Five years has felt like a lifetime, but Kevin Martin has returned his The Bug alias to album-releasing ways with a collection that should do what its predecessor, 2008’s ‘London Zoo’, couldn’t. This is a set ready to kick down the doors of the industry’s supposedly key influencers, those occupying playlist positions and sitting pretty on award panels, and demand to not just be heard, but to be counted as one of the most stunning documents of 21st century music being made in Britain.
Hyperbole? Oh, send a complaint to the usual address. Fact is, right here and right now, at the time of writing, no domestic album of 2014 so far is reaching the peaks that Martin and his sagely assembled squad of collaborators are not only achieving without breaking a sweat, but accelerating clear of. As it plays, ‘Angels And Devils’ invites the listener to find new favourites, only to smash into a new contender seconds later. It delivers at every violent turn.
The crust-quaking crunch of the wholly instrumental ‘Ascension’, arriving early on, is a categorical champion of low-end emissions. But its deep impact is made to look like the slightest indentation when the album switches from its comparatively subdued first half to the explosive prose of a roll call of exhilarating MCs.
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‘F*ck A Bitch’
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Killa P and Flowdan get positively monstrous on ‘The One’, and Warrior Queen shreds synapses in her aggressively singular style come ‘F*ck You’. But the dirtiest fly in this smear-it-everywhere ointment is MC Ride. The Death Grips frontman’s arrival on ‘F*ck A Bitch’ is like acid in the blood, running hot and sweet and quite possibly dangerously. Do not operate heavy machinery in this track’s vicinity, or you will impale a co-worker.
But even after Ride’s devastating display, ‘Angels And Devils’ finds further space for pushing sonic extremities. The dial spins through red into static into the depths of space with the huge bass of ‘Fat Mac’, which brings Flowdan and Killa P back but sets their rhymes to a backing of black hole density. This amazing weight is countered by the record’s sweet opening: rewind to the Liz Harris (Grouper)-featuring ‘The Void’ and it’s like waking up to discover that all that nastiness, the grit and the grime, was just a furious fever dream.
That all one can do is let the album play through again, though, is indicative of the great power this exhibition of completely engrossing, electrifyingly ambitious avant-dance(hall) possesses. The most worthy contender yet for the New ‘Mezzanine’/‘Maxinquaye’ crown that critics are so eager to assign whenever a slightly dark electronic album arises, give this the Mercury before it consumes the other candidates.
Words: Mike Diver
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