Features I by I 11.04.17

Singles Club: Mount Kimbie link up with James Blake while Ikonika impresses again

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, Mount Kimbie enlist James Blake for our first glimpse at the Warp duo’s long-gestating new album, Actress gives us another taste of his upcoming AZD and One Direction’s Harry Styles leaves his boy band past behind for, uhh, 2000s V Festival indie rock.

There’s also the matter of more new Gorillaz, who team up with Pusha T on ‘Let Me Out’, and a new track from Hyperdub producer and returning FACT favorite Ikonika. Here’s what our reviewers thought of each.

Harry Styles – ‘Sign Of The Times’

Haley Potiker: I keep listening to this song and then immediately forgetting what it sounds like by the time I come back to the tab to write a paragraph about it. That can’t be a good sign (of the times). (3)

Tayyab Amin: Does this song know what it wants to be? Big sounds, big sentiments, absolutely humongous levels of fake-deepery. The most impressive thing about the entire song is how it manages to rip off all of them stadium glam rock guys and Travis at the same damn time. My housemate reckons you’d hear this at a bowling alley. I reckon you could hear it in the Watchmen movie. We’re both right. (2)

Chal Ravens: My heart bleeds for Hazbo. He is quite obviously a total lemon but I’m finding it hard to hate something that’s going so proudly against the grain – this is a Proper Artist, Yeah? making a Proper Big Statement, Yeah? with wailing glam-rock guitars and spacious 1970s-inspired production in a time when chart success usually has something to do with watered-down dembow or getting your nose pierced (soz, Zayn – you’re still the fittest out of 1D though). He could’ve done anything and he’s done this, and it’s got a fucking choir in it and the line “stop your crying, baby.” What an absolute lemon. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Robbie Williams started his solo career literally doing George Michael and Oasis karaoke, so if Bowie-via-Weller is the way Styles wants to kick off his moment in the sun, be patient. It could get good soon, rather than just agreeable. (5)


Ikonika – ‘Manual Decapitation’

Haley Potiker: This sounds like a beautiful robot made it. (7)

Chal Ravens: As usual with Ikonika, I find myself wanting to like it a bit more than I actually do – she creates these gorgeously smooth surfaces and ultra-tight rhythms that ultimately leave me lukewarm. Having said that, there’s not an element out of place in ‘Manual Decapitation’ and I’m an enormous sucker for sci-fi electro that sounds like its approaching sentience. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Ikonika’s productions feel so complete. Her creativity is solid, her execution is crisp. It makes her music so inviting and this is no exception. I could listen to its twinkling night sky of a synth melody in this track for hours. My favourite element here is the bell, ringing with weight yet muted so as not to overpower the track. It feels both distant and close, as if you’d be able to hear it no matter where you were in Ikonika’s world. Not that’s how you build an atmosphere. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Surprisingly jaunty in a dulled neon-future type of way, this new piece from Sara Abdel-Hamid maintains the dark playfulness that’s always helped her work stand out. In a world of contemporaries focused on dystopia and little else, she finds challenging ways to attest that there should be something alive in the midst of all that darkness. (7)


Gorillaz featuring Pusha T and Mavis Staples – ‘Let Me Out’

Haley Potiker: Do you think Pusha T would enjoy being a cartoon? I feel like he’d appreciate the ability to bend physics (and slide even more easily up and down his parents’ stairs while Miami Vice plays in the background). But do Kanye’s publishing cheques cross those universal boundaries? Is it hard to draw Pyrex? (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I was lucky enough to see Gorillaz premiere this song live a few weeks ago and the audience seemed far more into it than any other song off the upcoming Humanz, yelling for it to be performed twice. It’s a festival stopper, all fire and brimstone courtesy of Pusha T (animated) and Mavis Staples (regal via video screen). Now the track’s actually dropped and I’m listening to it in the cold harsh light of day: I didn’t expect Staples’ feature to be a pre-chorus drop that wouldn’t sound out of touch on a Clean Bandit song, or for the track to seethe rather than knock, allowing it to fit into Pusha’s wheelhouse. It’s good, but you need to hear this in a live setting, where the energy helps Damon Albarn’s appearance almost make sense. (6)

Chal Ravens: Pusha T sounding deeply bored with life out here, and who can blame him, stuck inside this sluggish, overly ornate, faux-soulful but very “big” tune. And OH YES HERE HE IS, here’s Damon – sorry, “2-D” – coming in over the tannoy again with his hangdog vocal like he’s announcing a BOGOF on tinned peas. This is not a single, this is some ideas placed next to each other. (4)

Tayyab Amin: I know it’s a Gorillaz song but every time 2-D aka Albarn opens his mouth on this track I scowl as if he’s just interrupted Mavis Staples and Pusha T – two people who just shouldn’t be interrupted. It’s so lovely hearing them on the same song, especially when the beat knocks like this one. They’re much more at risk in Trump’s America than Albarn is, which is what annoys me about the character’s soundbites about solidarity. Pusha puts himself out there referring to Trump by name, which is then censored in the Spotify single amongst other instances of the track. Still, it’s a strong one for people to get behind. (6)


Actress – ‘Dancing In The Smoke’

Haley Potiker: Listening to futuristic space music is a lot more bittersweet when you don’t think humanity can possibly last much longer. Anyway, this kind of sounds like what Bop-It will sound like in 2100. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Dancing on the knife-edge, flexing on the turbo thrusters, throwing shapes in the maintenance room, flowing amongst the woozy drones, bone-breaking to the shrill machinations, gripping your head in your hands and rocking back and forth to the kickdrum saga, shaking amongst the static of the future, shivering in the cacophonic tomorrow, dancing in the smoke. (7)

Chal Ravens: Another week, another banger from the Actress comeback album, which looks set to be one of the toppa-top electronic records of the year. I have nothing negative to say about this at all. It’s moody, it’s medicated, it repeats the word “dance” over and over and over again, it’s got a faint seam of totally unrelated, dissonant melody breaking in like a crackle of radio interference, it’s Actress at his most direct and danceable for years. VG-tick, as my dad would say. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: About a month ago, I said that Actress’ first AZD single ‘X22RME’ sounded like little more than assembled bleeps, so expectations were not high for ‘Dancing in the Smoke’ (great title, by the way). It does maintain that essence of SFX-heavy mood nonsense – the middle section of the song does sound like audio laser tag, with all the synthetic fog replaced by keyboard atmos – but ‘Dancing…’ does make something intriguing out of digital cacophony where ‘X22RME’ did not. It’s still lowkey unbearable to me, so take that all with a pinch of salt. (4)


Mount Kimbie featuring James Blake – ‘We Go Home Together’

Haley Potiker: This video is so classic Kimbie that I just got transported back to 2013 which is in almost every measurable category better than 2017. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Classic Kimbie bass, drums, field recordings, church organ and a whole entire James Blake guest vocal interweave for the duration of this new track. The harmony of this combination is inconsistent for me: Take the transition between Blake’s verses: the percussion is masterfully stripped away and the organ encircles his voice as he lingers on a moment to replay and repeat to himself. It’s much more potent than the clumsy croak of his first verse, or the grating outro. Perhaps I’m not used to Mount Kimbie using the space in their music quite like this. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A grower, a deeply felt piece of organ widdling that is held back from reaching its full emotional power due to James Blake – once a deeply felt producer, now a warbler overly reliant on constant impact over finding the right moments for a performance to impress. (6)

Chal Ravens: Er, what have we here? Wibbly vocals, sunken chords, ambient clouds blending into church organs? Honestly, I thought I would hate this, not because I’ve got anything against Mount Kimbie but because it’s 2017 and they never really topped those early EPs anyway so where could they really go now? But actually, what they’ve done here is exactly what any post-dubstep casualty would want if they enjoy the proggier end of James Blake – they’ve cut to the chase and borrowed James Blake. I’ve listened to this about 10 times now and it remains a total mystery. Where is it going? What is the hook? Perhaps it will make sense as part of the album, but I actually love how diverse and diversionary this is. Hooray for weird and unclassifiable! (7)


Final scores:

Ikonika – ‘Manual Decapitation’ (7)
Mount Kimbie – ‘We Go Home Together’ (6.25)
Actress – ‘Dancing In The Smoke’ (6.25)
Gorillaz – ‘Let Me Out’ (6)
Harry Styles – ‘Sign Of The Times’ (3.75)



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