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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: Nicolas Jaar, Bloc Party, Hype Williams and more.

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Nicolas Jaar – ‘Fight’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Halfway through, Jarr winds down his glitches into ambience, a daring move that doesn’t entirely pay off: once he leaves the song to wallow in the murk, he loses control and never gets it back. Pretty, but could have been more. (6)

Son Raw: We drop our best dubstep list, and Nicholas Jaar releases a single that wouldn’t be out of place next to mid-period Hessle Audio. The art-rock illuminati is real. Jaar’s strength has always been threading the line between stuff that sounds good stoned and stuff that makes undergrads feel smart about themselves, but as long as I don’t have to hear some dork wax on about how this is transcendent, it’s fine. (6)

April Clare Welsh: This is some kind of thievery! It sounds like Aphex Twin is being force-fed Atoms for Peace leftovers – quite uncomfortable listening, to say the least. Maybe I’m speaking out of line here but Nicolas Jaar always conjures up images of wanky fashion parties (not to objectify the man or anything but maybe that’s just because he’s so goddamn pretty) – but at least that way he had his own sexy thing going on. However, this is so magpied (can I make up a word!?) that it’s hard to judge on its own merits. Jaar has stayed true to his knack for creating big spaces in sound but I think this track is about 8.36 minutes too long. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Jaar has never sounded so fidgety. He’s been busy this year, with the Nymphs series including this latest one which sounds nothing at all like the Pomegranates record. The intro is really nice, yet the final few minutes do nothing for me – the dip is a drag, and it rounds off as an IDM-ier ‘Shipwreck’. I much prefer Jaar’s moments of restraint, and when he coaxes a shy hook from his own voice. That said, it sounds as if Holly Herndon’s trapped in there too. A surprise from Jaar if not especially convincing. (6.5)


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Bloc Party – ‘The Love Within’

April Clare Welsh: Back in 2005, Bloc Party were the soundtrack to my student indie disco days. I will never forget the euphoric pulse of ‘Banquet’, to which I would stomp around screaming “turning away from the light” at the top of my lungs, face growing redder by the second, whilst kicking up a whirlwind of sweat and joy. But that was then, and this is now, and now there is no place in my life for this band, especially when the post-punk guitars have been replaced by a one-finger synth salute. This song is basically a klaxon short of nu-rave. (4)

Son Raw: Who exactly are they supposed to be kidding with the LFO riff on that synth? This is like watching an old horse break its leg. Painful, but at least it’ll be over soon. (3)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Having already witnessed the intense disappointment of fans online, I had my pithy putdown prepared: “Let’s not. ‘Blue Light’ was great tho!” I didn’t expect to be lifted by something so buoyant, where the optimism genuinely feels real, and where Kele’s yelps aren’t overwhelmingly high in the mix. (7)

Tayyab Amin: I wasn’t exactly getting hyped with the build up but that drop froze me with its awkwardness. I looked around, either side of me, to make eye contact with friends that weren’t in the room with me and I could still feel them reciprocating incredulity at its hilariousness. There’s something awfully off with the evangelical PLUR direction it takes – “Don’t you want to get high?” insistences oozing of peer pressure alongside unfeeling, misguided and hollow festishising of the actual music experience we’re getting here. (2)


Hype Williams – ‘Distance’

April Clare Welsh: This is so dreamy. I had thought the story would take a detour and go the way of Oneothrix Point Never’s ‘Boring Angel’ where all jittering hell breaks loose, but I actually like how it wraps you up in cotton-wool for the duration. If I was to take that video’s lead and paint this song exclusively using emoji, I would probably opt for the baby and the sleeping face because this is actually a lullaby, isn’t it? Basically, I can’t wait to have kids and use this song to soothe them to sleep. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This sounds like it was written for a particularly poignant nature documentary, probably to play during a photosynthesis sequence. It’s pleasant, but Dean Blunt’s spikier take on these types of songs are preferred. (5)

Son Raw: For all the praise that Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland have accrued solo, there’s something magical and unpredictable to their combined efforts, and I’m still really hoping for another Hyperdub album. Tell me this wouldn’t make for the best JRPG dungeon soundtrack. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Harps and hang drums? I’m not exactly sure what it is that I’m hearing but it sure is celestial. After hearing Blunt’s The Redeemer I became convinced that his strength was in his sincerity rather than mysticism, and I think it holds true for this Hype Williams track. You can feel time passing, feel the world spinning, feel the warmth and coldness of emotion. No one else paints better pictures. (8)


Annie – ‘Cara Mia’

April Claire Welsh: I love how this track refuses to acknowledge Winter is Coming and tunes into a languid, balearic frequency; such a dream come true. It’s been stripped back enough by Richard X so that Annie’s voice really shines and I’ll forgive her for We Are Your Friends – she is still The Best! (9)

Son Raw: Lovely production but everyone knows that unless you’re actually from Italy, there’s nothing on Earth cheesier than singing Italian clichés for romantic effect. So I have no choice but to offer damning praise: this sounds like Madonna… late period Madonna. (6)

Tayyab Amin: This is perfectly pleasant filler. It just is, I can’t see it having any lasting cultural footprint. Not that everything has to say something new of course – thing is, we already know pop’s still pop. Annie’s voice is endearingly soft, however the dull thuds on the keyboard bring it back down from the clouds. It cruises along smoothly, never hitting for any extremities, which is something I like about it yet it makes it forgetful and lukewarm too. That transitional melody sitting in the middle of the chorus is the highlight. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: So lightweight that I legitimately forgot about it while it was still on. (4)


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Powell – ‘Insomniac’

April Clare Welsh: ​​This track definitely deserves its own billboard and Steve Albini definitely needs to get laid. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I’ll be honest, if I was making electronic music as a teenager I would have made something as fuzzily obnoxious as this – I’d definitely use the “one two fuck you” sample – but I would have known when to stop faffing about and turn my attention to writing bad punk songs instead. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Powell’s hit harder than this before, sure, but “Insomniac” is a nice summation of his sound. The squelchy, slightly acidic elements, the rumbling and rolling drums, the distortions, vocal oddities and eccentricities such as the drill sound effects. Another tumble down the rabbit hole, clanging against the insides of the well as always, and hopefully more exciting to those beginning to get to know his works. (7)

Son Raw: Doesn’t quite live up to the billboard but I’d still rather listen to this than Big Black. (8)


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Tortoise – ‘Gesceap’

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s very difficult for me to be smart about Tortoise, as their music has become an odd comfort over the past couple of years. They’re thoughtful people that make thoughtful music, but funnily enough I use their music to help me think. I’ve listened to Standards an obscene amount of times as a soundtrack to writing or researching, so much so that the sonics become a piece of home. Listening to this band is like turning on a lamp when it gets dark: it’s something you do. With that in mind, ‘Gesceap’ is a lovely return from a band this efficient at making instrumental rock. It’s pretty but holds mystery at its core, acting as the perfect introduction to next January’s The Catastrophist LP. It’s a good song. It’ll make a perfect addition to my day-to-day. (8)

Son Raw:  Post-rock band sounds like post-rock. There’s weird vestigial remnants of guitar-bands past haunting this track, which somewhat blunts that crazy synth line, but as far as waltz-time psychedelic explorations go, you won’t find much better. (7)

April Clare Welsh: I didn’t quite wet my pants over their comeback but I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Tortoise and when I read that Georgia Hubley is singing on the album, it definitely piqued my interest. However, looks like we’ll have to deal with the instrumental fluff until Hubley shows up. Although this is pretty, hypnotic, I’ll give it that. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Tortoise are new to me, and from here on out I’ll associate them with the realisation this track has brought about: that post-rock can totally be plainly happy. It sounds like overeagerness, it sounds like butterflies, it sounds like restless leg syndrome. It kicks off sounding like Dan Deacon playing a church organ – a tentative premise, sure, but totally worth it for when the drums come in and the track stars falling down an upwards-moving escalator. (8)


Final scores:

Hype Williams – ‘Distance’ (7.5)
Tortoise – ‘Gesceap’ (7.5)
Powell – ‘Insomniac’ (7)
Annie – ‘Cara Mia’ (6)
Nicolas Jaar – ‘Fight’ (5.5)
Bloc Party – ‘The Love Within’ (4)

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