Review of Insomnia by Skepta, Chip, and Young Adz

Worlds collide on the new unexpected project from Skepta, Chip and Young Adz. The differences between North and South London, Grime and Drill, and old and new are all juxtaposed against each other. Or rather, they could be. For an album that’s the brainchild of the cream of the crop for both Grime and Drill, Insomnia is largely neither. Noticeably built on a foundation of rattling trap that’s been imported from across the pond, the woozy, slow paced beats drip with dark humour and punchlines. Released on his label, it’s an arena that clearly favours Skepta’s smooth drawls, and Adz and Chip are forced to adapt their signature brands of aggressive rap.

To embellish on this, Chip has been relegated to a weird position on the album as his lyrics aren’t bragadocious enough to confidently stand next to Skeptas, but he simultaneously sounds toothless next to Adz, who switches between listing a pharmacy worth of drugs and threatening opps. The exception is on Waze, where Chip leans into his position as a veteran, challenging rising rappers to take his spot with classic wordplay and biting adlibs. With a little coordination this could have been avoided though, as it would have given each member of the trio some breathing room.

Young Adz is an interesting inclusion. With two rap powerhouses already present, his role is exclusively as a singer. However, behind a thick film of auto-tune and post-production his voice lacks character, leaving this listener wondering if the last member on Insomnia couldn’t have been a dedicated singer. On Mic Check the trio take a stab at replicating the success that AJ Tracey saw last February with his Garage throwback. However, while the beat is bubbly and syncopated, none of the emcees deviate from their usual style or cadence with the exception of Adz throwing in a brief Craig David reference.  

Insomnia should be taken at face value, and enjoyed for the terrific beats and chemistry between the trio. Beneath the hood, the project is a mess of contradictions and missed opportunities, and the wildcard inclusion of Young Adz will surely stunt the marketability of the project. It may have succeeded at capturing the zeitgeist of current British rap, but it struggles to retain any cultural significance greater than that.  

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/3BZyfvmDgZFXqCGJpYt7ES

Book Review – Dying of the Light by George R.R Martin (1977)

George R. R Martin’s Dying of the Light is a tale of protagonist Dirk chasing his past love, set on the fringe of the populated universe on the rogue planet Worlon, which has almost fallen out of range of the star whose light and warmth allows it to remain hospitable – hence the name. When an unexpected message summons Dirk to Worlon, he does, hoping that he can rekindle the love he once had with Gwen, but also chasing the idea that he can become the person he was when he was with her once again. If the plot sounds a little beige, that’s because it is; the characters are by far the largest stumbling block for the novel. Bear with them though, because Martin’s world building, even at the earliest stage in his writing career, is unparalleled. By devising fourteen unique cultures, all of which are represented by a city on Worlon, the universe in which Dying of the Light is situated feels suitably fleshed out, and the focus on Kavalar’s rich and blood soaked history shares a striking resemblance to that of the Dothraki in A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s a true testament to Martin’s writing that the world remains fresh some fifty years after its publication, as by avoiding the cheesy tropes that so many of his contemporaries inadvertently fell into, reading it still feels like discovery, not simply rehashing old ground; despite including hoverboards and flying cars!

 

By contrast, the weakest elements of Dying of the Light are the bloated plot and bland characters, as I alluded to earlier. The entire cast simultaneously manages to feel tedious for their lack of action, and detestable for when they do. Frustratingly, the love interest between Dirk and Gwen is fickle to the point of whiplash, ebbing and flowing only when the plot demands it, and by the end of the novel Gwen’s true feelings for her past lover are more opaque than they were before she was even introduced. Martin’s grand stab at creating a leit-motif of names also falls a little flat thanks equally to the obtuse delivery and how much it’s repeated. It’s an interesting concept that’s overexplained through great swathes of dialogue, leaving no nuances for the reader to mull over themselves. On the other hand, the motif of death and it’s different interpretations to each person, culture and even planets, is elegantly peppered throughout, and the concept of female independence is more relevant today than ever. As it stands, Dying of the Light deserves to be read by both fans of the author and the genre alike simply because of Martin’s incredible talent for building worlds that demand exploring; the real shame then, is that he didn’t explore it enough himself.

Where I’ve been and the Future of EscapeRoomRadio

As the year draws to a close, it becomes hard to not reflect on it. I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, so while 2018 still has a little over a week left in it, it seems appropriate to consider the future of this website/blog. I started EscapeRoomRadio around February, with the intention to marry my love of writing and music, and to ultimately gain a little experience. From that, my career has blossomed, and I know write music reviews and news for multiple paper and online magazines, Kore Asian Media, Buzz Entertainment and Quench, all three of which have diverted my enthusiasm from ERR. It became increasingly more difficult to motivate myself to write reviews for free when I was doing it all day for other websites, so this website ended up falling by the wayside.

But that brings us to now. I keep finding myself wanting to tell EVERYONE about a new band or artist I’ve listened to, and for some reason, I forgot that this was the original purpose of this blog. So, from this point, EscapeRoomRadio will be my platform to share all interesting underground and non mainstream artists that I feel like people need to know about. I’m going to stop writing about mainstream projects just because I know it will get views and instead write about artists that I genuinely care and have an opinion on. Hopefully that’ll lead to better content!

Merry Christmas!

Conflare – Interview

Hey guys, thank you for being here. Would you like to introduce yourselves and the band?

Thanks for having us!

T: I’m Toby, I sing and play guitar.

S: I’m Sam and I play the bass

R: I’m Rob, I play guitar

E: I’m Ethan, I play drums
How did you guys choose the name ‘Conflare’, and if you were forced to choose another name, what would it be?

T: We were still in school and I remember being sat with Ethan brainstorming ideas and getting absolutely nowhere, and I eventually just said to him “I’m having a melt down over this” and we put ‘melt down’ into a translator out of desperation and Conflare came out!

E: I can’t even remember what language we put it in

R: As for another name, I’m thinking something along the lines of ‘Rob Hawkins and the…’ and you three could be the backing band.

S: Absolutely not!

Describe the music you make in just three words for those who aren’t familiar.

T: Pop-infused alternative rock… Does the hyphen make it count as one word?? If not, we’ll go pop-infused alternative

You’ve mentioned before that you got the inspiration for Conquistador from a hotel name. Is that typical of your writing process? How does it usually work?

T: It changes from song to song, with that one, I had the name before any of the lyrics or music. But I like to try new things when I write! Like my favourite track from the New York EP is a song called Dirt, and that was loosely based on a movie synopsis that I changed around to suit the song and it’s now a story about a journalist that’s a bit fed up with life and sees red light districts as a bit of a release, without saying too much.

I can’t tell you the movie though because when I finished writing the song, I watched it and had to turn it off halfway through because it was just so bad.

R: Yeah it’s different every time, for a track called Piece By Piece, I brought the chorus and Toby built the rest of the track around it. I remember when we wrote a new one called Lies, Toby burst into my room panicking that he couldn’t finish the rest of the song, and between us, we finished it in 10 minutes – and now it’s one of our favourite songs!

‘Jacket’ is a particularly moving song from the New York EP. Was there anything that inspired it?

T: Jacket was the first song we wrote for the EP, it even came before Real, Coñquistador and Tempted. But we were just waiting for the right time to release it and track 4 on an EP seemed perfect! It came from being friends with a couple that were going through a breakup and hearing both sides of the story, and having them both tell me that their bed still smelled like the other and things like that, so a lot of the lyrics to Jacket came from actual conversations I had with them both. And they’re engaged now so it’s all good!
You’ve played together now for over half a decade, and probably know each other better than you’d like to. What are your pet peeves about each other?

T: Ethan is a terrible snorer, I’ve known him the longest out of all the lads as well so it’s something I’ve had to put up with for a very long time

S: Rob’s accent, because we’re all from Leeds and he’s from Birmingham, a little bit of Brum sometimes slips out and it gets on my nerves!

R: Right then… Toby fidgets in his sleep and it annoys me so much and I want to throttle him! He’s nice when he wakes up because he makes me food but he gets me so mad!

E: Rob says ‘yo’ and ‘ennit’ far too much and I think that, if either of us ever kill him, that will be the reason why

T: And we’ve all started saying ‘ennit’ now just from doing it ironically, so we’ll all end up being just as bad! And as for Sam, I don’t think he could annoy us if he tried! Sam’s just so chilled out, he’s the perfect person to have in a band because there’s just never any arguments with Sam!

Who did you guys grow up listening to? What are your musical guilty pleasures?

R: Guilty pleasures, Shayne Ward and James Blunt, 100%, don’t even care! And I grew up listening to Green Day, literally just Green Day! I spent all the money I had on every Green Day CD… It’s kinda bad.

E: Well the first CD’s I ever owned were ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ by 50 Cent and a Beyonce album, so things could have turned out very different. Thankfully, my brother forced me to listen to Foo Fighters and I basically just  listened to them and Linkin Park for 5 years, with a bit of 3 Doors Down and Akon mixed in. Nickelback are 100% my guilty pleasure. Chad Kroeger does bits.

S: I grew up listening to primarily classic rock thanks to my mum, but as I’ve grown up I got much more into alternative rock and pop punk. I mean my favourite band of all time is definitely The Strokes. As for guilty pleasures, I don’t even feel guilty anymore ahaha, can’t beat a bit of Robbie Williams and I hate to admit I liked Carly Rae Jepson’s last album.

T: Yeah I don’t have guilty pleasures, I’m a shameless Take That fan! I grew up with chart music which probably informs a lot of the poppy elements of Conflare, but now I’m into more alt-rock and pop punk as well!

You’ve described the Packhorse show as the craziest one yet. What was your favourite show you’ve ever played together?

E: Two and a half years on, the Packhorse gig is still probably my favourite. It’s not the biggest or most spectacular venue we’ve ever played but it was the first headline we ever did in Leeds and the crowd made it crazy. Air-con wouldn’t have gone amiss though…

S: My favourite show has to be Belgrave for the New York EP launch, the venue is perfect, we had some amazing supports and the crowd was wild

T: Yeah, the Belgrave show was special, it felt like everything we’d done as a band prior to that night was all building up to playing those 10 songs. But I loved playing with In Your Prime at The Wardrobe in April too, they’re one of our favourite Leeds bands at the minute and the crowd always lose their minds at IYP shows!

R: I loved the Wardrobe show as well, that was my mum’s first Conflare gig! There were pits all over and it was one of those shows that reminded me why I do this – but I have a feeling that our headline at Chapel, Leeds in October will blow it out of the water!

I’m sorry to hear you were robbed of the chance to play Slam Dunk Festival this year. What would be your favourite festival to play and what would your dream line up be for that festival be?

T: For me, Slam Dunk would have to be up there! Which made it that bit worse for us because I’ve seen some of my favourite bands play that festival! But my dream is Reading and Leeds, and on the lineup, I’d want Biffy Clyro, the Foo Fighters, Don Broco and somebody like Post Malone for the after party!

E: Glasto for me – it’s the festival init. Leeds and Reading would be sick too though. Lineup wise, I’d want the obvious ones like Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro, but I think a Glastonbury headline is clearly the perfect time for the reunion of the best band ever to walk the planet – Blue.

T: YES! BLUE! Make it happen boys!

S: I would obviously love to play Glastonbury, that’s a classic. But I really like the idea of Kendall Calling, always looks really cool. Playing with Catfish and the Bottlemen would be amazing.

R: I’d love to play Warped Tour but it’s over now! So probably Reading and Leeds, because its Reading and Leeds ennit! And on the lineup… Lil’ Pump, no I’m joking…

T: You’re not

R: No I’d definitely have Lil’ Pump… Also Green Day, Eminem, Slipknot and Blondie, and maybe Catherine Jenkins! But we headline it obviously.

If you had to be stuck on a desert island with any band, who would you choose and why?

S: If I was stuck on island it’d have to be a band with some stories. Gotta be Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl has had an interesting life.

R: Paramore, so I can marry Hayley Williams and I’m not lonely for the rest of my life… That’d be great

T: Biffy Clyro for me, I know we’re going on about the same 2 bands but they’re my favourite band and I reckon I could wangle myself a guest vocal on their next record if I spent enough time on the island annoying them

E: I’d say Don Broco. They seem hilarious and I reckon Rob Damiani could probably kill animals with his bare hands if needed, so we wouldn’t go hungry.

Why should people care about Conflare?

T: Because we’re not doing what everyone else is doing, we’re not ‘just another indie band’, you might like it, you might not, but that’s Conflare

R: And because we’ve got bops that no-one knows about yet

Finally, what can people expect from a typical Conflare gig?

E:  Basically, you can expect to have a good time. We’ve worked a lot on improving our live sound lately and we write songs that are easy to dance or jump around to. Our fans are really cool and always create a good atmosphere so it’s always a good show!

S: To listen to us we’re exciting, something new. I think we’re a breath of fresh air for the music scene. We’re easy listening but can go mental when we want to. Multiply it all by 10 and that’s a Conflare show.

 

Check out Conflare on Twitter @conflaremusic and keep up to date with all their shows and new music!

Waves – Track Review

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From the creative hive that is Brighton emerges Yonaka, a four piece rock group with serious potential. Waves is the latest single to be revealed from the groups latest EP ‘Teach me to Fight’, following up their consistently ambitious debut EP ‘Heavy’, and continues to establish Yonaka’s unique sound of powerful bass lines, an incredible vocal range and dense production. A pulsating, Daft Punk esque electronic beat greets listeners before fading into the background, replaced by the insatiable catchy bass. Resident lead vocalist Theresa Jarvis is unleashed around the twenty second mark, with two snappy verses that are full of biting plosives and self aware lyrics, while remaining relatively restrained vocally. Soon after, the hook unveils her full dynamic range, contrasting the moody verses with a boisterous crescendo that reaches astrological heights, supported by anxious drums and the aforementioned swaggering bass. As a track, Waves is a groovy pop rock anthem with consistent mixing and colourful production choices that incorporates hip hop elements, but it’s so much more than that. In reality, it’s just another excuse to check out what may be Brighton’s hottest new band.

Polaroid – Track Review

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Being from Northampton, a town sandwiched firmly in the Bush on the northwest fringes of London, Tyron Frampton, better known as Slowthai, always had to fight for his voice, describing the ‘us and them’ atmosphere that permeated his childhood to Pitchfork earlier this year. His latest single, Polaroid, is the physical embodiment of this sentiment, with a skittish Kwes Darko beat serving as a platform for Tyron to share his experiences. His impassioned delivery and lyricism is a clear blend of both contemporary grime artists like Mike Skinner with more left field influences such as punk and horrorcore, which is reinforced by the unsettling visuals in the accompanying music video. While repetition is clearly the backbone of the track, subtle nuances such as ‘enthusiasm, can’t curb it’ add rich flavour that proves that Slowthai is one the most able MCs making music at the moment. Keep him in rotation.

Bad Listener – Track Review

After a slight member reshuffle, Beartooth are back with Bad Listener, their second single from their upcoming third album, Disease. With an short, uncompromising and a clear absence of clean vocals, the Ohio band seem to be making a definite return to their signature metalcore sound that we last heard on Disgusting, apparently abandoning the more melodic direction that dominated their last album. Subtlety layered vocals, defiant lyrics and a gravelly bass all synergise to create a sound that, if representative of Disease, is extremely good news for classic ‘toof fans.

Check out the track below: