It’s February, so we’re suitably distanced from it now, but do you mind if we declare that we FUCKING HATE Christmas songs. Even more so when we discover them several weeks after Christmas has actually finished. It’s like bumping into that one-night stand you pulled a few days after the shambolic, drunk fumble you embarrassingly rummaged through a few nights before. Christmas songs regularly ruin Christmas for us. From that Noddy Holder mess, which is dragged onto the floors of Christmas discos like the drunk, saggy-skinned granny that it is, to the more contemporary attempts at cashing in, such as with the teeth-grindingly irritating 2011 track that Hurts’ attempted, embarrassingly titled All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day, which ran through a set of seasonal clichés as if they’d been allocated the unenviable task of stock-checking every dust-covered, re-hashed Yuletide idea that had ever existed. Christmas songs will only ever feel as if the artists are making a commercial move and not an artistic one. Or are they?
FTSE is a relatively new and mostly mysterious artist. We got in touch with him a few weeks ago, following the discovery of an actually palatable Christmas single, titled Murry Krismas. The two tracks they delivered, randomly named Genelmen and Rood Dolph Lungren, are both surprisingly excellent. Handed out for free on FTSE’s Soundcloud during the holiday period, they bypass the commercial accusations, but most thankfully the cliches were removed, instead replaced by his skilful minimal productions that are his trademark, bringing something altogether more sparse to this Christmas tradition. You can consider our Scrooge-like mentality towards these periodic pop songs lifted.
Having reached out to him via email, we aimed to try and unravel some of the mystery behind the music. Our all-conquering insight delivered tricky questions, such as “What is your name?“. To which he replied, “FTSE“. We obviously already knew that, but we can’t blame him for the response. We could see our investigative lines of interrogation weren’t getting us very far, except we noticed that the email had come back to us from a new account – one that had the name “Sam Manville” included in it. Sam Manville it is then. Encouraged by this we pushed on further with the question, “Where are you from?” – our talent for analysis really does know no bounds – to which he replied “Not London“. OK then. That narrows it down. We will assume he’s from the Midlands, as apart from our FBI levels of intuition, that’s what it says on every other article we could find about him.
Away from the hustle of our investigative journalism, the other music that he’s released to date is well worth you sparing a little nose-poking time too. FTSE had a four-track EP out last September called Thanks, and it’s a fine piece of work. Dark, wonky and minimal, with beats and samples that are often played singularly. Layers are distinct and placed into the piece with exact precision. It’s a lesson in how to produce music that has a ‘less-is-more’ policy. In this case the layers always fill out to a significant, sometimes towering effect. This warm minimalism is music that’s had all it’s clothing stripped off, only to reveal a perfectly rotund, fat belly underneath.
It’s for fans of Brolin, or Aluna George, or Ghost Loft, or any other contemporary artist who’s genes lead back to the mixture of warped ambient vocals and wide open spaces that were first popularised by James Blake and Burial. It’s available for free on his Bandcamp right now, alongside his new release, Begin, which he calls a mixtape – that’s the new name for album, right? Unsigned, he’s self-releasing at the moment, to “see what happens“, following what is now a well-trodden route to market for today’s Internet-based artist. He even removes the vowels from song titles – a kind of text-spoken cliché that seems popular among this Internet-generation’s lazy attitude to articulation. It’s exactly this brand of Internet artist that the big elevations of the music industry has been slow to understand, as they watch them side-stepping the record labels by building their own audiences using spaces like Bandcamp and Soundcloud.
He admitted to working in the studio “with some dope artists“, who’s music should see the light of day in 2013, although he couldn’t confirm who these people were, or whether they’d worked on his music, or he had worked on theirs. The new album – sorry mixtape! – will encourage his audience further and push up the volume on his current buzz, with more of his clever production skills on offer. He even slips in samples from Fleetwood Mac‘s tune, Tell Me Lies, within about one minute of you hitting the play button, or later on you will hear the well-placed slices of Amy Winehouse‘s Love Is A Losing Game, or Orenda Fink‘s Why Is The Night Sad. It’s minimalism with soul, however his slow-motion fizz and architectural design is what marks his music out for it’s Recommender endorsement. This is a master in the making when it comes to button pushing and machinery, cutting and dicing like an experimental Michelin chef. Delivering palatable modernist music, like the ghost of Christmas future, only an artist this skilled can have us switching our attitudes and actually endorsing Christmas songs, although we will almost certainly be back to our usual angry selves by the time 2013′s festivities arrive. (MB)
FTSE – LIES
FTSE – SHADAHS