Sparkz

Angle One EP
Room2 Records

Angle One is a self-produced, three-track EP from Sparkz. A regular staple at Manchester club nights, the young MC has built a reputation as a sought-after collaborator with a recent guest spot on DJ Yoda’s new album. He can also be heard elevating rave with Manchester’s finest in Levelz and has left his imprint on a growing number of tracks with The Mouse Outfit. This is the first of a planned trilogy of releases and finds Sparkz in confident form.

Opening track ‘Kno the Sound’ loops Brian Jackson flutes and smoking horns with a chorus that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jurassic 5 set. This is followed by ‘Close Curtains’, a mellower tune with spaced-out strings, which finds Sparkz reflecting that “Things seem to get in the way / But in a way if they didn’t then no progression would take place”. He may have a busy schedule, but his breadth of experience has allowed him to find his voice in his solo output.

He’s a rapper who defies lung capacity. Always clear and relentless in his delivery, he has a personal credo at odds with the lacklustre and infantile music that passes for mainstream hip hop. On final track, ‘Win Some’, he lays out his manifesto: “One hit’s not been what I want from music / It means more to me than just an income”.

All too quickly the EP is over, but the rest of the series looks set to reveal more of his abilities. From different angles, naturally.

Nathan McIlroy

Akranes

Lungs
Self released

With a handful of digital albums and EPs under the Khufu moniker, the various musical recordings of Liam Gaunt and Harry Bryson were gradually pulling away from their ambient jazz-flecked jam on 2013's 'Untitled Pt 1' and drawn into a sludgier, thicker shoegazing instrumental wig-out. The one exception in their eponymous final full-length before calling it a night was an auto-tuned slow burner named 'Next To Me', featuring vocals by Chantelle Call.

With this latest trio of tracks headed by the aurally caressing synthetic tones of 'Lungs', Akranes sees Gaunt retrace his tracks to combine musical ideas with Call once more, but with more refined song structuring and vocal echo replacing the vocoding.

'Drifting' does what it says in the tin, relying on an unhurried piano line not dissimilar to Choir of Young Believers' 'Hollow Talk' (used in the opening credits to Broen) but without the subsequent rousing crescendo, opting for a subtler progression, while 'Fall Down' ascends into Jewellers or Regal Safari tempo territory.

Overall, the Manchester-Leeds straddling duo have upped the ante by focusing on a singular direction for their sound. Renowned ambienteers Zero 7 and Nicolas Jaar aren't too far wide of the mark, while beats merchants on the Project Mooncircle label, such as Sounds From The Other City and FutureEverything alumni Rain Dog and Submerse, would be cosy bedfellows in any FFO section.

Ian Pennington

Akranes support Hartheim at Soup Kitchen on 8 April.

Fabz

Grown EP
Room2 Records

Fabz follows up his 2014 debut with Grown EP, released through the prominent Room2 Records. Production is split between Pro P, Kydro and Atsuko and is musically similar to last year’s Lost EP, which shared the same contributors, varying from sparse grime (‘Diva’s’) to laidback jazz samples (‘Tryna Find My Way’). Lyrically, Fabz has grown, shedding his initial bouts of bravado for more insightful bars without losing his passion and anger.

‘I Don’t Need No Help’ is a retelling of his struggle with homelessness and experiences living in and out of hostels since his teens. The verses are powerful in their imagery, with a hook that evokes John Lydon at his most unhinged with PiL. He retains the same delivery of his frenzied, younger self, but it feels like he’s finally coming to terms with his past, giving the harrowing story a redemptive feel.

The one self-produced track is ‘Just Play My’, a simple, soulful beat that brings his council estate of mind to the fore and “Goes out to the kids in the hoods and the hats / Tracksuits and bad attitudes, chavs and council rats”. Instead of reinforcing the stereotypes that are so prominent in the deluge of poverty porn programmes clogging up TV schedules, it is a call to arms to raise the expectations of all those who have slipped through the net. Not the expectations of society’s moral gatekeepers. Having mastered the art of not caring what others think, Fabz will only continue to grow.

Nathan McIlroy

Bohica

Keep Me Awake / Spun Out
Get Into It Records

Promising. That is the very first word that comes to mind when listening to Bohica's new single. The band have previously released a four-track EP, Wait Here, and whilst I enjoyed each of those songs, I felt there was definitely room for improvement. Nevertheless, as it was their first EP, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and supported them anyway. Never have I been gladder that I did.

Their new single, composed of the lead track 'Keep Me Awake' and a B-side, 'Spun Out', is everything I expected them to grow into and more. They have found an art in striking the perfect balance between grunge and modern pop-punk.

Think drowned-out lyrics and a droney mash of minor guitar, and you have the perfect recipe for this single. The feel of the record is despairing. They're songs you'd listen to when the world around you had ended, but in the best possible way. There’s a certain mood required to listen to the record but, being a teenager, I quite often find myself in that very mood and put the record on as an anthem to my doomed youth.

Bohica’s influences are very apparent through their work. 'Spun Out' takes all its inspiration from Nirvana. In fact, it could almost be an unreleased Nirvana track.

This is one of my favourite releases of the year so far. I cannot wait to see where this band goes.

Sara Louise Tonge