As a whole, the video goes beyond haunting you to echoing and pounding in your skull; the death gasp of a feeling that just won’t die. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s easy to say that Arca learned the ability to dramatize from working so closely with Bjork on Vulnicura, but listening to ‘Piel’ and now ‘Reverie’, it’s clear as day. Wavering atop aggressive echoes and Eastern scales, it’s a bravura performance – one wonders how he can keep this up for an entire album without collapsing into self-parody, but it’s a welcome stage of his evolution. (8)

Jibril Yassin: There’s something unsettling about how Arca’s voice clashes with the haunting backdrop of clattering percussion and eerie synths; obviously his vocal take is front and centre, but how is something this beautiful juxtaposed with what feels seemingly so heavy? Damn if it doesn’t make you feel a type of way when hearing it after-hours. (8)


Rick Ross – ‘Trap Trap Trap’ ft. Young Thug and Wale

Haley Potiker: Two blockbuster rap records came out this week – Drake’s More Life and Rick Ross’s Rather You Than Me. They have one common thread: scene-stealing guest spots from Young Thug. Does anyone else think it’s kind of strange that Thug, who’s slated to drop a new Rich Gang installment next month, pops up on an album that’s making headlines for ripping into Baby? (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Wale is the most surprising man in mainstream hip-hop when he’s totally in the pocket – nowadays a meandering solo artist, he can still flourish effortlessly on these Rick Ross features like he did back on 2011’s ‘Pandemonium’. Let’s give props where it’s due – amongst some heavy hitters, he really came through and ate everyone’s lunch up. (7)

Chal Ravens: I just think Rick Ross is dogshit and there’s nothing to be done about it. Maybe it’s cos I’m listening to this track via the video, but the way it’s mixed like a trailer for a fucking World of Warcraft movie is just so tiring and heavy-handed, like it’s trying to throttle you into turntness. “LISTEN UP! THIS SHIT IS LOUD! TRAP TRAP TRAP! ‘MEMBER UNCLE RICKY?! YUP, STILL HERE! TRAP TRAP TRAP!” And so on. Also, I hadn’t thought about Wale for a long time and I’m not that pleased to be reminded of his continued here-ness. The low-dose injection of charisma from Thug’s verse is not a sufficient antidote. (3)

Tayyab Amin: “The Untouchable Maybach Empire Presents…” the weakest hook of 2017. Memorising lyrics? In this economy? Rick Ross knows better, that the crowd will actually be able to bring some energy to his shows as long as they just have to shout “trap” at whatever time. I didn’t hate Wale on this. I wish Thugger’s verse never ended. And for everyone arguing about US vs UK music in the wake of Drake’s More Life, I’d like to posit that 67 would have merked this track ten times harder than Ross. (5)

Jibril Yassin: Rozay’s ear for exquisite production and talent for catchy hooks remains top tier but what’s surprising about ‘Trap Trap Trap’ is how he manages to hold his own against an unfettered Thugger AND a seemingly rejuvenated Wale too. There’s nothing groundbreaking here but given most of us are likely just wanting to hear Young Thug brag about how he’s richer than Tom Cruise (likely not true but there’s something joyful in hearing Thugger say it regardless), there’s nothing wrong with that. (7)


Feist – ‘Pleasure’

Haley Potiker: Is this the same Feist with the catchy pop-folk songs and the iPod Nano commercial?! I’m enjoying ‘Pleasure’ the single, but hoping Pleasure the album has at least a few earworms. (7)

Tayyab Amin: PJ Harvey vibes in here. I’m quite into the sparseness and unwinding tensions throughout the tune – right up until that climactic kumbaya clapathon. (6)

Chal Ravens: Okay, so I’ve never knowingly listened to a Feist song that isn’t ‘1234’, and that one makes me want to set fire to a Westfield so HERE WE GO. *Listens* I like the juxtaposition between the quivering emoshun of the verse and the PJ Harvey snarl-guitars and hiccup-vocals in the hook, so that’s pleasant, but when it starts to make a play for my heartstrings I shut down. Do not tug at me! I shall not be manipulated! More guitar and less feelings, please. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I, uh, didn’t know Feist didn’t just make twee stuff – this is kinda harder than I thought, so by grading on a curve of surprise. (7)

Jibril Yassin: Clearly, Feist did not come back just to play with y’all. For anyone still holding out hope our girl here would come back with the biggest Apple Music jingle ever, your faith and patience has not been rewarded and the exit is that way. Moving on, can we thank very possible higher being there is for the return of those bluesy guitars from Metals? So many highlights! Those riffs! The way she sounds slightly unhinged throughout the final minute and half! The undercurrent of tension holding the verses together! (8)


Nan Kolè – ‘Bayefal’

Haley Potiker: This is cool. Let’s hide this from Drake. (8)

Tayyab Amin: ‘Bayefal’ is not a gqom track. Look, the producer says so himself here. I get why a lot of people think that it is, and I want to emphasise that we be mindful of portraying Nan Kolè (Kpelle for “Bright Man”) as the face of gqom. We sit on the precipice of cultural colonialism and by misrepresenting and making assumptions, we risk falling down the wrong side. ‘Bayefal’ takes its cues from West Africa, pitting call-and-response vocal samples against an ever-rocking percussive rhythm. There’s one stark melodic element with a playfulness that almost brings to mind the warped Crash Bandicoot soundtrack, and all in all it’s a celebration more than anything else. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I’m unfamiliar with the South African genre of gqom but there’s enough rattle and layering to keep me intrigued to take a deep dive. (7)

Chal Ravens: I am so relieved to hear that this isn’t a gqom facsimile – the low end is mobile rather than droning, there’s a totally different balance between the bass and drums, and while the Gqom Oh! label boss has thrown in some South African vocals, they’re wedged tidily between spooky keys and that melodic bassline. It’d be hard to know what to make of a European label owner dipping his toe into a South African scene he’s helped to commercialise, but this feels like it’s been brewing for a long time, drawing on his older house influences too. Bit too chunky in the mid-range, maybe, but otherwise this gets a VG tick. (7)

Jibril Yassin: Buoyed by an infectious sample, Nan Kole’s first sampling of solo material is a total riot. It’s raw in the way a total stomp should; the key ingredient here is not the fantastic drums or sample but rather that heavy bass Nan deploys to great effect. (7)


Final scores:

Arca – ‘Reverie’ (7.8)
Nan Kolè – ‘Bayefal’ (7)
Feist – ‘Pleasure’ (6.6)
Actress – ‘X22RME’ (6.4)
Rick Ross – ‘Trap Trap Trap’ ft. Young Thug and Wale (6)



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