Welcome to Astral Realm, where Clash staff writer Shahzaib Hussain navigates the cosmos of the newest and most essential releases. Each month’s roundup features a Focus Artist interview, a Next Wave artist Q&A, a breakdown of his favourite songs and projects and a retrospective highlight revisited through the lens of dewy-eyed nostalgia.
Focus Artist – Poté
‘A Tenuous Tale Of Her’, the sophomore album from Paris-based Sylvern Mathurin aka Poté, holds within it an infinitude of emotion, such is its sprawling reach. Imagined as a “theatrical performance within a pre-apocalyptic setting” or a utopian future, Poté mines the depths of his humanity, his lineage and musical stimuli to create a resonant journey favouring immediacy and directness over the cool evasiveness that marked his debut ‘Spiral, My Love’.
The album is one of contrasts. There are vertiginous moments like on ‘Lows’ and the schizophrenic ‘Valley’; paranoia bubbling to surface on ‘Young Lies’ positioning Poté and Damon Albarn on two sides of a new world order between justice and oppression. Then there are moments of clarity - or the search for clarity - on tracks like ‘Open Up’, Poté’s vocals foregrounded, given room to breathe and ferment, piercing the veil and letting the light shine through.
I spoke to Poté about his influences and inspirations, cultivating his art, embracing his voice as a means of self-expression and consciously leaning more into his Caribbean heritage.
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I want to start with a young Sylvern before he became Poté. I want to know when you’re love of music was ignited.
There was a lot of country and western music being played in my youth. A lot of Lovers rock, a lot of Beres Hammond and artists from Jamaica and my Dad’s side, artists he loved. Whenever I hear these songs it warms my heart and I feel an instant connection.
Which artist sparked your love electronic music and these synthetic worlds?
A record that defined the transition to what I’m doing now would be ‘Trouble’ by TEED (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs). I remember a friend of mine was so obsessed with him, he was so insistent that I listen to this album. So, I listened on the way home in a bus and it was a “Wow!” moment for me. I remember thinking how he made his voice sound so cool over these beats, so different, original and catchy. I’d say it was a big catalyst for me in the way I approach vocals and production.
‘Spiral, My Love’ was released three years ago. How do you retrospectively feel about a project that introduced the world to you and a quite murky, square synth sound?
It is a difficult listen to be honest. It’s like reading your diary again from when you were 15, only I’m reading the diary of an early twenty-something. It’s like: “You were there? This is what you were doing? This is how you felt?” It’s interesting revisiting it, it’s surreal. It sometimes feels like the work of a different person but I can still connect with it and I still appreciate it for what it is.
The time since was spent recording your new album. Talk me through the process of making it.
I made the new record over three years on an off. I started it the moment ‘Spiral, My Love’ came out; the ideas were coming to me straight away, thick and fast. I think the first track I wrote was ‘Young Lies’ and from then on in, it really took over my life as recording usually does. I recorded so many songs and laboured over songs that didn’t make the cut. At the end of last year, I came back to London and spent three months recording, rewriting and finishing up the record – perfecting everything.
Your album is the first album released on Bonobo’s new label, Outlier. How did he and the label cultivate your talents? Why was it a good fit for you?
Honestly, a lot of things just randomly worked out that way. There was no plan per se. But we really get along and I needed that in a label boss. Someone I could hop on a call with, randomly talk about anything and everything with, not just music-related but life. Someone who understood the anxiety of a release, you know? Someone who’d been through it. I found that very comforting and it’s what I needed in a label.
The title for this record connotes mystery and intrigue. Was ‘A Tenuous Tale of Her’ always the title for this album? And what does it symbolize?
I was originally going to call the record ‘Plastic Prayers’ but I thought that sounded too deep, and invited questions about religion which the record is not about. ‘A Tenuous Tale of Her’ is essentially tales of mankind, the ‘her’ meaning humanity – stories about life. That’s what I wanted the album to be about, I didn’t want it to have a cohesive story at the centre and be a start to finish thing with a middle to the story.
The storytelling aspect is more pronounced than ‘Spiral, My Love’, were these ‘tales’ and anecdotes rooted in your own experience…
I’d say I channelled the emotions I felt but attributed it to different scenarios and people. I found that more interesting to do on this record.
This album is “imagined as a theatrical performance in a pre-apocalyptic setting” – it’s a fully immersive experience. Can you elaborate more on the themes and world-building at play?
I think this record has a bit more hope, I don’t know if that says something about me getting older! Especially as the record develops, it has a bit more love and care in it, it’s not so much about me which was a central part of the first record. This one is a bit more universal.
I like that it’s a streamlined 11-tracks, it flows from track to track. Was the sequencing something you agonised over?
My records are always streamlined. I lose interest listening to very long records. To me, it’s best an album is concise, to the point, short and strong rather than long because you can lose people’s attention otherwise. The track listing was something I did work on a lot, listening back and rearranging – it had to flow properly.
You’ve infused ‘A Tenuous Tale of Her’ with melody and rhythm, there’s a propulsive energy to it, even glimmers of the dancefloor on some tracks. It’s the perfect combination of pop and IDM…
It’s interesting, people keep describing it as a ‘poppier’ record. Of course, ‘Good 2 U’ has elements of pop and it’s one I know a lot of people are drawn to. But I was happy making that one, and writing about that experience.
Speaking on this rhythmic element to the album, you integrate diasporic, Afro-Caribbean percussion. Can you speak on why it was so important for you to weave in the sounds of your heritage?
It’s been a conscious effort over the last seven years to wear my culture on my chest, especially from conversations I’ve had with my Dad. I find that the more I explore my identity and my history in my work, the prouder I feel about who I am. I moved to move to the UK at 12, somewhere that wasn’t home, somewhere that felt quite alien. Moreso now, making it an integral part of music, it just means more.
You’ve been quite honest about using your vocals as not just an instrument but a vessel. Was that an obstacle for you to overcome?
Definitely! Often the vocals didn’t sound as good as they did in my head but also, it’s part of the process accepting the moment you’re not quite there yet and that you just have continue to work at it. I have to give props to (Gorillaz producer) Remy Kabaka for seeing something in me, that I didn’t see myself. He kept pushing me to sing. I remember at the ‘Spiral, My Love’ launch he came up to me at the end and the only feedback he gave to me was “sing more.” It’s stuck with me and it gave me the confidence and boost to push myself vocally.
There are many vocal highlights on this record; ‘Stare’ stands out as a stark moment of the world caving in.
‘Stare’ is about feeling overwhelmed by anxiety and paranoia and it’s bringing the listener into this state of there being no escape from this spot you’re in. I had to capture that vocally. That’s why there’s no space to breathe in the track. I’ve felt at times in my life and I know other people have to, that things will get better but for a time you really feel they won’t. I wanted to bring that overwhelming feel of impending doom to the song.
Another favourite of mine is ‘Open Up’, which has an element of hope to it…
One of my favourite tracks from the record is ‘Open Up’, a real soul-baring moment on the record. I’d say ‘Open Up’ is the most personal song of the record. It’s one of those songs that I wrote and didn’t listen back to for a while, but when I did it took me back to that moment where I realized I need to open and speak to someone. I just didn’t know how to. From my experience of being a black male from the Caribbean, you just don’t speak about your feelings. You don’t address these things. I didn’t have the know-how of “wait, I can go to therapy”. Having gone to therapy, I knew I needed to put this out and share the experience of how dramatically it has helped and changed my record.
We’ve seen how Black artists within the electronic music world have been side-lined and overlooked, especially infuriating when the progenitors of past birthed these genres. Is that something you’re mindful of as newer artist? Does it weigh on you?
It’s something I notice, yes. A lot of my friends and artist friends feel black electronic artists should be bigger, more successful, occupy more spaces, perform on stages that are bigger, headline festivals. It is disappointing and there is work to be done, but we exist and we are doing good things. We’re getting there. We’ve always been here.
What are you listening to this year? What’s on your playlist?
I tend to not listen forward but backwards. I’ve been loving Small Axe; the official playlist and soundtrack is incredible. You’ve got Jim Reeves, a country artist who my Mum loves; Mighty Sparrow from Trinidad, music my Father grew up listening to here and in St Lucia, my Mother to. It was nice to finally have the titles of these songs because in St Lucia it was a song being played on radio. There’s no Shazam, you know? It’s been nice to come across them again and rediscover these artists.
What’s next for Poté? You’ll realise this record on tour but are you thinking about the next project?
I’m always working on new music; there’s always stuff to work on, there’s always a next project. But getting the live show to a standard in my head is my priority right now. I’m in the middle of rehearsing for shows in France. Rehearsing’s always bizarre because you have to reimagine some aspects of the drums live. It doesn’t always go to plan at the start. I’m always thinking “this is not good” but it always improves and gets better as you go on.
What can we expect from a Poté live experience?
You’ll have to come and see yourself….
When you’re recording, do you envision a live experience in front of an audience?
Sometimes I realize an aspect of a song will sound amazing live. But I think I’d lose a sense of freedom if I did that. I know other artists are different. Maybe subconsciously I do that, thinking about my live shows because they are so important to me.
Speaking of production, is producing for other artists on the agenda?
I’ve done some writing before and it’s something I’d like to do more. After the next album, I’ve love to work and produce for punk bands – I want to go into that world. If there are any out there reading this, hit me up!
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Next Wave Recommendation: Athletic Progression
My Next Wave pick this month is Denmark’s trio Athletic Progression, signed to one of the most industrious incubators for emerging talent, Errol and Alex Rita's Touching Bass. Athletic Progression are Jonas Cook on keys, Jonathan J. Ludvigsen on drums and Justo Gambula on bass and the synergistic interplay between the three places them firmly at the frontier of beat music.
New album ‘cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air’ plays like a lucid jam session, sprinkled with the verve of in-the-moment, improvised captures. Yes, it’s the kind of album that will take on a more corporeal form when performed live but it succeeds in distilling the trio’s ethos: freedom through collaboration.
‘JUNGELEN’ is an elastic escapade through the cosmos and indeed the Brainfeeder space-aged shimmer underscores tracks like ‘OSAKA’ and ‘DEBRA’; two tracks that keeps the listener suspended between a frenetic basement jam and nirvana. ‘MOUSSAS FINEST’ morphs with serpentine precision from Latin to fusion to a sedate hip-hop number. The only song to feature spoken word is ‘Extended Technique’, an eerie monologue on existential yearning and the magnitude and meaning of life’s potential.
Athletic Progression are new apostles of hybridized hip-hop.
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Let’s start with the genesis of Athletic Progression. How, where and when did the three of you converge and form this trio?
Jonas: Justo and I met back in 2014, we were studying music together in Aarhus, and we soon started playing together after school. I knew Jonathan from another project and invited him to come jam with us a while later.
Justo: Yes, we met studying music together, but he caught my attention because he was wearing a crewneck during a soundcheck for a recital with an illustration of the New York subway system, but with the different precursors of hip hop instead of the actual stations. I knew he had to be a hardcore hip-hop head!
Jonathan: Jonas invited me to jam with him in his trio because their drummer had to go to boarding school and I was wanting to meet new people to play with during this time. I had only started being a part of projects that verged on the border of hip-hop but I didn’t yet have the hip hop mindset in musicmaking until I started playing with Justo and Jonas - the energy in that first rehearsal I had never experienced.
What are each of your roles in the band literally and figuratively? Judging by the way you play, there seems to be complete synergy between you all.
Jonathan: I’d say I’m the impulsive nerd that wants to try new things all the time. Justo is the vibe judge; he has always been vocal about what goes on while we play and has always motivated me in my playing. Jonas is pensive and is often quietly working on an idea that he’s developed in his creative mind while me and Justo are figuring out how to complement each other in a certain groove. He also possesses a brilliant producer mind; he’s always been more interested in the textural than any other keyboard player I've met.
Jonas: That does sum up how we work, but somehow also matches the way I see our roles when not playing music.
Your sound is very referential without being derivative. Which artists have influenced you as solo musicians but also as collective?
Jonas: I grew up in a musical home where so much music was listened to, especially classical music, jazz and rock: From Abbey Road to Stan Getz, João Gilberto and Debussy to Danish band Dizzy Miss Lizzy. In my teens I discovered hip hop and J Dilla. Not a specific record per se, more so his style and groove, his ability to connect that with organic, jazzy samples. He has been a huge inspiration and still is. Lastly, I’ve got to put OutKast’s ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’ in there. This album resonated so much with me.
Jonathan: Flying Lotus’s ‘Until The Quiet Comes’ and ‘You’re Dead’ has influenced me a lot in how I've tried and wanted to sound in the band. Hiatus Kaiyote’s approach to emulating interesting textural universes and rhythmic changes has been a big deal for me since I first started playing with the guys. Jon Bap’s ‘What Now?’ is another one. His odd meter bedroom fusion indie soul bangers don’t at all suffer from the hypnotic drum ideas that lives its own life. He is a very big influence of mine; I still feel like he is a genre of his own.
Justo: Wow. That’s a hard one because we could talk about influences for the rest of this interview; to name just a few records is ruthless! Obviously, I have a lot of African influences around me and I always like to bring that into my playing. I’d like to credit my twin sister Jolie Kubini who got me into hip hop and soul, artists such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Bahamadia and of course my all-time favourite artist Georgia Anne Muldrow. Her album ‘A Thoughtiverse Unmarred’ confirmed the ever-growing power of hip-hop music.
Your music represents the fluidity and freeform expression of free jazz today. In London and around the UK, we have this flourishing progressive scene shaped by artists like Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia and KOKOROKO to name a few. What’s the scene like in Aarhus and Denmark as a whole? How has the experimental community informed your creativity?
Jonathan: The scene in Denmark is very heavy on a lot of things but especially indie rock. In the parts I’ve been in when I first started playing with Athletic, I didn’t know many musicians that were interested in hip hop. However, the scene has grown radically over the past two years, very young bands are starting to play this organic Dilla-inspired jazz music. Personally, my inspiration in the Danish music scene comes from the experimental electronic and improv scene, which is quite strong. I feel like you can trace that journey into improvised music on our new album.
Athletic Progression are more than just a “jazz band”; you crosspollinate with other genres. Do you find the jazz label and all it connotes limiting?
Jonathan: This question is always hard as we each perceive this very differently. I would say that we we’ve gone from being more hip hop with a jazz edge to being more contemporary jazz with a hip hop edge. I’d like to think we always try and welcome each other’s differences in influences as that’s where the most interesting fusions of genres appear.
Jonas: Yes, it’s really about the three of us merging our influences, moods, inspirations together and out comes this music (which you can label however you want). The improvisational part of the music, to me at least, is our ability to communicate and have fun in the moment of playing and having played together for quite some time, it comes easily to us. This is probably why people tend to label us as a jazz band.
Justo: To me Athletic Progression is just three guys who like to play music and personally it’s hip hop with all the quirky features hip hop has, borrows from, shares, explores, connects. Our sound has some jazzy vibes yes, but I have a hard time calling it just jazz.
What’s the story behind the album title, ‘cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air’?
Jonathan: The title is taken from Brother Portrait’s lyrics on ‘Extended Technique’. We chose to use this line as it resonates with how on this album, we’ve gone down a more improvised route, where we are more personal and vulnerable in our playing. We’re taking more risks.
‘Osaka’ and ‘Debra’ were released ahead of the new album, both spaced-out, after-hours numbers. Why were these songs chosen to usher in your new era?
Jonathan: Both ‘Osaka’ and ‘Debra’ represent two significant sides of our sound on the album: ‘OSAKA’ has a brighter more hopeful sound and is quite improvised. Jonas asks in the end in Danish: “How should we end it?” and I reply “That’s a good question”. It’s left open ended. ‘Debra’ represents the darker side of the album, it’s very composed and has many different parts. It’s truly a journey song, almost ABCD form wise.
In what ways does ‘Cloud High…’ differ from your debut album ‘Dark Smoke’ and self-titled follow-up? How have you evolved?
Jonathan: We’ve ventured into a more impulsive sound where we express ourselves more freely and allow each other more solo spots. It’s more of a live album than the previous albums, less post-production; everything you here is us playing live in the studio.
Jonas: I think that you can hear that we’ve matured as a band, as far as being able to perform live. The previous albums where much more structured and we really wanted the songs to sound a specific way. On our new album we embraced the fact that we took risks and that some sequences were improvised, which has resulted in a more expressive album.
Justo: This album really shows you how we play when we play. It’s been very pleasant to produce an album going to the studio working, letting the various takes do the talking and not the post-production.
Brother Portrait features on the track ‘Extended Technique’; one of the only tracks featuring another artist. What did his languorous spoken word bring to the auditory experience?
Jonathan: He gives you something you don’t have on any of the other tracks, words. Which in itself has a huge effect on a mostly instrumental album. We explained to him that the album was made through improvisation and some of the songs are four years old, so it was important for us that his lyrics captured snapshots and memories of him as a child. Dreaming of flying encapsulates a feeling that we try and conjure in our music, the “heavy in the air” part represents the more mature thought of the risk and consequences of the choices we make in our music.
What do you want the listeners to feel when experiencing ‘Cloud High….’? What’s the core intention?
Jonathan: I’m hoping the intensity in our feelings and vulnerability in our playing can cross the medium and truly inspire or arouse a feeling in the listener of being invited into our world. We’re way more personal on this album, especially if you understand what’s being said in the interludes. Jonas: Hopefully listeners will also have the opportunity to experience our musical progression. Going from ‘Dark Smoke’ to the self-titled album to ‘cloud high…’, a lot has happened in the band, and I think the development is beautiful. Hopefully our listeners will share this experience.
Justo: Honesty, we made this album with the intention of being true to ourselves and had many calls regarding the direction we were taking. I pray that people listen to it and interpret it in their own way. Of course, we have some specific things we want to share in there but people will discover some of the things that we didn’t convey or show them.
What’s in store for the rest of 2021 and beyond for Athletic Progression? Can we expect to see you perform in the UK?
Jonathan: If we are allowed, we’ll be playing a lot in the UK, yes. London in August, then we’ll tour the UK in the fall with seven shows around the country.
Jonas: I see the UK as our second “sonic home”. I think we can bring something to the table there.
Hildegard – 'Hildegard'
“On Hildegard, the boundaries between self and other are thin as light. Call and response grow into a third element: the sound of fantasy, a nightmare. Or maybe a vision.’
Named after Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th-century German Benedictine abbess and one of the first composers in the history of Western music, Montreal-based musicians Helena Deland and Ouri invoke the labyrinthine spiritualism of the OG sage - a mythic symbol of their assembly. Merged as an act at the behest of their managers, their self-titled debut was recorded over eight days in 2018, each track on ‘Hildegard’ named for a day the duo spent together.
Ouri’s alchemical, club-focused approach to production anchors Heland folky laments, the result is a synthesis of disparate worlds. Hildegard tease, titillate, scorn and reproach their way across the 8 jours, affirming their selfhood and autonomy in the process. ‘Jour 1’ is “about processing by partying and the clarity that sometimes comes with it” - a thunderous cavalcade of sirens, kick drums and a raucous techno crescendo. ‘Jour 3’ is a carnal mid-tempo, projecting wanton pleasure over a simmering, undulating bassline. The segue from ‘Jour 5’ into ‘Jour 6’ represents the turning point, indifference making way for freedom, marked by swirls of strings and baroque overtures.
Like their namesake, the duo upends foreordained and traditional constructs. Like Smerz, Hildegard invite a similar sense of antithetical dexterity in their works. Light or dark, celestial or physical, whatever it is you need, you can get it in Hildegard’s deranged, sublime fantasy.
Wesley Joseph – 'Ultramarine'
A former OG Horse collective member (alongside Jorja Smith and Otis Wongsam), Wesley Joseph staked his claim as a renegade figure with standalone singles ‘Imaginary Friends’ and ‘Ghostin’, but his debut project affirms his position as an artist not content with binaries.
Released on his own imprint EEVILTWINN with contributions by Dave Okumu, Leon Vynehall and the aforementioned Smith, ‘Ultramarine’ is an amalgam of Avant R&B and forlorn rap. Every track is purposeful on this project, every track lands with impact and intention: ‘Ur_Room’ is a woozy dancefloor filler, Joseph capable of upping the pace but retaining a zen demeanour, ‘Creep’ and its organ-like synth tones opens up a void of transcendence.
Joseph taps into an ethereal tenor on opener ‘The Bloom’, where pirouetting wails form the backdrop to agile rapped confessionals. Indeed, Joseph echoes Kendrick Lamar’s command of voices to mimic and make tangible the many characters that appear in his narrative; phantom figures from the depths of his consciousness lending a haunted, hallowed feel to proceedings. The title track, the strongest on the project, is a microcosm for the project at large; subdued but urgent computerised soul from the weary but brilliant mind of a new force in music.
George Riley – 'Interest Rates: A Tape'
I tipped West London’s George Riley in our UK Alternative R&B primer at the top of the year, an artist weaving together “polyrhythms and polemics” on songs like ‘Move’ and ‘TRIXX’, and it’s reassuring to see Riley fully assume her position as a figure leading the new vanguard with 10-track mixtape ‘Interest Rates…’
Riley pours grainy tales of disenchantment and disillusion over amorphous production, producer Oliver Palfreyman taking thrilling detours when you least expect it. ‘your eyes’ starts as a delicate lovelorn lament before fractures being to emerge as Riley looks for a measure of clearness when viewing her lover’s intentions; on ‘poomplexed’, propulsive drums fragment into a middle eight of moans before coalescing again for the finale; ‘money’ matches the former’s breakneck velocity, one ear in the clubs, the other in the streets, a cautionary tale of chasing paper made into a kind of rhythmic affirmation.
Moments of aching vulnerability open and bookend the tape: the slower paced, more languorous ‘cleanse me’ washes over the listener, a repudiation of capitalistic climate activism made personal by Riley in an act of self-baptism; on elegiac closer ‘no certainty’, Riley ascends to the sky in a apocalyptic love story.
Incorporating spacey instrumentals a la The Neptunes and Flying Lotus, low res underground samples and stream of consciousness storytelling, Riley’s mixtape offers up one of the more restorative experiences you’ll hear this year. It’s unvarnished, adventitious but also wholly original; mindfulness in auditory form.
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LNDFK – 'Don’t Know I’m Dead Or Not'
When I first heard this song, a cavernous frisson ran through my body. Centring Depersonalisation disorder (dissociative disorder in which the perception of oneself and surrounding environment feels detached) the Naples-raised, Tunisian-born artist manages to excavate tenderness and feeling from a matrix of relentless grey noise. Conceived as an epic three-parter charting stages of detachment from reality, LNDFK’s muffled delivery is barely audible, warped and withered, Miami rapper Chester Watson providing the only bit of earthly presence in a dizzying fever dream. A song to get lost in.
‘Don’t Know I’m Dead Or Not’ is first glimpse of LNDFK’s eagerly anticipated debut album, due later this year on Brooklyn’s Bastard Jazz.
Kareem Ali – 'I Feel It All (Warm Up)'
“Riding through this velodrome called life…” A favourite of Four Tet, Bicep and Sherelle, Kareem Ali is one of the most high-volume creators in music today: The Phoenix producer exceeded 30 releases in May alone, his Bandcamp page a treasure trove of past and present demos, reworks and original tracks. Ali’s as versatile as they come, venturing from euphoric deep house to tessellated electronica to Detroit techno. But it’s the opening track from EP ‘Breakaway’, a collection of 4 club-focused tracks “dedicated to all the bikers in the world”, that I want to highlight. A reverberant “I feel it all…” vintage vocal sample and loungey chords stretched to the spacey environs, this is elegantly-paced mood music.
dreamcastmoe – 'My Soul Belongs 2 U'
Soundtracking a period of emotional upheaval, dreamcastmoe (FKA Dreamcast) is back with a hypnagogic paean to unconditional love, the lead single from forthcoming EP ‘After All This’. The DC crooner artfully straddles the contemporary and the classic, flitting between pining vocals reminiscent of classic gospel soul innovators and an in-the-zone rap-sung verse delving deeper into his psyche. Warm and fuzzy without sounding pastiche, this granular gem by dreamcastmoe makes you want to declare your love High Fidelity style. ‘After All This’ lands late July on In Real Life.
Chris Kaz – 'Broader League'
Lifted from his project ‘Unlearn’, a collection of splintered electronics and distorted harmonics, musical polymath Chris Kaz marries a programmed beat, synthetic horns and an affected falsetto on this post-R&B album closer. Managed by fellow aesthete Gaika, Kaz, born and raised in London, brings a similar sense of murky abandon, canvasing his productions in metallic blue, jagged and angular, modernist with glimmers of humanity poking through. One of the more pared-down songs on the album, ‘Broader League’ is surround sound glory.
Retrospective Prince – 'When Doves Cry'
‘When Doves Cry’, the lead single from Prince’s magnum opus and loosely autobiographical film ‘Purple Rain’ was released in May of 1984, but because the standalone video was released a month later, it’ll be the focus of my Retrospective. It’s also a fortuitous opportunity to look back and honour the month a monolithic giant of music was born.
‘When Doves Cry’ is one of Prince’s signature hits, one I enjoyed casually. It wasn’t until I came across Robyn’s live cover, that I went back, listened to the original and really understood it’s tacit appeal; the boundless ingenuity of its creator (Prince played every instrument on the track), the generational influence of a track that defined the modernist cross-pollination of the 80s, living on in the works of the musicians we hear today.
From the ferocious shredding in the opening few seconds, syncopated drum machine patterns, the omission of bass and a torrent of wails at the track’s crescendo, the near six-minute marathon has everything and more, probing and pushing the boundaries of radical pop. With ‘When Doves Cry’, Prince denounced the “urban act” tag that he’d be lumbered with by critics, his movie star ambition saw him master the art of sex and spectacle creating arguably the greatest pop song in history.
Debate amongst yourselves.
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