Etta Bond x Raf Riley
26:00 min • www.emergency-room.co.uk • July 20, 2012
The best things in life are free. Or, at least, that seems to be true about British music at the moment. Just as I finish over-playing the brilliant Heartbreaks And Earthquakes mixtape by dark pop chanteuse Charli XCX, I discover ‘Boring Bitches’ by Etta Bond and Raf Riley, and their free EP Emergency Room – and my head explodes.
Whilst being the music of the moment, DubStep is slowly becoming a dirty word, and I can see why. It’s saturating practically everything that is released into the charts, being jumped on by rock bands and pop artists alike, and it must be boring to the mass of people that dislike it. I, on the other hand, have always quite liked this new fashion for chainsaw dubstep whirs and bleeps, from Rusko’s work on MIA’s brilliantly dark /\/\ /\ Y /\ album, to the speaker shaking stomp of ‘Earthquake’ by Labrinth and the eccentric obliteration of the Funtcase remix of ‘Fryngies’ by Sweden’s Karin Park (or, indeed, Funtcase remixing anything!). As such, pressing play on Emergency Room and hearing Etta scream over ECG bleeps and hardcore dubstep noises (and is that the overture of Phantom Of The Opera played on a Casio keyboard?!) set my pulse racing and, whatever the outcome of the next 8 tracks, I knew I was going to get something good out of this. And I wasn’t wrong.
Don’t tell me I need to calm down, I’m calm as fuck,
I thought you liked smoking with the windows up?
You think coz I let you in though, what, you’re safe now?
The intro barks at us, an unhinged girl on the verge, and her cry of,
You told me you can’t swim!
Everyone can float, thought, everyone can drown –
sets the dark tone for the rest of the EP. Etta is not a girl to be messed with, and as we career into previously released track ‘Asked Me To Stay’, what could normally feel like a standard break-up ballad takes a turn for the twisted. With its dark, harsh dubstep and the psychotic “single white female” intro before it, we get a totally different take on rejection. You really don’t want to mess with Etta Bond, boys and girls. And that theme is even more prevalent in the next song ‘Premeditated Murder’, once again, a nasty, dirty DubStep crawl, with Etta crying,
Scream my name out, let them know who did it!
It’s not only a perfect slice of the genre, but it’s deliciously dark and leads perfectly into the best song I have heard all year, the brilliant ‘Boring Bitches’.
Bitches watching, why you at a dance for?
If you aint acquainted with the dance floor?
No one likes a boring bitch…
Etta croons, like a chav Martina Topley Bird, before the song descends into a rave of bleeps and drums, sounding like ‘Creator’ by Santigold on acid. Then, as if this song couldn’t get any better, Femcee Lady Leshurr pops up and grabs the rest of the song by its hair, screaming in its ear. It’s all quite intimidating, really, but in the most amazing way possible, and I’ve not only been playing this genius piece of AggroPop on repeat since I heard it, but it has also made me dance involuntarily – everywhere. On the tube, on the bus, down the street, around my flat in my pants … it’s just insane. And the video … wow. Fast cut shots of people dancing and jerking violently, illuminati imagery, and the odd cat or two, mixed with static photos with moving mouths. It’s just off the hook. Director by Reuben Dangoor, who collaborated with producer Raf Riley on the ‘Being A Dickhead Is Cool’ viral video, has created an amazing piece of visual art that accompanies the sonic intimidation perfectly.
As if the club high of ‘Boring Bitches’ couldn’t be bettered … we hit the morning after the heavy East London rave with ‘Resolve’. The ultimate hang over song, and the soundtrack to every night out I’ve had, there’s not really much I can say about this stunning piece of trip hop – these lyrics speak for themselves and set the tone of the song perfectly.
I’m fucked – I need another drink!
Throwing up my breakfast, just made it to the sink.
Called in sick to my work place, 9 to 5’s are overrated –
Hung over is a understatement – I’m fucked.
With its perfect interpolation of Ten Green Bottles, and a dubstep bass bleeding through the trip hop, it’s an incredibly exciting experience, perfectly evoking that hung over feeling we’ve all felt far too often.
Next track ‘Baddy’ has shades of Portishead (no, not in a good way, in a fucking brilliant way!!) and I was reminded of the first time I ever heard ‘Dummy’. Yes, it really feels that innovative. At points pretty, with Indian influences, followed by slamming, industrial trip-hop beats, with what sounds suspiciously like a distorted saxophone solo. All the sounds are thrown at your ears in the perfect formation, and like everything else on here, it’s a masterclass in music production.
The trip hop slow jam ‘One Way On A Train’ updates the vibe of a standard American ’90s R’N’B ballad to 2012 city culture, and with its silky melody and syncopated hand claps, it sounds like Janet Jackson if the megastar had been born in Hackney. Again, that’s a sensational thing, in my book.
As the EP draws to a close, we’re hit by a Hostel-esque outro, with Etta and Raf performing, what we can only assume, is an unsanctioned operation with a chainsaw, while Etta laughs manically.
Coming across like a new millennium Tricky, I wouldn’t advise anyone to take their eyes off producer Raf Riley. His computerised, chainsaw dubstep and ’90s inspired Trip Hop on this EP is inspired. Etta Bond manages to own everything that is thrown at her, and delivers a continuously sincere vocal, whether talking about killing her ex-boyfriend, threatening boring girls in clubs, being hung over or not wanting to be the bad guy in a break up. She means every word, and every word is real, and raw, and just how I like my music to be.
Both artists are signed to Labrinth’s record label (which essentially means they’re both owned by Simon Cowell – boooo!) and, with Etta featuring on the huge Wretch 32 track ‘Forgiveness’ and performing at Plan B’s album launch, she’s already getting a name for herself. Lets hope that this EP is the shape of things to come – music has been missing a vocalist/producer team this strong since Tricky and Martina gave birth to Pre-Millennium Tension (not their only collaboration, but in my opinion, their greatest) and this is the album that this EP most brings to mind for me. Dark and dirty, genre-bending but cohesive, although it won’t ever get the classic status awarded to Tricky and Martina (it’s too pop for that) it’s a superb collection of songs. Well put together, with brilliant art work, you follow all the music on a journey through the collective heads of the two masterminds at the helm, and its without a doubt the best free release I have ever heard. (Also worth mentioning, on Etta Bond’s Soundcloud, is the brilliant ‘Come Over’ – which does actually sound like it should be Tricky and Martina! Amazing)
Having heard Raf’s solo stuff, mostly released on Diplo’s brilliant Mad Descent label, and Etta’s recent haunting trip-hop collaboration with Warren XcInce, I’m incredibly excited about the future of these two. British music is great at the moment, and it’s not all about overblown rock bands, Adele and Jessie J – there’s some other stuff going on too, and its noisy, and beautiful, and I can’t wait for it to blow up!