tue 12/12/2017

CD: Benin City - Fires in the Park | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Benin City - Fires in the Park

CD: Benin City - Fires in the Park

Can indie-rap fusion transcend its component parts?

Fires in the Park: awkward but brilliant

This is not an easy record to get a handle on. When I first got it, I bounced through a couple of tracks idly, and it felt like it was coming from the messy genre fusions of the mid-90s – somewhere between trip-hop, indie-dance, rap-rock and mildly crusty festival-dub. There are growling guitars, indie-rock basslines, anthemic reggae horns, and frontman Joshua Idehen's voice, which lies somewhere between rapper, poet, singer and orator, all making it sound like a livelier take on Tricky, or maybe Roots Manuva fronting a rock band.

But idle listening is not enough for this record. For one thing, the moment you turn the volume up and give it your full attention you realise that this is not ham-fisted “fusion” of vague areas of music but a band confident in subsuming very specific constituent parts from across decades and continents into its own style. For another, the moment you become aware of the absolutely exquisite production, you realise there's nothing “Nineties” about it: this is a 21st century record through and through, one whose sonics sit comfortably next to The xx and Kode 9.

Further, Idehen couldn't be accused of imitating other UK rap outsiders; as anyone who's heard his work with electronic producers LV knows, he's a truly great dramatist, capable of inhabiting a brilliant range of characters. And in fact, rather than other rappers, better comparisons might be with the great individualists of post-punk: Terry Hall, Mark Stewart, Viv Albertine. And as later tracks like the polluted ballads "My Love" and "Only the Beginning" and the aggro jazz of "Winning Streak Reprise" unfold, it becomes harder still to get a handle on the record – but you start to realise that you don't need to. This is an awkward, brilliant record that has to be accepted on its own terms or not at all.

This is a 21st century record through and through, one whose sonics sit comfortably next to The xx and Kode 9

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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