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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, SOPHIE, Sam Smith, DJ Haus and more.

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Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Beyond obnoxious. (3)

Son Raw: I’m not sure if I should be disappointed or relieved that there’s no HYPER-KAWAII-CUTESY shit here. SOPHIE’s calling card was wearing thin but once you cut out the sugar-rush maximalism, we’re essentially left with a great Nicki Minaj demo without a vocal. Let’s get PC Music crew in the room with a proper pop star, already. (6)

April Clare Welsh: Lots of different textures to chew on here but without the hyper-sweet vocals and bubbles of kawaii-flecked pop, it’s more like a calorie controlled meal than a full-on pig-out. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trimming things back a bit though (and when I say trimmed back, this is hardly Steve Reich) because it’s still another prime example of SOPHIE’s knack for crafting super tactile sculptures that leap out at you in 4D. I also like how it reminds me of a teenager’s transition from pink, fluffy cuteness to head down, hood up moodiness. (8)

Tayyab Amin: I’ve enjoyed a lot of SOPHIE’s sonic aesthetics previously so I’m surprised to find some of the textures jarring; The hi-hats sound clipped and the card-shuffling flicks at the start stick out an uncomfortable amount. That said, I’m so down for the silicon harpsichord-like melodies over powerful bass. If this is stadium trap, I’m with that ‘cause this is nothing short of a set destroyer. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: PC is in the trap, eh? I’ve been put off by Samuel Long’s schtick once I found out ‘Nothing More To Say’ was not a solo track by a woman producer and his ridic, pitched-up lady vox sound has always been cloying to me. So, you know what? I welcome this. It’s probably the most interesting take on this trope I’ve heard in awhile and it’s steely as hell. Or maybe I’m just endeared to SOPHIE because he’s selling people a deluxe version of his album with a “silicon toy” that can pretty much give you The Shocker. That is so gross and weird, but way better than shilling a Red Bull in fancy dress. (6.5)


D∆WN – ‘Dance’

April Clare Welsh: Wow, this is great! I love how her voice seesaws over skittering beats and how that call-and-response is met with a stream of funky house. The song moves through different atmospheres too – icy cool then hot and steamy – and I’m glad someone’s still repping symbol-use in their artist monikers. Excited to hear more. (8)

Son Raw: The Migos flow does R&B! This teeters on a razor’s edge, constantly switching between contemporary house and trap – a highwire act that D∆WN pulls off with the confidence and pizzazz of an artist leading the conversation. The real story is that last minute tribal breakdown however – can we make that a thing? (8)

Claire Lobenfeld: Dawn Richard is so amazingly malleable. And while I don’t find this as thrilling as her unimpeachable and totally under-appreciated BlackHeart album from February, I love that she can do whatever she wants and never sound out of place. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Dawn Richard (I’m not doing the goofy acronym) has assembled a strong B-sides collection over the past few years. This is not an assemblage of failed album tracks or reference tracks that you would expect from modern R&B leaks, but reaches for something different, experiments that wouldn’t make sense within her already-experimental album-length visions. ‘Dance’ is ordinary by her standards and actually sort of normal by everyone else’s, swallowing house and trap into an engineered idea of a dance track. But the wonderful thing about Richard is that she can’t turn off her weirdness: even something this (relatively) ordinary sounds like it came from a universe unlike our own. Call it Dawntopia. (7)

Tayyab Amin: As it did with Blackheart, the first listen has left me clueless as to what’s going on, and I love every second of it. D∆WN is like a whirlwind tearing through pop, R&B and dance, wrapping herself in all three. The first beat kicking in is all weighty bass and hi-hats, and then it morphs into some shuffler anthem. Its ending embraces zipping electronica, urgent, rumbling percussion and glitched vocals. There’s never a dull moment – each idea is executed well and deftly stitched together. (8)


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Sam Smith – ‘Writing’s on the Wall’

Son Raw: Gross, and exactly the kind of puffed up schmaltz that’ll convince that one auntie of yours to pick up the single. How is it that Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels in Jamaica and yet we’ve never had a bashment artist record a theme? I’m going on strike until the powers that be give Bounty Killer his shot. (1)

April Clare Welsh: For every SOPHIE or Dawn banger that exists, you get chucked a bag of wet salad like this. I actually don’t have a problem with Sam Smith – he’s got a cracking voice and he seems like a nice man – but I do have a problem with James Bond, which is obviously a stupid, archaic, misogynist franchise that I’ve never bothered wasting my breath on (apart from the times I’ve watched that Alan Partridge episode and Googled ‘Grace Jones as May Day’). I think there’s a formula which is meant to make the Bond theme sound like an Oxbridge black-tie ball and I think people are saying Sam Smith is breaking the mould because it’s ‘different’ but I don’t really see how it is – it’s just same old, same old. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Performing a Bond theme is the Kobayashi Maru of pop music: a catch-22 scenario where your character strength falls under invigilation, more so than your artistry. If you dare write something interesting then you’re flying close to the sun; if you hew conservative, then you’ve got a wider audience to let down (cue Alan Partridge yelling “STOP GETTING BOND WRONG!”). If you’re lucky, you crack the code, write a great song and nobody remembers. Smith isn’t singing a great song – it’s turgid and self-parodic, with producers Disclosure and Jimmy Napes hitting a Garageband preset marked ‘JOHN BARRY’ – but doing the Bond theme is reward itself. You shouldn’t care as much as Smith does, and his doing so is an excellent show of character. (2)

Tayyab Amin: “Your lyrics, dem a just drag aawn,” is what I thought a couple of minutes into this, before taking a breather to listen to ‘Pow!’ and get it out of my system. The lyrics are so blandly relatable that they have no character – if I didn’t know this was a Bond theme, it could be a glorified white fresher lad’s 3am tantrum rounding off an unsuccessful night of trying to pick up women via harassment and disrespecting boundaries. The melodrama has no payoff – they should’ve got Disney songwriters in. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: When I first heard this guy was doing the next Bond theme, my first reaction was that he was lacking the kind of confidence required for the task. I was right! But certainly now I understand how Idris Elba could be “too street” to play 007 — this is, in the immortal words of Meek Mill, “baby lotion soft.” Next, please. (3)


DJ Haus – ‘No More Loving’

April Claire Welsh: Someone needs to make a Tumblr of DJ Haus mantras…Or does that already exist? (7)

Son Raw: I keep trying to fall in love with deep tech-leaning stuff but without an emcee on top, it’s not meant to be. I’d probably give this a higher score if I was gurning my face off though. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: When Claire Danes revealed that she had become a Berghain regular on Ellen last week, the show played some Dance Dance Revolution off-cuts as a joke, prompting Danes to go “that’s not the Berghainian way!” If they wanted to play a parody of a techno song, they could have gone with ‘No More Loving’, a song teleported from 1991. The thing is, though, that it’s quite good despite – and perhaps because – of its adherence to cliché. This is the Berghainian way, in other words. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: This is a fine tweak to house music that has its place somewhere ranked on Who Put Their Spin On House Best This Year, right in the middle. The the synth lines that creep throughout sound especially good when they slightly miss the beat, but otherwise it’s not much doing to get me to hit rewind. (5)

Tayyab Amin: On its own, this is lukewarm, although it could make for tasty glue within a set. Mostly it brings the warmth of familiarity, a signal you should be moving in the dance. Haus is consistently tight with all the elements: The sweepers aren’t too dense, the synths are bubbly and the claps are just right – he’s always on that Goldilocks tip, putting the fun in functional. (6)


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Arca – ‘Soichiro’

Claire Lobenfeld: Arca has a really impressive way of communicating emotion without words, but nothing has hit me super hard since the reggaeton-imbued quaking of ‘Thievery’. His ability to make evocative electronic music is undeniable, though. (6)

Son Raw: Okaaaaaayyyy, I’m writing these blurbs from a Starbucks and that opening shot just earned me some sour looks from concerned parents. Well played, Arca. I still think he should be working with experimental filmmakers because this sort of widescreen sound design feels more suited to body horror than body moving, but if you’re into solo Arca, this is his most realized vision yet. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The interesting thing about Arca’s sound is the wateriness of it, an adaptation of Drexciya’s aquatic inspirations that is drained of the Detroit legends’ politics and imbued with sexuality instead. It has to be intentional – everything bar the crisp, perhaps hyper-produced programming, sounds on the verge of turning into vapour. It’s hot, it’s uneasy, a little overthought, yet still animalistic. As a solo artist, he’s still searching for what exactly he should be doing, but it’s fascinating to watch him swim towards it. (6)

Tayyab Amin: ‘Soichiro’ wastes no time in bringing its different components into play: those razor-sharp strings, distant plodding percussion, and Prurient-like shivering synths. As they fold into each other, Arca calls into night skies and squeezes quiet whimpers too, brooding reflections and regretful melancholy. A character theme for Jesse Kanda, the track’s namesake, who seems to exist on Arca’s wavelength and in Arca’s cold world of relentless self-discovery and reflection. (7)

April Clare Welsh: ​​I mean, if pop’s going to eat itself then Arca’s probably that bit of food you get stuck in your teeth. (9)


WOKE – ‘The Lavishments of Light Looking’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The first comment on the SoundCloud upload of ‘Lavishments’ is, hilariously: “this shit is just noise. idiot made it”. That sort of is the point – despite the presence of funk spirit guide George Clinton, WOKE’s being is a representation of friendship, talented or otherwise. Every now and again, friends will make noise together, regardless of quality and fall about laughing. I believe this is more focused than when I would make Garageband noise with friends at 2am and call it ‘Face: Anal’, but it comes from a very similar place. Friends do goofy things that are sometimes cool that are still goofy. (6)

Son Raw: Flying Lotus: futuristic shaman raising our consciousness, or druggy enabler to Kendrick Lamar’s slow decline into pompous religious foofarah? Probably both. This is groovier and more accessible than most of his recent work, which is surprising since bringing Shabazz Palaces onboard should play to his most obtuse instincts; maybe Uncle George kept them all in line. This is sprawling and unfocused but it’s as good as sprawling and unfocused gets. Pass the DMT. (8)

Tayyab Amin: This is unreal. What a team! It sounds like they’ve all made this in the same room, regardless of whether they actually have. That introduction reminds of me of shifting time in Braid. Butler’s vocals are butter for any beat and hearing Thundercat’s bass enter part-way through his flow is a sublime moment. Clinton’s mantras, the unmistakeable bounce of a FlyLo instrumental and an mbira outro most likely courtesy of Maraire – the chemistry and balance are perfect and I have done nothing to deserve such majesty. (10)

Claire Lobenfeld: Lots promised in the lineup, way too much delivered on the actual track. Strip it for parts, sell ’em all back to me separately and I bet it’s great. (n/a)

April Clare Welsh: ​I like the warped, backmasked feel to this song but it just feels like a whisper of something great – a bit too light on everything – when something by a supergroup of this calibre should be screamed from the rooftops. (5)


Final scores:

D∆WN – ‘Dance’ (7.6)
WOKE – ‘The Lavishments of Light Looking’ (7.3)
Arca – ‘Soichiro’ (7)
DJ Haus – ‘No More Loving’ (5.8)
Sam Smith – ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ (2.8)

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