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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. Up this week: Arca, Icona Pop, ‘Big Slug’ and the dance move of the summer. Well, maybe.

Arca – ‘Washed Clean’

Brad Stabler: Didn’t Leaving Records build their whole catalog out of things like this? From Dakim to Ahnnu? I’m using this space to try and point you towards slept-on music you need to listen to instead of properly reviewing the song, because quite frankly, this sounds like a half-finished sketch of something that could be really good. Unlike ‘Vanity’, this screams “b-side”. (6)

Tayyab Amin: This doesn’t particularly sound like Arca. In fact, it doesn’t particularly sound like anyone – it’s loaded with luscious textures, I guess it’s a little Hecker-ish, but then the sirens roll through. It’s like a sensory palette cleanser, one that takes you out of this world and brings you right back down to Earth at the same time. (6)

Anupa Mistry: I get that Arca’s good at this wall-of-sound stuff, but this just sounds like derivative Glass to me. Like, part of the reason the Twigs stuff was so good was because he was able to take his weird ear and make it work on a pop template, to complement emotional textures. I think the immense, stretched-out sounds here communicate some type of psychological tension but, ultimately, I kind of want a melody and a rhythm from Arca. (6)

Son Raw: Arca is a wonderful sound designer and it’s been fantastic to see his music make its way into the wider pop landscape via Björk and Kanye, but this lacks the structure to work as a standalone piece. How do you skirt the line between apocalyptic and meh? (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: I don’t know how much this is a “track” as it feels so much like it was invented to be played interstitially at the Yeezus 2 Tour—although its noise-pastiche could really facilitate even more of a sensory experience. Björk was on to something saying this sounds like spring, but I hope what blooms from Arca for the rest of 2015 is a little bit more bass-driven and a little bit less disappointing than Xen.  Remember when he slapped us with subtle reggaeton flourishes on ‘Thievery’ last year? More of that please. (5.5)


Laura Clock – ‘Fantasy’

Claire Lobenfeld: Blood-boiling attempt at remaking a classic, which had a video shot in my home county’s amusement park. ‘Fantasy’ and I go back like babies and pacifiers and I’ll just slap a big fat “never again” on this unless it’s an instrumental. (2)

Anupa Mistry: I don’t know why people insist on siphoning the joy out of big pop hits — in this case Mariah Carey’s ‘Fantasy’ — with these dank covers. Sure, it’s basically a completely different song but when that hook comes in my brain is just automatically rerouted and I’m derailed from taking this in on its own merit. Why are witch house artists so hell bent on proving to everyone that they’re secret poptimists? (4)

Son Raw: Harp arps! I’m one track away from declaring post-Jessy Lanza a thing, but that’s nothing to complain about. Production-wise, this overloads the senses from the jump and doesn’t let go of your synapses, all without falling prey to the kind of pseudo-ironic-quasi-meta-internet-culture-enabled sugar crash that pushes so much underground pop into unlistenable territory. (6)

Brad Stabler: Girl’s got melodies for days, but there’s way too much haze to see through to any of them. The song’s so distant it ends up sounding like an outdoor Grimes gig from a full kilometer away. Take us further up close next time. (5.5)

Tayyab Amin: After the past year’s slew of minimal RnB, PC Music, FKA twigs copycats and, well, FKA twigs herself, I didn’t know I’d find myself so refreshed by blog RnB vibes. Maybe we’re through the trough of disillusionment now, because there’s certainly room for it within the near-limitless confines of sound. Maybe that’s just me. But Laura Clock’s been doing her thing these past few years, which I respect, and I really like the sound of ‘Fantasy’. It’s airy with a bit of depth in sound too, and the ambling bassline and harp-ish plucks really help along that morning sun, sweet infatuation feels. When they grip. they take hold. I love it as a nod to Mariah Carey too. (7)


Mumdance, Pinch & Riko – ‘Big Slug’

Claire Lobenfeld: As much as Riko commands your attention, there is just too much underneath him for me to stay committed to the track. There are a few interesting pieces to its construction — the sort of sallow, hollow-sounding swirls; the steely glitter of the opening—but otherwise, the disparate quilting of the beat is distracting from the utter slaughter delivered on vox. Strip it down and you’ve got something a little bit more focused and potent. Until then… (4.5)

Tayyab Amin: It’s ruff, it’s tuff, it’s a banger and there’s no doubt about it. I need to hear it out to feel that impact though, or in a mix – you know when Novelist comes in on the Mumdance Fabriclive mix, out of nowhere, slaps you in the face with the silly flow – I need to hear it like that. But as much as it goes in, it doesn’t sound more than the sum of its parts at all. And these parts have certainly become mainstays of British grime these past couple of years, which brings its own challenges and caveats. For now it’s a (7) out of 10, but I might change that to the Richter scale soon enough.

Anupa Mistry: Oh my god. What a heavy tune. I’m giving my laptop the stinkest of stinkfaces whilst listening to this, which feels like such a waste – music this defiant, this sure of itself, needs to be played loud and in public. Instead I’ll channel all of my minor workplace grievances into this song. (9)

Brad Stabler: Been trying to find a hole to poke into one for weeks now, and it’s just not happening. Only thing I can say is that I’m not sure why the dons bothered to put out an instrumental – they’re so confident in the tune that they already let it ride for a minute longer after Riko Dan has bodied the place. (9)

Son Raw: This merges my two favorite musical trends of 2015: Grime emcees making moves towards forward-thinking production, and dark, broken music that flirts with techno tempos while actually subverting the form and pushing it towards more aggressive payoffs. Plus, Riko continues his reign as one of the most threatening sounding human beings on Earth. (9)


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Icona Pop – ‘Emergency’

Claire Lobenfeld: I don’t know why we’re still doing this to ourselves. (2)

Anupa Mistry: Hey! This sounds like that Pitbull song, ‘Fireball’. But better — like 10 times more campy — so I fuck with it. The pre-hook, everything before that annoying ass horn, is so nice. Someone make me an edit of that. (6)

Tayyab Amin: This is absolutely perfect for drivetime radio, sandwiched between Basement Jaxx and Scissor Sisters, and it’s so, so grating. From the piano and the la-la-las to the little giggle after each swear word, it definitely sits on the irksome side of childish. “Girls hide your mans, ‘cause I’m hot and I’m dancin’” could make for a world-beating singalong, though. Yay heteronormativity. (4)

Brad Stabler: Oh, good. The suits are now pushing ballroom. So much for holding out hope that it would be at least one year before this happened, and by then all one can do is just point and laugh. The best (and worst) part of all is I’ll probably even like hearing this played out once I forget it exists. (2)

Son Raw: Look, I’m willing to overlook the vocal, even if I suspect it’ll mostly lead to annoying people dancing on tables at shitty dive bars after too many jello shots. What I’m NOT willing to overlook is that I was made to listen to what is essentially electro swing. That’s against the Geneva Convention FACT: I know my rights. (2)


Madd Again! – ‘Duggu’

Brad Stabler: This is a very fine tune and all, but you’re kind of messing up your whole pitch where your PR touts ‘Duggu’ as the new dance of the summer and doesn’t even tell what to do. Not even a poorly drawn PDF. For all I know they’re introduction a new version of the two-step that requires you to wear a jet pack. That would be amazing.  (6.5)

Son Raw: Can you imagine how sick it’s going to be when The Heatwave drops this one at festivals this summer? Plus, I support any move Zed Bias makes away from the snoozy house he’s been putting out on Swamp 81. (8)

Anupa Mistry: Zed Bias is the secret hero here for keeping this funky riddim lean and simple so that these guys can just create a real vibe over top. This is TOP dancefloor stuff! Love to Killa Benz, Trigga and Specialist Moss for encouraging the dance and the instructional lyrics. One of my favourite things about West Indian/West Indian-derived music is artists telling you how to move on some ‘bend over, push back, dance to the left,’ etc. Not enough people know how to stoke a dancefloor, IMO. Also, I was born in Manc but I live in Toronto now and never get a chance to represent so SHOUT OUT MANCHESTER! (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: 2015 needs its NaeNae and that this is so open to interpretation, from the malleability of the riddim to the simplicity of the instructions (to the left, to the right, all round, to the ground), there are so many beautiful Vine possibilities if this blows up. This is a Song of the Summer contender if your clique actually gives a shit about searching for one. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Yes! ‘Duggu’ is probably my favourite from the very nice new EP on Swing Ting, also one of the best nights I’ve been to in Manchester’s amazing Soup Kitchen basement. I think it’s the simplicity of the track that makes it so infectious and potent. Swing, sway, flex any which way you like to that cheeky bassline. Absolute Nando of a track. (8)


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Sicko Mobb – ‘How We Rock’ (ft. Sinjin Hawke & Drippin)

Brad Stabler: Note to Sicko Mobb: please continue to head in darker directions. (8)

Son Raw: Sinjin Hawke’s production trends towards the enormous so I was worried that it might swallow Sicko Mobb whole, but he wisely tones down the maximalism and gives them room to breathe. Not as intense as their usual madness but it’ll do in a pinch: call it Diet Bop. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I gotta say, I do have a preference for the Sicko Mobb songs where it sounds like they’re really having fun rapping and this isn’t quite there. This is one hell of statement track though, and bearing in mind it serves as the intro to the tape, it’s got the right kind of weighty attitude. I’m definitely into the primal, barebones feel with everything in the drums and brass – it’s probably a good idea to try and catch Sinjin Hawke or Drippin soon. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: Is this collage week or what? Unfortunately, this gets lumped with Punch and Mumdance, instead of Zed Bias and ’em, because there are just too many pieces that just don’t quite snap together. That muted boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop synth bit throughout has got to go. Save to draft, even, because it sounds cool, but this just needs to do less. If this is what your party sounds like, I am only staying for one drink. (3)

Anupa Mistry: I don’t think Sicko Mobb’s “broke through” yet, have they? There are moments on this track — everything after the first verse — that take this from being a very particular style of rap and rapping, to something that could be extrapolated on a more commercial template. Not on some Rae Sremmurd shit, but, also maybe on some Rae Sremmurd shit. (8)


Final scores:

Mumdance, Pinch & Riko – ‘Big Slug’ (7.8)
Madd Again! – ‘Duggu’ (7)
Sicko Mobb – ‘How We Rock’ (ft. Sinjin Hawke & Drippin) (6.6)
Arca – ‘Washed Clean’ (5.6)
Laura Clock – ‘Fantasy’ (5)
Icona Pop – ‘Emergency’ (3.2)

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