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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.

On the block this week: Future Brown, The Soft Moon, Anthony Naples, Novelist and more.

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The Soft Moon – ‘Black’


Angus Finlayson: A song called ‘Black’, from an album titled Deeper, recorded in “total solitude” and addressing its creator’s “internal battles”. My moody neo-goth bingo card is almost full but somehow I’m none the happier. (5)

Alex Macpherson: I am a total sucker for gothy beats that are somehow as pristinely polished as they are grimy and dingy; ‘Black’ sounds like it could swallow you whole, but there’s nothing punishing about it. Meanwhile, the gasps of breath used as percussion are giving me flashbacks to particularly intense Tori Amos concerts. (8)

Scott Wilson: This sounds as if someone has decided to have a go at making “industrial music” solely based on the Wikipedia definition of the genre. (4)

Brad Stabler: Vasquez’s best move was to retreat as far back from the foreground as he could on this one – letting his brash whispers turn into another part of the rhythm section. But that works the other way around, too, since he also brings everything else back with him, which defangs all the bite and turns this one into late night static. That won’t stop me from digging the freakout in the middle, though. (7)

Tayyab AminIf Red Alert got a gritty reboot this would be the theme tune. Props for coming good once brought to the boil. (5)

Chris Kelly: A steel-toed boot march through the music of my youth. I’m looking forward to 2015’s power EBM revival. (7)

Son Raw: In an era of post-industrial dread where it’s the people behind the automatons that scare us, this kind of blacker-than-black machine music isn’t quite as terrifying as it used to be, but it’s still a lot of fun. This should come with a pair of leather chaps and a strobe light. (7)

Chal Ravens: I’m giving this my full support in the hope that Luis Vasquez will be asked to perform it on Jimmy Fallon and then we’ll find out what really happens when you meet your doppelganger. On live TV. Good track. (7)



Sasha Go Hard – ‘Bricks’


Tayyab AminI heard this track is so fire that it stole Quavo’s chain, freed Meek Mill and pushed Busta off his own stage. (9)

Chris Kelly: Sasha’s rap skills have never been in doubt; she’s just rarely found the right vehicle for them. She finally lives up to her moniker on ‘Bricks’, delivering a Boss Ass Bitch anthem over a pro-grade beat that beefs up the drill sound. Brash lines like “eat me ’til I come” have shades of Kim, while “never fucked Keef, never fucked Fredo” outstrips Nicki’s parallel claims on ‘Only’. Sasha is that bitch. (8)

Brad Stabler: ‘Bricks’ is strangely stale for someone who is anything but. Sasha’s almost always delivered, but about halfway through the track, I started feeling like I was going through a checklist of what I expected; second time round, I felt bored. Sasha’s actual flow is still impeccable, the beat’s a solid cooker, and this is the same kind of ground she levelled with ‘Why They Mad’ or with Tink on ‘Problem’ – which is, by that standard, this should be so much better than it is. (6)

Son RawWeirdo warblers like Keef and King L aside, Chicago drill has a lot of kids who make rapping…well, interesting again, if you take the time to listen. This is basically a 21st century battle rap, a form far more interesting coming from a 22-year-old woman bragging about her clothes than a 35-year-old dude with a .txt file full of insults about your mother. (8)

Alex Macpherson: Whenever an artist I love announces their pregnancy, I’m torn between reacting like a normal human being and a pop stan constantly hungry for more music, videos, tours. But while I’ve missed Sasha Go Hard, who should’ve owned 2014, motherhood seems to have made her tougher and hungrier than ever: “My daughter will eat, for her I will dead ’em,” the girl says it herself at the track’s climax. She’s too good to bite Nicki not once but twice, though. (8)



Future Brown – ‘Talkin Bandz’


Angus Finlayson: The beat on this! It’s almost as good as that sweating basketball graphic. (7)

Alex Macpherson: I’ve had on-off love for everyone in Future Brown by themselves, but the narrative around them is too akin to respectability politics for comfort: look at how these on-trend producers with their critic-friendly art-school aesthetic and nonsense waffle about “futurism” suddenly garner attention for hood artists that all of you have happily ignored for years. It’s sad that the most mainstream press 3D Na’Tee and Timberlee are ever likely to receive will be courtesy of this album. That goes for Shawnna, too: while it’s always welcome to hear perhaps the most underrated and undervalued rapper of her generation, her turn here is only B+ by her standards, and she’s mostly stymied by the stumbling, faux-sinister beat and a momentum-sapping hook. The fact remains that she’s been regularly putting out killer singles for years even after she stopped scoring hits – ‘Nappy Boy’, ‘Biddy Bye Bye’, this year’s ‘Gettin’ To It’ – which are way superior to this weaksauce, and anyone who slept on those but perks up now she’s got some bourgeois positioning gets eternal side-eye from me. (6)

Chris Kelly: ‘Talking Bandz’ has the sinister quality found in Nguzunguzu’s exciting beats, and DJ Victoriouz’s AutoTuned hook is quite catchy, but this doesn’t seem like a patch on what we’d hear on the highlights from the multitude of Chicago rap tapes we cover each month. In theory, Future Brown presents a great opportunity for artists-on-the-rise to team with some of the best producers in the world of underground club sounds — this doesn’t quite do that. (6)

Chal Ravens: The problem with FB so far is it’s too much talking and not enough tunes, so it’s about time we had a sniff of what this already-hyped-to-fuck album will sound like. The flatness of the hook (in both depth and delivery) is a clever foil to Shawnna’s spittle-flecked stuff, but the spooky-ooky witch-trap took some time to grow on me. It’s track two on the album so I expect they think it’s their best so far. (6)

Son Raw: Shawnna goes in and the beat is suitably Health Goth, but what’s Future Brown’s endgame here? We already know these guys are hip so aggregating hood music from a bunch of cities won’t dispel the notion that they’re all style and no substance. This kind of cultural slumming/curation may have worked in the Hollertronix era but anyone with broadband can go straight to the source now. (4)

Brad Stabler: Future Brown as a project has always felt like a too many cooks affair, with each producer involved dabbling in the same kind of tunes they’ve already made more than their fair share of with Fade to Mind. Adding two MCs to the clique doesn’t alleviate that in the slightest (though Shawnna comes close), and the result is an arbitrary and unmemorable club track. Put some more effort into the backdrops (what’s there is sick, really) and know when to cut the features, guys. (5)

Scott Wilson: As with each of Future Brown’s tracks so far, the guest vocals here feel just as integral as the production itself, though the synthesis of underground and mainstream production values here is more pronounced than on their two previous tracks. I had intended to avoid hyperbole when talking about of this track, but it’s just too damn good. Is it too early to declare Future Brown’s debut the album of 2015? (9)

Tayyab AminFuture Brown, Shawnna and DJ Victoriouz on Warp? Sure. The beat sounds more Lost Codes, and the hook could be pulled from half a dozen mixtapes but Shawnna fully bodies the verses. It feels like the mix loses her vocals in the other layers – otherwise she’d run away with the damn track. Fresh for the 2015 London club white boy purp flow singalongs. (7)



Novelist x Mumdance – ‘Shook’


Alex Macpherson: Oddly obnoxious beat, constantly butting in to overshadow Novelist, chucking in new sounds for no apparent reason and amping up the abrasion levels not because they suit the song but in some sort of weird proof of machismo. (3)

Chris Kelly: I didn’t think it’d be possible to go harder than ‘Take Time’, but Mumdance and Novelist somehow found another gear on ‘Shook’, the perfect companion track to one of the year’s best. They share a palette and template but everything is supercharged, nastier and — for lack of a better word — grimier. (9)

Chal Ravens: The M’n’N team-up continues in a similar vein to the unshakeable ‘Take Time’ but with less of the anthemic appeal and brazen WTF factor. Fortunately that track was #toofuture in the first place, so ‘Shook’ still sounds minty fresh. (6)

Scott Wilson: ‘Take Time’ was so fresh it’s inevitable that ‘Shook’ lacks some of the punch of its predecessor – the callback to their first collaboration here suggests the pair even known they will have trouble topping it. Despite this, it’s impossible get bored of hearing Novelist flow over a Mumdance beat – long may this partnership continue. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Really strong vocal from the Lewisham McDeez Don himself and it sounds like Mumdance is having a lot of fun too – I love how eccentric the whole thing is. It feels like it’s missing some impact in the low-end, so I look forward to hearing it mixed. (7)

Son RawThe best thing about having a custom sound is that no one gets to rinse it before you do. This is ‘Take Time’ Pt. II in all but name, and Mumdance’s beat still sounds completely alien compared to the glut of hi-hat rolls and choir VSTs backing every other emcee with a YouTube account. There are rumblings of a backlash in regards to Novelist’s blog-anointed status as Grime’s savior, so consider this a pre-emptive strike back at the critics. (9)

Brad Stabler: I must have played this one through about five times before I had to pry my hands from my temples and wipe a shit-eating grin off my face. ‘Shook’ is just a hair shy of being as fierce as ‘Take Time,’ and Mumdance adding in that ‘Sprawl’ wash was a class touch. But we’re all here to watch Novelist do his thing over something relentless (and weird as hell), and the effect is, as expected, enlightening. We’re watching two musicians hit their stride at the same time. (9)

Angus Finlayson: This suffers a similar failing to some of Mumdance’s Pinch collabs, whereby the individual bits are cool but the way they’re bolted together feels a bit arbitrary. Even with Novelist in full flow there’s not much momentum to it. (6)



Anthony Naples – ‘Refugio’


Angus Finlayson: I can’t really imagine what form a Naples album might take, but this is a really promising start. (7)

Tayyab AminThis rough and skeletal approach is really easy to get behind and keep moving to, the kind of inoffensive amiability well-suited to Text Records. There’s prettiness in the simplicity, if not beauty. (6)

Chal Ravens: As track descriptions go, who could resist the honesty of “I wanted to make a record that was solid and simple like a brick”? There’s nothing bricky at all about this nimble, jazz-tipped number, but that’s in its favour; instead, it’s more of an early evening track to coax you out of your seat (I imagine Naples fans enjoy a sitdown in the club). (6)

Alex Macpherson: There’s the seed of something vaguely pleasant and adequate here – makes sense that it’s on Four Tet’s label – but it never quite develops a second idea or moves beyond feeling slightly demo-ish. (4)

Son Raw: There’s dance music that makes you throw your hands in the air in wild ecstasy at 4 in the morning, and then there’s the stuff that makes you want to golf clap while sipping a cocktail at a gallery opening in East Williamsburg. This somehow cuts the difference between both. (5)

Brad Stabler: Now that Proibito is humming nicely– the imprint’s roster and output has never been stronger– the next obvious course of action would be for Naples to graduate to something a little more out in the open. TEXT is as no-brainer a partner in release can be, and the fun of nodding along to ‘Refugio’ is trying to keep up with the chords wandering all over the spectrum. But even at four minutes, this screams ‘album track’ instead of ‘single.’ (7)

Scott Wilson: If you combined a pitched-down Shangaan Electro instrumental with a bit of vintage New York house music this is probably what you’d get, and it’s enjoyable, if a little slight. I’m starting to wonder if we’re going to see anything as anthemic as ‘Mad Disrespect’ from Anthony Naples again, but this is probably my favourite thing he’s done since. (7)



Purity Ring – ‘Push Pull’


Alex Macpherson: Adults singing in toddler voices, presumably to convey “childlike wonder” or some other developmentally stunted bullshit, are The Worst, regardless of how much fuzzy reverb they use. The sickliness and preciousness are overpowering. (2)

Son Raw: Perfect for a Disney princess who went to uni, took an Introduction To Humanities course and now disavows corporate culture, but still won’t listen to music that’s actually any good. (2)

Brad Stabler: Purity Ring, ever since they tried to uncomfortably synthesize Silent Shout with J Dilla, have always been plastic and inoffensive, although their debut Shrines was at least tolerably awful. But this? This is like getting walked through polite ‘otherworldly’ indie-pop c.2012 on a leash by some condo-dweller on a Segway. This is Synth Pop 101 for Replicants. This gentrifies your brain. And I don’t like it. (1)

Chal Ravens: I had high hopes because of that Danny Brown album track, but this is just dull upon dull upon dull. I particularly dislike the awkward rhythmic transition from verse to chorus. (2)

Scott Wilson: It’s really difficult to shake the feeling this is the kind of thing that could quite easily slot anonymously into the soundtrack for one of the Hunger Games movies. I have nothing against a bit of shamelessly soaring pop music, but this is far less sophisticated a take on pop than Purity Ring probably think it is. (3)

Angus Finlayson: For me Purity Ring kinda scratch the same itch as Chvrches – a teen-heartbreak itch that as far as I can tell never quite goes away – and this scratches it more effectively than anything on Shrines. (7)

Chris Kelly: I enjoyed the darker, more melancholy moments of Shrines, but this sounds like a female-fronted Postal Service with ‘Baba O’Riley’ arpeggios. (4)

Tayyab AminI think Purity Ring do everything they set out to here, which seems to be ‘reminding us that they exist’. They don’t do much else, though it’s impressive how something so overly saccharine can be so bland. (4)



Final scores:

Sasha Go Hard – ‘Bricks’ (7.8)
Novelist x Mumdance – ‘Shook’ (7.1)
The Soft Moon – ‘Black’ (6.3)
Future Brown – ‘Talkin Bandz’ (6.3)
Anthony Naples – ‘Refugio’ (6)
Purity Ring – ‘Push Pull’ (3.1)

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