When I look at my record collection, I think two things. One, where did all the fucking money go? And two, none of those records sound the same. Like, even remotely. And perhaps that’s the beauty in being a lover of music. There’s no one tone or sounds that encompasses your collective emotions. The sum is never greater than its parts. The switch from drums to drum machine, or bass guitar to bass-heavy trap music is what keeps the ears on edge. The constant excitement of getting to hear something your ears have never heard before. Or, more likely, something your ears have heard before, but hell, not like this. That’s the general feeling I had going into Bars this week. The naysayers will say “original music is dead”, but was music ever purely original to begin with? Aren’t we all just kids in our bedrooms strumming, tapping, or singing away to the posters of our favourite artists? When I listened to each of these four tracks, I could draw numerous parallels between them. And yet at the same time I couldn’t. They were so similar yet so different. Perhaps originality isn’t solely in the ingenious sounds we create, but rather our ability to take from the past and shape it into something completely us. These four tracks are not original. These four tracks are authentic.
Thundercat, Clark, Avelino, and Sam Gellaitry got their music down to a science
01. Thundercat - 'Friend Zone'
I spent much of Valentine’s Day swiping through Tinder and cursing photos of past love interests and their new suitor. I know, right? What an absolute ball of joy I must be… Of course, I wasn’t the only one. Halfway around the world, a man by the name of Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat) was juggling the same emotions. Only difference is, this guy actually put his butthurt to creative use. Named after a proven scientific phenomenon – a space between love and friendship that is the scorn of all single men and women – ‘Friend Zone’ is the epitome of dating zeitgeist. It’s also likely to be the funniest, most achingly relatable track you’ve heard so far in 2017. Take, for example, this corker of a line “Don’t call me, don’t text me, after 2am/ Unless you plan on giving me some/ Cause I got enough friends”. If Richard Pryor were here right now he’d be yelling to his audience “Am I right? AM I RIGHT?” After all, Thundercat is merely dragging his sorry arse through the horrid reality of being single in 2017. Of course he’s going to be bitter. Of course he’d “rather play Mortal Kombat anyway” and prefer a “love like Johnny Cage”. But what makes ‘Friend Zone’ even more delicious is the funk-heavy production and undeniably perfect execution. When you’re writing songs about blue balls and still filling dancefloors, you know you’re at the top of your game.
02. Avelino - 'Energy [feat. Stormzy & Skepta]'
There hasn’t been a more accurate description of a piece of art in its own title since Snakes on a Plane. ‘Energy’ – the latest from UK grime artist Avelino – certainly shows he can back up his titular puffery. The track begins with a boom-bap layering; metallic, robust and more-than-enough to grab your attention and hold it in a crushing grasp. The intermittent percussive clangs also mirror a certain industrial element to ‘Energy’, one that has never been truly absent from grime to begin with. Avelino’s lines also do well to keep up with the brutal pace of this thing. “Don’t be a sheep when you can be the G.O.A.T.” It’s the perfect calling-card for a hungry, young artist who, less than a month ago, appeared on XL’s brilliant New Gen compilation. For some, his rhymes may seem arbitrary to the point where wordplay is indistinguishable from braggadocio. For others, including myself, his ferocity is the sign of a young, hungry artist looking to carve his name in a scene that’s bound to erupt like Mount Vesuvius at any second. There’s one simple line that should be a reminder for the skeptics and the haters still looking down their nose at the Tottenham MC. “Don’t shows up to my show if you got no energy.” Still don’t believe him? Then keep listening, bub.
03. Clark - 'Peak Magnetic'
When you’re signed to Warp, and have a few near-perfect records in your discography then you’re allowed to make backing music for Tekken 2. Although, that’s what Clark’s latest number ‘Peak Magnetic’ would sound like were it not for flute and string samples giving this thing the John Williams treatment. The track begins at a tempered pace, slowly adding more layers to its sonic repertoire. While the use of keys and strings grant the otherworldly atmosphere a sense of clarity, the juxtaposing of human voices tips ‘Peak Magnetic’ on its head. The result? A cardinal, near-hypnotic exposé into the mirror of human emotion that often becomes of Clark’s work. However, being the restless artist he is Clark certainly wouldn’t want things that easy. Instead, the once-harmonious layers trickle, combine and form a wall of brain-scrambling reverb. File between My Bloody Valentine and Brian Eno and you’re about there. No matter how you like your IDM, Clark’s affirmation for the beautiful and the morbid means his music is never the type you can truly settle to. Rather, it is the perpetual feeling of unease that makes the music compelling and oddly refreshing.
04. Sam Gellaitry - 'Jungle Waters'
The fact that I’m reviewing the music of someone three years my junior, and not, say, a Thom Yorke-esque grizzled veteran, makes me feel way ahead of my years. For all I know, Sam Gellaitry could be doing blog-type synthpop and making a hit of himself. However, I should be reminded that age is merely numerical. Rightfully so, I was proven wrong with every swelling string section. Yeah, this Scottish youngster incorporated just that and more into his latest cinematic, dance odyssey ‘Jungle Waters’. Having recently signed to XL – who also host the xx and Radiohead, no biggie – Gellaitry is set to carve a path of his own if he continues to transport listeners to alternate realities. Realities in which dance is a Hans Zimmer film score, and the ‘drop’ is actually a tense build-up that never quite reaches climax but never quite fades into obscurity. If the next Indiana Jones is set in a shabby, underground Stirling nightclub, then there’s no doubt Gellaitry will score that bitch and more.