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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: Twigs, King Midas Sound & Fennesz and more.

FKA Twigs – ‘Figure 8’

Son Raw: There’s a confidence to this absent from Twigs’ earlier music – the vocal runs are more direct, the beat less afraid to leap out into the unknown. Her album still seemed loosely anchored to existing pop conventions, if very experimental ones, and if its success has only emboldened her to go further then it’s a victory for anyone who demands their weirdo pop artists make something that isn’t a retread. If anything, the only era this harkens back to is 08-09 when dubstep was seeping into the mainstream. Except Mount Kimbie could never rock this hard. (7)

April Clare Welsh: Listening to an FKA Twigs song without having also seen the video kind of feels a bit stunted, like you’re missing out on the fully-realised idea or something. You could say that applies to this track in particular as it’s inspired by vogueing. Zane Lowe calls ‘Figure 8’ an “absolute banger” during the Beats 1 premiere and although he makes my skin crawl, I’d have to agree with him. The synths are gauzy and the ratchet clicks are needle-sharp. Her vocal manages to sound so perfectly crystalline and delicate yet still bolstered by the hard-boiled edge that has come to define what she’s about. (9)

Anupa Mistry: I was wondering what FKA Twigs’ post LP1 music would sound like; sometimes a sound can only travel so far before it feels of the moment or jumps the shark. Twigs has timed it right though, not letting her vibe mellow but also showing that she’s willing to move forward into even weirder territory. This one’s like if Tricky’s Kate Bush dreams came true; bold, razor-edged soul. The strength of her voice makes it sounds like she’s been working with a vocal coach or, at least, putting more emphasis on how her vocals sound on top of the mix instead of obscured, breathy and buried deep within layers of sound. It’s strong and clear and, thankfully, the opposite of vulnerable. (8)

Tayyab Amin: There are some ideas I dig in here, I like how the instrumental sounds like flicking through pages, it’s like the music is constantly shapeshifting and rearranging its own figure, especially during the outro. I can’t really connect with the song itself, I feel like other than herself, Twigs writes songs for particular audiences and there’s a bunch of people really resonating with what she’s putting out which is cool. It’s worth noting that vogue isn’t just an aesthetic accessory for her, and that she acknowledges its influence on her through the song – whatever people are saying about it, she’s here talking about her involvement. Still, it’s funny to me when she fully breaks out in a Parseltongue vocal during the second half. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: FKA twigs always handles her appreciation of ballroom culture with a wealth of respect. It may be inspired by voguing, but your average duck-walker probably couldn’t pull off banji moves here. Last year, I went to a yoga class where they played LP 1 for its duration and it really emphasized exactly why I wasn’t such a fan of the album. But ‘Figure 8’ has a dark intensity that I’d like to hear twigs continue forward with — less breathless than ‘Papi Pacify’ but more engaging than her full-length. (7.5)


Appleblim – ‘Auburn Blaze’

April Clare Welsh: Laurie Osborne has thrown a curveball because this is not what I was expecting at all. It’s still as tense and moody as hell but not so much about the bass now and more about the art concept, tending towards Wire mag rather than RWD if you like. (7)

Son Raw: Speaking of the glory days of dubstep, here comes Appleblim with his darkest material in years, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s a perfect fit for the weightless movement orbiting the Different Circles crew. I won’t bore you with an overwrought description of an ambient drone: suffice to say that Appleblim has the talent to make a absolutely monstrous one. Wish I had a dystopian, Funktion 1 powered drug den to play this in. I’d serve free peanuts. (8)

Anupa Mistry: Love the way the synth lines crest up and over each other on this one, but what do people have against drums? (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: I’ve previously expressed here that I am into anything that has any semblance of horror movie vibes, but I can’t really co-sign this. When we hit the 2:30 mark I really thought we were going to go somewhere exciting, but then it just continued on its creepy path to nowhere. (4)

Tayyab Amin: This is great, but I don’t think it can stand alone. I need to hear what comes next. Something’s about to happen, the sun has fallen, the sky’s being torn open – fade to black. Not fair. (7)


Wolf Eyes – ‘Enemy Ladder’

April Clare Welsh: ​I’m a bit confused by the Third Man​ Records thing. What are Wolf Eyes playing at? There’s a whiff of conspiracy here, like the band have been taken in by Jack White and other members of TIDAL/the illuminati (or they just need the cash). But, that aside – Ave, Satanas! I’m happy to be punched in the face by this song. It’s a guitar/drum fuelled Black Mass and The Great Beast has come back as a noise-punk to spew his diabolical swill ​from the entrails of hell. Although it is less challenging and, dare I say, more conventional than anything from their ​last album, my nose is still bleeding so all’s good. (9)

Tayyab Amin: Searing riffs, rumbling drums, constant threat of losing balance and tumbling forwards into chaos… I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes me enjoy this at arm’s length. There’s something muted about it, the recording loses textures, it falls flat when it should be spiralling upwards. I need to be in the room with them to appreciate this fully. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: A distortion-slapped grower that took me a few listens to get into after shedding my Jack White-related judgment. I take umbrage with the fact that the drums are so low on the track though. At some point in my life, I believe when the Perfect Pussy album came out last year, I started holding hiding under so much whirring against a band. Just be fucking loud and own that shit, save the fx for the live show where they’re really impressive. Yes, Wolf Eyes are pioneers in their own right, but I want to be slapped in the face. And hey, while we’re on the Eyes band thing: Black Eyes, can you guys come back? They knew how to kill you with drums and vox. Hoo boy. (6.5)

Son Raw: This kind of noise sounds downright trad at this point and we’re long past the point of diminishing returns, much less shock value. Wolf Eyes are still better than most at twisting gnarly textures out of their guitars, but as someone who never rocked a ponytail, it’s hard to muster up either enthusiasm or even be taken aback. Old genres don’t die, they turn into what your cousin in the 95 Lincoln listens to. (4)


Danny Brown & Clams Casino – ‘Worth It’

Claire Lobenfeld: Clams is not my favorite producer unless I am using his beat tapes to lock in and get things done, but I understand the appeal of working with him, especially because he is so unique in his approach. But I like Danny when he’s exuberant — unless it’s ‘I Will’, which, you know… — and rapping over tracks that make people start a mosh pit (that I am watching from very far away). This is undeniably “not for me” but I would understand if the rest of this thread raved about it. (5)

April Clare Welsh: ​I saw Danny Brown play Field Day a few years back and it was The Best, but I don’t think his charisma always translates well to record. He’s getting all deep and meaningful on this cautionary tale about the pitfalls of the industry but I just can’t take him seriously, I’m sorry. I do like how it contrasts his oddball ways with the serious, tension-inducing beats of Clams Casino though – it’s often contradictions that make life more interesting right? (6)

Anupa Mistry: Two artists who I love independently, but together they’re pretty much perfect. Clams tempers Danny’s manic energy and cartoonish flow, and carbonates the producer’s thoughtful, but relatively placid, beats. It might not be a hit for DB but in the midst of this kerfuffle between Meek Mill and Drake, with so much emphasis on mainstream, major label and hook-killing viral rappers right now, it’s a reminder that the real greats are the guys who continue to stay low and stay weird. (9)

Son Raw: I may have proclaimed cloud rap’s death last week, but Clams Casino is doing just fine based on his contributions to Summertime 06 and this banger. It’s no coincidence that the quality of Rocky’s albums have fallen as he’s pushed Clams aside in favor of Mark Ronson and hippies. As for Danny Brown, he’s still at his most entertaining when given the opportunity to sprawl out and rap so hopefully this means less EDM-tinged trap bangers in his future. Long live cloud rap. (9)

Tayyab Amin: Production is wonderful on this one, everything from the bass plucks to the weighty bell-ringing and the whole thing’s generally off-kilter demeanor. Brown’s flow is so dextrous too. My last memories of him are at gigs where he’s more shouty man than rapper, so it feels good to be reminded that he can really throw down on record. At first it didn’t sound like anything more than an Adult Swim Single, but Danny Brown uses it as a great way to reintroduce himself in a year that’s been incredible for rap fans. So many micro-moments where things come together as well! I get more and more into it on each listen. (9)


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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Ed Sheeran) – ‘Growing Up’

Anupa Mistry: LMAO, no thanks. (0)

April Clare Welsh: ​I was kind of enjoying myself until that gormless pastry punisher decided to show up and ruin everything. I’m talking about Ed Sheeran, by the way, but Macklemore is no better. And where does he get off telling me what to do over a dribble of gospel-lite annd limp nu-soul? Bless him for trying his best to fly the flag for feminism (“your momma’s the toughest person that I know and I want to raise you to be just like her”) but this song makes my ovaries shrivel up. (4)

Son Raw: AKA “How to be a complete and utter fuckboy”. If you find this sort redeeming quality in any this morass of whitewashed platitudes by a couple of insipid culture thieves, you deserve to remain unfucked into your 40s while forever wondering why no one likes you. (0) in fact, I retroactively retract every previous (0) and (1) I’ve ever given out because this is clearly multiple orders worse than anything else we’ve had to review.

Claire Lobenfeld: I tried. I really tried and then he got into that whole thing about learning about karma and god. OK, so there are only so many times we can repeat the same old adage that Macklemore is a total cornball who writes raps with less cleverness than a third grader. And then you add the infernal tone of Poo Poo Pants Sheeran’s voice on a hook that is totally about how the kid needs to know that Macklemore is still ~growing up~. All right, dude. Adults are ever-evolving, too, you know? Maybe let’s not self-infantilize and understand that we are permanently moving forward and subject to changes until we’re worm food. Telling your kid you’re still growing up is lowkey a preemptive measure to save your ass when you fuck up. It’s perfectly OK to fuck up! Teach your kid that!

And for real: You are a multi-platinum artist with Grammys and you’re getting your kid a bus when he turns 16? Bite me. (1)

Tayyab Amin: I do not vibe with this at all. The lyrics read like Normal Twitter bios for a start, and Sheeran on the chorus seals the deal for peak white mediocrity. “Don’t wanna be a dad that’s living in FaceTime / But I’ve got a world to sing to and you at the same time.” ????? Nah, come on Macklemore, you need to prioritise. I’ve been listening to Kanye West & Jay Z’s ‘New Day’ a lot recently, and it’s a lot realer to me because they talk about how they’ve tangibly made it hard for their hypothetical sons and the mistakes they’ve made. Jay Z rounds it off alluding to the absence of his father and how he never wants to repeat that. Then there’s Macklemore basically coming through like be happy, play outside, my fans need me too so uh yeah. (4)


King Midas Sound & Fennesz – ‘Waves’

Son Raw: Now I definitely need to open that drug den. We’re well on our way to some sort of ambient, post-election hangover in UK music, the moment the hardcore continuum’s outsiders become too exhausted and depressed to bother dancing. Not quite dancing in the face of self destruction, but offing it to this is better than living in a world with Macklemore and Ed Sheeran on the radio. (8)

Anupa Mistry: This makes a lot more sense to me than the Appleblim track – in the absence of percussion, a vocal line does wonders. ‘Waves’ is hair-raisingly cinematic, building to a beautiful, haunting quiet before Fennesz’s vocals disappear and the track meets its end tumbling down a shaft of choral synths. I’d love to hear this in the back of an episode of Black Mirror. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: King Midas Sound still hold the title for Most Interesting Collection Of People To Form A Supergroup, but they are capable of way more compelling, engaging music than this. I really liked Without You and Kevin Martin is a genius, but I need a little bit more oomph here, please. The vocals, however, are really nice. (6)

April Clare Welsh: Is this The New Ambient Song of 2015 or am I just dreaming in a relaxation pod? The poster boy of proto-mindfulness has come to reclaim his throne with some brain cleansingly meditative drone. It’s just a shame about the vocals. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 14.32.21 (8)


Final scores:

Danny Brown & Clams Casino – ‘Worth It’ (7.6)
FKA Twigs – ‘Figure 8’ (7.6)
King Midas Sound & Fennesz – ‘Waves’ (7.4)
Wolf Eyes – ‘Enemy Ladder’ (6.3)
Appleblim – ‘Auburn Blaze’ (6.2)
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Ed Sheeran) – ‘Growing Up’ (1.2)

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