Young Fathers At Amoeba, Thursday May 3rd 2018
Hip hop, trip hop, 3-part vocal harmonies, menacing whispers, beats, electronica, noise, loops and plenty of inventive experimentation mixed with African rhythms and vibes, I got instantaneously and happily overwhelmed by the amount of layers offered by Young Fathers’ music. I had never seen the Scottish band, but I will get to see them twice this week, as I have just found out that they are opening for LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, tomorrow at the Hollywood Bowl. Which sounds like a good match, although I had visions of sonic hybridization between Massive Attack and TV On the Radio when I was watching them at Amoeba on Thursday night… although it was a bit of that and more, much more. My Massive Attack impression was obviously founded as the 2 bands have collaborated with each other on ‘Voodoo in My Blood’ from the Ritual Spirit EP, which was released in 2016.
And you don’t have to look very far for the band’s African dimension, Alloysious Massaquoi was born in Liberia but was raised in Edinburgh, and Kayus Bankole was born in Edinburgh to Nigerian parents but has lived in the U.S., Nigeria and Scotland. Graham ‘G’ Hastings, may be the only white Scottish member, but his strong voice was mixing in very well inside their beautiful chaos.
Young Fathers have just released a new studio album, ‘Cocoa Sugar’, their third one, following their 2014 Mercury Prize winner ‘Dead’, and their critically acclaimed 2015 ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’. On Thursday night, they naturally played some of these new songs mixed with older ones, but for me everything sounded new and deliciously imaginative.
As they were relying on backing tracks, there was no instruments on stage beside a drum occasionally used by Alloysious Massaquoi and a large drumset , which almost collapsed during the second or third song. The sonic chaos they had installed was so unusual and so unexpected that I thought for a few seconds that this stunt was part of the show. However, when I saw their drummer struggling to reassemble the pieces, I realized it was not staged. In any case, this short incident barely slowed down their fast-tempo show.
If Young Fathers use rap here and there during their complex compositions, it is just another color to their multicolored rhythmic palette, and saying that they are hip hop artists would be quite reductive… their songs were amazing adventurous collages and I am not even sure that collage is the right word. Their multi-influenced tunes were futuristic and often threatening soundscapes, mixed with polyphonic choruses, producing a forest of sounds whipped by a rap verse, an intense fast tempo, some shouted lead vocals, with cathartic noise and voices collapsing together …. I could try to describe forever their unruly and unstructured songs, but it is honestly difficult to give justice to the depth of their exciting textural palette, as they were oscillating between intense moments of noise and soulful gospelish choirs, and always holding the attention of the crowd very tight, between semi-African percussion and a rainbow of vocal styles going from rap delivery to soft croon. The Amoeba crowd was avidly watching and listening, two people even almost started a fight as they both tried to snatch the setlist which was taped on the floor: this says a lot about the enthusiasm of the audience and the sort of euphoric craziness that Young Fathers had installed inside the record store.
What a time to Be Alive
Rain or Shine
Old Rock n Roll
In My View