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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 its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time. On the chopping block this week: Jamie xx, Rustie, FKA Twigs, The Juan Maclean and more.

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Jamie xx – ‘All Under One Roof Raving’


Angus Finlayson: Where to begin with this? Sampling Mark Leckey is a pretty easy shortcut to cred these days (although the Fonz might be… wait… yep – there he goes), but this isn’t so much vivid nostalgist collage as commemorative quilt. I’m sorry Mark Fisher, I take it all back. P.S. steel drums. (4)

Alex Macpherson: Jamie Smith just wants to pay homage to a simpler time, a golden age of dance music, an imagined past idealised in order to indulge the nostalgic impulses currently rampant throughout our culture. This is inevitably infused with the acrid stink of nationalism: “And we kept it UK! And we kept it UK!” repeated, squared, cubed like ever-multiplying bunting until it ceases being a statement of pride in a musical community and starts resembling patriotic propaganda. Rave may have been countercultural in the first place, but it’s about the right time for its appropriation by the forces of conservatism.

Not that Smith can even be bothered to capture its spirit in his sound. The xx’s debut album was a masterpiece of careful, hold-your-breath stillness hanging in summer night air, but it’s long been clear that he’s a mere tinkerer when it comes to solo production. ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ is the tipping point between inconsequential paddling in the shallow end and full-on self-parody. He has a nerve referencing rave and trotting out those weak, mimsy steel pans again when he’s so often shied away from any hint of ruffness or even physicality in his work. This is the dance equivalent of a damp Keep Calm And Carry On tea towel. Keep Calm And Rave On! (1)

Chris Kelly: Grabbing at rave nostalgia with both hands, and cribbing ‘Far Nearer’ while he’s at it. With his recent output, he’s 0 for 3 in my book. (3)

Joe Moynihan: I heard a rumour that an earlier version of this tune exists in which, instead of referencing Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, Jimmy Kiss Kiss samples a YouTube rip of an interview with Henry Winkler about that episode of Happy Days where Fonz jumps the shark. Supposedly it was intended to be a super self-aware metacommentary on his own solo career or something. Anyway to cut a long story short that demo went in the bin and we ended up with ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ which, fair play to Jamie, achieves the exact same thing. (2)

Walker Chambliss: ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ is another entry into Jamie xx’s catalog of steel-drum driven dance nostalgia, and it’s predictably well-produced and a bit sleepy. Sounds nice, although the vocal sample bits are a bit distracting. The bass has a nice buzz to it, but everything sounds rounded off. Any sort of intensity that the original hardcore sound this track seems to pay homage to is dulled down until it’s nothing but a shadow of that sound. C’mon Jamie, if yr gonna make a track like this, you gotta go all the way in! (5)


Rustie – ‘Raptor’


Alex Macpherson: The thing when you make an album as brilliant as Glass Swords is that you get held to higher standards. ‘Raptor’ has your standard Rustie sounds – synth so high you feel like you’re at the top of your head, bass drop, clattery beat – but ultimately doesn’t do much with them except zip back and forth in lieu of any sort of hook. Would be fine as one of those deep album cuts no one ever thinks about, but not much more. (4)

Joe Moynihan: Rustie, I love you, I do, but there isn’t enough mandy in the entire bloody universe mate. Bet you a score the other Joe loves it though, so you’ll be safe. [editor’s note – unfortunately for Rustie, Joe Muggs is at Glastonbury] (4)

Chris Kelly: Doesn’t throw down the gauntlet as much as it throws down a Nintendo Power Glove dipped in DayGlo paint. Redefines “maximalist” and sends trap-EDM kiddies back to the drawing board. (7)

Angus Finlayson: Well, I have a headache now, which I suppose is the point. Interesting to note that the reintroduction of trancey hardstyle into the dance music ecosystem continues apace. Yes, it’s the setup to one of those tablecloth-trick trap drops, but it’s clearly the best bit. (6)

Walker Chambliss: Wow, ‘Raptor’ has me doing mandatory turn-up arms whenever I put it on. Structured similarly to last year’s amazing ‘Slasherr’, which are just about the only two tracks I can think of recently which maximise the power of the drop without overshadowing the rest of the track. Absolutely huge, can’t wait for Green Language. Rustie is going to save us all. (9)


The Juan Maclean – ‘A Place Called Space’


Joe Moynihan: The first three minutes, which sort of reappropriates Giorgio Moroder’s ‘The Chase’ for the Audiosurf generation, are great. Then what sounds like my mate singing David Bowie tunes in the karaoke booth after one too many comes in and my buzz is totally harshed. Nancy Whang makes up for it though. It’s alright. (6)

Alex Macpherson: Pre-release hype can so often be a mug’s game, but the news that The Juan Maclean’s forthcoming third album In A Dream is being billed as the Nancy Whang Show is as good as it gets: for an artist with no solo releases of her own, she’s been an iconic presence on other people’s records for over a decade now. Her entrance here – held off until over four minutes in as John MacLean builds up a broiling prog-disco setting for her – is magnificent; her simultaneous don’t-give-a-fuck looseness and impeccable poise still unmatched. (9)

Walker Chambliss: I’m always a bigger Juan Maclean fan than I think I am, because I almost never listen to them, but when I do I always really enjoy it. The band’s always taking chances, and the psych-guitar vibes here are pretty admirable. That being said, this track meanders a bit too much for me. This could have used a bit more of the laser focus of something like ‘Every Little Thing’, or even the longer-but-better-building ‘Happy House’. Once Nancy Whang’s vocals appear (can we get a solo project from her at some point, PLEASE?!), it finally shapes itself into something, but it takes way too long to get there. Good effort, though. (6)

Chris Kelly: Painfully retro DFA bait. The only thing it makes me nostalgic for is Disco Demolition Night. (4)


Moleskin – ‘Clemency’


Chris Kelly: Baltimore club in a blender; damaged and demented and the drums don’t dance, but it still bangs. (8)

Joe Moynihan: Alright, full disclosure: I live with the bastard who made this tune…but this isn’t biased. You see, long before he moved in, I’d been after this tune with the kind of determination hitherto seen only in the eyes of the light guy in Fabric Room 3. Any time it got dropped in the dance I’d fucking cartwheel along the M25 and you wouldn’t see me for days. I only told him we had a room going so I could nick it while he was sleeping (sorry mate). I never did though. But here we are, it’s about to come out and I love it just as much as the first time I heard it. Absolute fire. (9)

Angus Finlayson: Moleskin is one of those grime(-ish) guys who’s been around for what feels like an age without getting a proper solo release under his belt. This is solid gear in the post-Club Constructions mould. Like a lot of these tunes, it follows a vaguely 8-bar structure; unlike, say, Miss Modular, its ambitions don’t seem to extend much beyond that. Sometimes it’s good to let the DJ do the work, though. (7)

Walker Chambliss: Hey Jamie xx, if you wanna learn how to use steel drums in a track and not put everyone to sleep, maybe you should check out ‘Clemency’? This is the polar opposite of ‘All Under One Roof Raving’: dirty, visceral, and actively trying to do something forward thinking, rather than cannibalising the past. You could probably play ‘Clemency’ and ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ side-by-side for strangers as a litmus test to determine if you’d want to be their friend or not. I’m hanging with the Moleskin folks. (8)

Alex Macpherson: Initially sounds like the kind of track that’s easier to admire in its punishing relentlessness than love, until the sheer amount of ideas packed into it start corkscrewing your brain open. The gabbling vocals are perhaps a wacky touch too far, but everything else? The scribbling switch-ups, the build-up at its peak like piston valves working overtime, the urgent chiming like a distant fire alarm, the thunderous beats that remind me of, er, ‘Hollaback Girl’, the way it never once lets you pause for breath – yes please. (8)


Zola Jesus – ‘Dangerous Days’


Angus Finlayson: As far as I can tell, Zola Jesus’ voice has two modes: excruciatingly nasal battering ram and slightly quieter excruciatingly nasal battering ram. Both get a thorough airing here, so in a sense I guess she’s showing her range? In any case, if you’re going to tackle a chorus like that, then your bellow has to be on point. It’s a pretty good chorus, that wasn’t snark. (5)

Walker Chambliss: Beat’s a bit too deep in the EDM-pop realm for me at the start, but this track certainly morphs into something really nice. The hook is killer and once the production drifts into something a bit deeper on the second half, it hits a great climax. Almost sounds like a weirdly-produced Sky Ferreira track. I dig this way more than I thought I would. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Nika Rosa Danilova’s voice is as powerful as ever on this, and I like tumbling synth-pop bigness as much as the next person who err… likes that sort of thing, but I can’t shake the fact that its a little too perfect for the epic climax of a Netflix original series to really rate it. (6)

Alex Macpherson: She used to sound like a karaoke version of Siouxsie and now she sounds like Charli XCX, except without anything resembling a coherent artistic vision. The washed-out house euphoria of the beat and melody is certainly more “now” than the washes of doomy reverb of Zola Jesus’s debut (which were very “now” then), but it shows up the ill-suited heaviness of her voice. Catchy enough that it could’ve been a cute pop song, though, had it been performed by someone with a clue about singing pop songs. (4)

Chris Kelly: Sure, it’s crisper and poppier than anything she’s done before, but not by much; this isn’t miles from ‘Seekir’ off Conatus. This is also off her fifth album of new material in as many years — change is good. (7)


FKA twigs – ‘Two Weeks’


Chris Kelly: I’m a sucker for a pop song that puts “motherfucker” in the chorus. (9)

Joe Moynihan: There’s no praise I can give FKA twigs that hasn’t been dished out by the entire internet in spades already. She’s a bloody professional, and one of the most standalone artists about at the moment. And long may that continue. (8)

Angus Finlayson: After seeing twigs live recently, I realised that I only really, really like two things about her: her super-abstract production circa EP2 and her videos. The former is kind of absent here (has Arca bowed out? No idea), but the latter does a good job of picking up the slack. Any four-minute pop vid with a surprise underwater denouement gets my vote. That said, my favourite twigs is idle courtier twigs (lefthand corner from ~2.15). (7)

Walker Chambliss: I’m really wary of all the buzz-building mythos around twigs, but she’s consistently proven herself worthy of the growing spotlight on her. ‘Two Weeks’ is the best example yet of the star-quality she possesses. She’s got an amazing ear for production (is this Arca again?), and she’s able to twist the mind-blowing songwriting here in her favour – the crescendo here is one of the best music moments I’ve heard in ages. Her lyrics and voice remind me of something Cassie would do if she was actually really trying to take chances and giving no fucks. In an age where we put a lot of emphasis on trend-hopping sonic discovery, it’s great to hear an artist willing to engage with new sounds and make fully-realized songs out of those ideas. Song of the year contender, for sure. (10)

Alex Macpherson: The first thing I’ve heard by FKA ywigs that hasn’t bored me senseless, ‘Two Weeks’ has so much more body than her previous releases, in that it has any at all. But despite the billowing melody, there’s still something off-puttingly careful about ‘Two Weeks’. FKA ywigs does a good impression of the way R&B singers give themselves fully over to feeling, but it’s ultimately ersatz sensuality, twigs unable to get far enough away from her natural tasteful politesse, lapsing too often into kewpie doll cutesiness and pointless blankness. Points for at least attempting to do a bit more than the usual insipid indie-R&B, but just play this next to Ciara’s classic ‘Promise’ (an obvious influence) to hear how much richer and more complex a song can be when it doesn’t sound like someone’s art school project on a genre. (5)


Final scores:
Moleskin – ‘Clemency’ (8)
FKA twigs – ‘Two Weeks’ (7.8)
The Juan Maclean – ‘A Place Called Space’ (6.3)
Rustie – ‘Raptor’ (6)
Zola Jesus – ‘Dangerous Days’ (5.8)
Jamie xx – ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ (3)

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