Etta Bond x Raf Riley
28:21 min • Odd Child • August 8, 2013
Little Bastard reviews
Music is so fucking boring nowadays, isn’t it? Gone are the days when I would camp outside HMV on the release day of a new album by my favourite artist, or even when I would be up at 8am downloading something off iTunes on the day of release so it can be the soundtrack to my journey into work! Barely anything captures my imagination enough to warrant any kind of … obsession, for want of a better word. Pop songs are 3 minutes long and transient, and once you’ve played them to death there’s something else on Spotify that you can listen to. And then, every so often, something comes along that ignites your passion, and for me Etta Bond and Raf Riley did that last year with their Emergency Room EP! A harsh, dark pop-dub step assault, it was definitely the most exciting thing I heard all year, and when the follow-up was announced I could barely contain myself. So there I was, last Thursday, cursing the fact I was out at 8pm when the free download went live, wondering if I could wait till the journey to work the next day to hear it. (It turned out I couldn’t, I had to listen in bed that night or I’d never have slept.) The question is, did my dose of Meds live up to what I’d experienced in the Emergency Room the first time around? Yes, and then some!
More than anything, Meds showcases the softer side of Etta Bond. In my review of Emergency Room I likened ‘One Day On A Train’ to Janet Jackson (if she’d lived in Hackney) and the majority of this EP pushes that further, with gorgeous melodies and plaintive, at times heart wrenching lyrics.
Opener ‘Fanbabe’ is a first person account of super-fandom, like ‘Stan’ by Eminem if he’d had tumblr,
I’ve been cutting out your pictures,
Stick them on my wall.
Thought my boyfriend wouldn’t like it,
But he doesn’t seem to mind at all –
The song trips along with drum rolls and a floating house piano. Oh, and then there’s the bass – a bass that doesn’t so much shake you as engulf you so lovingly you never want the song to end. Although, I have to say that after accosting the pair at Glasto after their incredible 4am set on Shangri-La’s hell stage (they played before Goldie … that was a good night) I was slightly worried that ‘Fanbabe’ was about me!!
Next track ‘Me First’, by far my favourite thing here, is slinky R ‘n’ B oral sex with heavy synths, which begins seductively,
Strip down to my underwear,
Wet my lips, Tie up my hair,
Buckle up and get prepared –
before taking a slightly darker turn,
10% on my phone and I don’t have plans to charge it.
Let It run out,
Stick my bum out,
Let him know I’m ready for the third round –
before exploding into a Minneapolis funk crescendo, with Etta on all fours. Orgasmic.
‘Loophole’ is classic Aaliyah, being played through an iPhone on the top deck of the bus. “For years I’ve stayed away from love, now I just want to stay,” sings Etta over the best old school R ‘n’ B track I’ve heard in years. Since the urban music scene discovered house music, R ‘n’ B beats seem to have fallen by the wayside, but here they come crashing back with all of the force of ’90s Dallas Austin and I’m in heaven.
Try to take it like a man,
But then you go and make me feel like a woman –
croons Etta in the opening bars of ‘1 More Time’, before the song explodes into drug fuelled fidget house, and sex with your ex.
‘Supposed To Say Goodbye’ is the EP’s most heart wrenching moment, and the first time I heard the lyrics,
Now every time I’m in my bed, I’m reminded of the end.
Might need to move house again.
I know that I’m supposed to say goodbye.
It brought memories of past relationships flooding back. Who hasn’t wondered how they could sleep in the bed they shared with their ex after a break up. And in a transient place such as London, who hasn’t had to move to get over a relationship?
Next is the stunning ‘Break Free’, which opens with Raf exclaiming, “Have you had somebody that you wanted to date, but you already gave your love away?” before Etta’s silky voice floats over the early ’90s R ‘n’ B homage, as she asks, “How can I defreeze? I’ve never felt so cold!”
And then we get the final, obligatory club banger. I was in a rather strange environment when I first experienced ‘Big Girls Vogue’ … in the Kings Arms on Poland Street, to be exact. And no, before you assume the pub has dropped its finger firmly off the pulse of modern pop music, it was through my headphones. How sad was that? I was listening to my headphones in a bar!!! So, I’d be awaiting the song for a while, and a friend who shares my passion for everything ExR had seen the video and posted it on my Facebook wall, and no, this couldn’t wait until I got home! ‘Big Girls Vogue’ is the plus size ‘Boring Bitches’, coming over me like ‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilara in a rave in Brixton. And that’s clearly a good thing. Bond’s monotone spoken vocal reminds me of dub-slut Nadia Oh, before slamming into familiar territory. It’s the most up tempo thing on here, and a ‘fuck you’ to body fascists. It has become my new anthem, with its refrain of,
Working up a sweat,
Dancing hasn’t made me skinny yet.
If I’m hun-g-ry then I’ll fucking eat.
Some may like the body of a model,
Some prefer it when it wobbles –
and the video, which is the White Stripes Seven Nation Army with cellulite, a colourful celebration of being comfortable in your own skin, is an inspiration for all.
Meds is less harsh than its predecessor, even when the tempo shifts it’s still far more “coming up in the toilets” than “burning a hole in the dancefloor”. There was an anger to the sound of Emergency Room that is all but gone here, much like the difference between the masculinity of Rhythm Nation to its soft, feminine follow up, .janet. Essentially, Raf Riley is to Etta Bond what Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were to Janet Jackson for all those years. As great as their music with other artists has been, there’s something magical about them combined, and it always provides an exciting, if often overwhelming sonic experience. If you’ve seen the amazing self-vid online of Etta singing Aaliyah a cappella, then the old school R ‘n’ B vibe of this EP shouldn’t surprise you. This is a collection of 7 beautifully written songs, with edgy but classy production, that perfectly tread the Urban-Pop tightrope. While the mainstream limelight is hogged by artists who spend their time engaging in twitter wars and taking their clothes off for attention, Etta and Raf are the real deal – yet they’re still giving away their music for free … when it’s the best around!
‘Like’ either of them on Facebook, and you should be able to download Meds for free, and overplay it in the way I have, and will continue to do so. But promise me one thing … when their names are on everybody’s lips, as I predict this EP will give them the break they so badly deserve, remember where you saw them first.