When creating music, it’s well known that a good collaboration can often do wonders for an artist’s output, development and recognition. We recently discussed collaborations on our post about the excellent Polica, who are a re-collaboration from the bones of the previous super-group, Gayngs. Sometimes we are lucky enough to witness a total that’s been forged by skilled hands to add up to more than the sum of it’s parts. This can be two unknown artists, or a producer and musician in the studio, or simply happy accidents, but when we see artists raising their game by joining forces they can sometimes find themselves elevated above their usual independent output. Today’s recommendation seems a good example of this, as we compare this solo artist’s original work and the work on offer when he is found collaborating.
Dermot McGowan is Figure Of 8, a solo producer of throbbing electronic music based in Belfast. You may know him from his excellent remix work for bands like Lamb and The Rapture, most of which can be found on his Soundcloud. He brings a warm synthetic candy touch to all that he works on, with pulsed beats and glowing keys. It has the kind of patient electronic style that we adore, reminiscent of Little Loud (now known as Tourist) – now there would be a collaboration we’d like to see – elevating all they touch to a kind of cinematic class. If you take Figure Of 8′s solo compositions, such as Blind Mice, he offers a purely instrumental piece of electro nu-disco with a slowed walking pace. The neon glow sounds like the soundtrack to a scene from Blade Runner, with a set of 80s raindrop synths and a building of layers that doesn’t so much speed the track up, but make it more and more claustrophobic.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous track, but when it’s compared to the work he designs when he collaborates with other artists we see it fade into a piece of background music. That’s no slight on Blind Mice, rather a show of just how much his game is raised when interacting with others. The latest track to come under our radar, kindly passed to us by the label working with him on some of his releases – the excellent French label, On The Fruit Records – is Bittersweet (featuring Jonny Nutt). When paired up with a singer like this we still find Figure Of 8′s signature leisurely four-beat pace, but the bass drums land with heavy feet and then the vocals kick in. It’s at this point that the tune is taken from his usual instrumental electro playground and stepped up to the big boys pitch, in more of a pop arena. Fellow Irishman Jonny Nutt‘s voice is delivered in a storytelling, almost speaking rather than singing style, in an effortless manner reminiscent of Men At Work‘s Colin Ham. It’s a masterstroke and serves to lift the track to an irresistible new dimension.
The big debut single arrived last month, causing a fairly exciting ripple on Radio One, as well as some useful blogs and magazines worldwide. No One Cries For Me (featuring Sophie Galpin) deserves the hype as it’s a fine production, delivering the smoothest and most complete Figure Of 8 track so far. It’s impossible not to enjoy it and will surely continue to rise with the more ears that it reaches. It has a wonderfully warm drift to it, as McGowan – who also adds the artists Bright Light Bright Light and Our Krypton Son in a collaborative production – layers up the synths, but they punctuate it all with a wonderful bouncing keyboard riff that arpeggiates up and down throughout the song. Once again though the vocals lift it to the stratosphere, with Galpin’s voice laid out all over it like a nacreous cloud. It’s an absolute winner, a hit in the making, being as ultra-divine as it is instantly-accessible. Belfast have themselves a very tidy producer on their hands with this work, but it’s by pairing up with others, particularly with tidy vocalists, that his soundscapes are populated and turned into vibrant spaces. It’s a key lesson in utilising vocalists to lift electronic music from the repetition and monotony that this genre can occasionally suffer from, up to a level that transcends it’s individual protagonists. Indeed, with this excellent example the total sum of these parts are colossal. (MB)
FIGURE OF 8 – NO ONE CRIES FOR ME (Feat. SOPHIE GALPIN)
FIGURE OF 8 feat. JONNY NUTT – BITTERSWEET
FIGURE OF 8 – BLIND MICE