IS TROPICAL rose from the muddy swamps of south London squat parties back in 2009. If you happen to be familiar with them, you’ll probably recall they were a trio that played disjointed indietronica. Made up of Dominic Apa, Gary Barber and Simon Milner, the band released a couple of albums and an EP, and tended to only appear in public with masks, balaclavas or the occasional pillowcase covering their faces (though, for the record, that’s not to decry their earlier work). Select tracks from their debut ‘Native To’ (and several that followed) could be found on any good 2011 ‘indie banger’ house party playlist. The past few years, however, has seen them altering their approach. They’ve parted ways with Kitsuné, female vocalist Kirstie Fleck of 2013’s ‘Dancing Anymore’ is now a permanent fixture, and the bid for anonymity has been discarded.
‘Black Anything’ comes as the result of the band touring and recording across North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and has been released in two track instalments since 2014. Swapping suburban dystopias for perusing the four corners is an age old strategy that quite often comes up trumps, and the record takes its energy and inspiration from a wealth of different architectures, environments and inhabitants. While the multi-cultural influences are sonically subtle, they’re central to the framework of the record.
‘Lights On’ is a sturdy, albeit inoffensive opener, and ‘Crawl’ bounds in behind it with far more gusto. The kickoff to part one of the project, the track is assertive, defiant and establishes a solid heartbeat. Distinct layers, modular synths provide a robust foundation for ‘Cruise Control’ and ‘Follow The Sun’: two of the record’s stand out tracks. Elsewhere, the band are able to demonstrate just how much Kirstie’s contributions work in their favour. ‘Say’ sees Fleck’s dulcet vocals as the focal point, bridging the gap between their synthetic and more organic stylings. At only ten tracks long, the record radiates a consistency that the band have occasionally lacked in the past.
In terms of artistic shifts, there hasn’t really been one, but this record demonstrates that IS TROPICAL are evolving. It’s weightier and more substantial than anything they’ve put out to date, and while they’ve continued to hone in on their already existing strain of asymmetric pop songs, they’re now sailing beyond them to something far more notable.
Words: Maya Rose Radcliffe (@mayarad)
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