Blending post-punk, soul and hip-hop, London based Farai’s debut album is an eclectic mix of poetic lyrics and sonic ideas. Dave Beer reviews it for Louder Than War…
Austere music for austere times. Based around a collaboration between vocalist Farai Bukowski-Bouquet and musician/producer Tone, released on the British Hip-Hop label Big Dada, Farai’s debut album is a journey through crumbling concrete and flickering resistance. Tone’s musical layers are like mini-stages, battered milk-crates, that Farai jumps on to perform her cutting lyrical poetics. Imaginative and direct lines of thought, these vocals slice through the rumbling sounds. Often feeling like an improvised reaction, an instant response to the world, there is a live untainted feel to the vocal. The results can be stark, harsh even, yet the musical shifts and lyrical moves act like sonic page-turners – they leave you wondering what next.
Full of demands and questions, the songs pull themselves into new terrain, bringing only momentary repetition before moving on again. A little more instant than its surroundings, the brilliant Punk Champagne sparkles in the middle of the record. It might be Rebirth’s most accessible moment, still the distorted buzzing riff and the rough edged vocals remain sharp, making Punk Champagne both glossy and dark. “It’s time for the bright young things to rise” Farai repeats. A rejection of something and a distaste for sipping on the punk champagne, perhaps this is a punk revolution with a wariness about what that might lead to.
Sitting in the middle of the record This is England is like an open letter to the political classes. A piece of poetic lyricism over a swirling background of buzzing synth. The music drops further behind the vocal serving as canvass for the lyrics to sketch pictures of a torn country. “Whose to blame?” Farai asks – it’s a rhetorical question. On Lizzy, Farai reflects on the perils of forgetting that ‘opinions are not facts’. Monarchy references sit alongside questions of truth-making and power. Yet flickers of hope are dotted in the gloom, such as the 31 second long interlude Social Butterflies. Apart from the unyielding imagery, one of the great things about Farai’s lyrics are the allusions that leave behind spaces to be filled.
Rebirth is a record of eclectic sounds. Unlimited by genre it roams across styles – from the sharp hip-hop of Punk Champagne, the angry poetry of This is England, the chugging pulse of Love Disease, to the gentle acoustic humming of Talula. This one collection is an exploration in sound, imagery and musical ideas. There is a punk, post-punk, soul, and hip-hop blend that varies in its mix in these stark tracks. It is music with a disregard for limits.
The album closer Radiant Child shifts mode one final time. The live feeling vocal of the earlier tracks is replaced with a more distant and spacey sound as the song and album depart. The starkness of the album melts away as the album closes. Creative and varied, layered and crafty, this is an album of sharp turns. It might be austere, but, like Punk Champagne, it still bubbles and sparkles.