The Mouse Outfit
Sit Back (Feat. Truthos Mufasa & Black Josh)
Sit Back is available at:
19th May, 2013
Hip-Hop; Funk; Reggae
HAVING had a good run of musicians coming to my attention it is…
great to see another come to the block. Today I am reminded of a few different issues: among them is the variation and cross-pollination of sound; the bands and acts of the north in addition to Hip-Hop/Funk stylings. To start with, I am amazed by some of the music coming through this year. A lot of artists have taken the time to think about what goes into the music and its creation. That said, there are too many acts and bands that are not being bold and varied. I raise this issue, because a lot of bands and solo acts are simply producing simple and unimaginative tunes. It is okay so long as those ‘simple’ songs are memorable and original. The trouble is, not only are a lot of the songs unspectacular; what you find is they get stuck in a rut and never really push their imaginations. When you limit and confine yourself you risk running out of inspiration and steam. If you produce something narrow and limited then the fans will get bored and the music is a lot more forced. Those with elasticity and freedom (to their sounds) are those with the greatest chance of success- and feel a lot more natural and relaxed. I mentioned this as my featured act is among the best genre-splicing and creative I have heard. I shall get to them but wanted to raise a sort-of ‘mini point’. When it comes to experimenting with sounds and genres it can be a risky game. What with the range of genres and sounds out there, you have to make sure what you are doing sounds true and meaningful. If you just toss sounds and ideas together it comes off as unprofessional and insincere. If it all hooks together- and you hit the nail on the head- the resultant music can amaze and inspire others. Before I raise a couple of new points, let’s have a look at today’s act:
Chini – Production/Keys/Recording Defty – Bass/Videos Pitch – Production/MPC/Percussion Dr Syntax – Vocals Sparkz – Vocals Truthos Mufasa – vocals Joe Luckin/Adisa Allen – Drums Phil Ratcliffe – Guitar Sam Lewis – Sax Jack Tinker – Trumpet We also have occasional guest vocals from various MCs including Verb T, Black Josh, Dubbul O, Jman
The Mouse Outfit was founded in 2008 by Paul Hooley (Chini) + James Defty after they met at an audition in Manchester. They formed a band and began producing music with a number of local musicians + vocalists. Defty started a jam night, in order to meet local talent, called ‘In the Loop’ (where rappers would freestyle to live breaks from The Mouse Outfit band) Here, they began crafting a live show with hip hop and funk breaks combined with original grooves. The band started gigging locally and around the UK with various changes in line-up. Chini was a teacher at a music college in Manchester and noticed a talented student drummer Adisa Allen (Deese) who joined the band in 2010. After uploading a track to BBC Introducing they were asked to perform a session at BBC Maida Vale studios for the Mark Lamarr show on BBC Radio 6. Another of Chini’s students, Ian Garland (Pitch) joined in 2011 as a beatmaker. Pitch had been working with Dr Syntax and he soon started working with the band as well. ‘In The Loop’ regular Sparkz was asked to feature on a track and after recording several singles he also became a regular member of the live show. In 2012, Defty + Chini also began producing music videos after working with a local filmmaker Tom Doran. Defty took a greater interest in video and began filming + editing a stream of music videos. Chini continued producing music with local rappers + musicians and recording them in his studio over his own beats and beats from Pitch + the result was ‘Escape Music’ their debut album released in May 2013. The Mouse Outfit has remained independent and Defty and Chini continue to manage all aspects of the band including tours, merchandise, social media and promotion.
I was introduced to The Mouse Outfit by a music contact and peep- with a great standing and reputation- and baffled how they escaped my attentions for so long. One of social media’s most ironic and jaded aspects is how great acts escape the radar. Although The Mouse Outfit have a lot of fans and followers; it seems few people are sharing posts and spreading the word to others- thus ensuring newbies like me stumble on them by accident, sort of. What the Manchester band offer is a myriad mixture of sounds. From sweet-leaf bliss and peace to fuc***-up guerilla attack- across to mind-melting raps and riffs- you have a band that are getting rightful acclaim. It brings me onto the subject of Manchester and the north. I have mentioned how productive and fervent London is; it seems Manchester is not exactly slouching. The northern city has always produced some of music’s very best- from The Stone Roses to The Smiths- but over recent years it is London that has been stealing some focus. Whilst the capital is under the critical radar; Manchester gets a bit of a dim light when it comes to attention. That is a shame, as The Mouse Outfit have a sound and talent that should not be overlooked. Manchester is putting forth some of the U.K.’s best new bands and acts. Due to the community music scene and the comradery the artists have; we are seeing a lot of relaxed and stunning music come through. Less anxious and limited than most; the music of the north is among the most startling coming out. Too many new bands and acts are getting hooked up with traditional genres and music configurations- guitar-bass-drums etc.- and not embracing something more interesting and unexpected. The Mouse Outfit blend Hip-Hop hardness into Reggae mellowness; unite Rap’s street-wise and urgent messages with something electrifying and universal. It is hard to really nail-down the sound (The Mouse Outfit) produce. Safe to say you will find few other acts like them on the scene. Having garnered a huge following across social media; the band are preparing new moves and a busy 2016. One of the most inventive and exciting prospects in U.K. music; so many new faces and fans are flocking their way.
When it comes to looking at The Mouse Outfit in depth, it is pertinent to look at their back a catalogue- see what evolution has occurred and how they have developed. Their E.P. Check Your Pulse was released in 2012 and was a blistering start to their music career. Featuring Dr. Syntax; Get Ready starts with some heavy and military drums. Mutating into horn blasts and screeched vocal- an ecstatic female voice- and you get an urgent and arresting start. Something “busy brewing up” are some of the first words and you sense something quite dangerous and epic. The fast-flowing rhythms are punctuated with horn blasts and rolling drums. With M.C. Presto featuring on Who to Trust and you get another side to the E.P. More laid-back and Hip-Hop based than other tracks; here is a song that features slick production values and a terrific central vocal. Backed by tease and a sexy back-beat and you get a song that has a distinct kick and charm to it.
Shak Out was released shortly after (their debut E.P.) and featured Sparkz on vocals. A low-down and elastic bass sound heralds a hard-hitting and determined Rap. A street-savvy and attacking assault our hero has more energy than the Duracell bunny. The raps are fast and high-energy. Never stopping for breath or relenting, the song is a frantic and gun-fire attack that changes contour and sound as the song develops. From the energetic beginnings, the song goes into Reggae territory with a more relaxed and seductive vibe. Picking back up and continue its plight, the song has a great mobility and sense of the unexpected.
In 2013, the band united Sparkz and Dubbul O in one of the best songs to date. A rolling and romantic piano line leads to a fresh and slick vocal that pays testament to vibing beats and exhilarating sounds. Slicker Than Average is a song that sees “poisonous fumes” invade our heroes’ space and mindset. Looking at some of the harsher aspects of life (and music) it is another song that alters dimensions and dynamic as it progresses. Variating between free-flowing and hypnotic Rap; the track goes settles down into a more sedate and chilled groove.
This year The Mouse Outfit conspired with Bam (The Jungle Brothers) and produced What’d I Do? A funky and feet-moving beat puts me in mind of classic Soul- James Brown and his peers- and unites with a commanding central vocal. Profanity and home truths are laid down as the central vocal sees the hero swagger with braggadocio. Doing “something right” that passion and energy bursts through the speakers. Complete with attitude and intention, we see a rap that shouts its own name. Boasting his credentials and musical flair; that confident lyric is juxtaposed with a smooth and memorable chorus declaration. With Bam providing some restraint and contrast, it is a short track that stays in the mind.
Over the course of the years, The Mouse Outfit have changed their sounds to fit their ambitions and mood. Ensuring the core sound remains true- keeping that cross-pollinating vibe strong- they address changing themes and new concerns. By collaborating with so many artists you get new insights and voices coming to the parapet. This allows the act to create restless and diverse music that is resonating with the listening public. The musicianship and compositions are always daring and stunning to witness. Whether fusing with Hip-Hop maestros and young rappers, The Mouse Outfit ensures their lead is giving a stunning backing. The songwriting has grown in confidence and stature since their earlies days. I find with each passing year the band widens their horizons and become more daring and brave. It is the songwriting confidence and collaborative spirit that ensures that quality control is on the highest order. I know The Mouse Outfit have released a double-vinyl release (that drew together a lot of their singles) but it would be great to hear a new L.P. next year. They have plenty of ammunition and arsenal in their locker; seeing that spread across and album would give new listeners an insight into their mindset and future ambitions.
If you look at their SoundCloud account (https://soundcloud.com/themouseoutfit) it is stunning to see how many songs The Mouse Outfit have produced. One of the most prolific and dependable acts in the U.K., there seems to be no end to their ideas and intentions. Sit Back featured on Escape Music– the compilation they released in 2013- and is one of the finest tracks they have produced. A perfect introduction for new listeners, the earliest notes really stand you to attention. With Truthos Mufasa and Black Josh providing their support, you get some sedate and soul-soothing piano notes in the first instance. Welcoming you in and teasing the senses; that captivating parable sound sees the beat notch up and the vocal come in. Early words advise (whether the listener or a particular figure) “smoke dope” and go “watch cartoons”. That idea of sitting back and chilling is prescient; that need to “slide into your heaven”. You can picture the scenes and images as those words are elicited. We will all have an idea of the type of person being ascribed. Whether we are looking at Truth Mufasa or someone outside the circle, the commitment and urgency in the vocal cannot be overlooked. You begin to smile as that arresting and captivating voice rides the beat wave and marries with that piano underpinning. Uniting some Reggae-tinged vocal/vibe with a building beat and it is an opening salvo that will draw in every ear and mind. Just as you think the song will continue along these lines, the Hip-Hop readiness and testament of Black Josh hoves into view. Seamless linking together, the song changes its course and accelerates its heart. We have “one for the mind/two for the money” (whether documenting dope or some other contraband) and there begins a riffling and rolling rap that catches you by surprise. Making sure you can get your head around the words and idea- well, you may struggle. Such is the fever and intention laid forth, you have to go with the flow and let the rap take you over. Our hero has a spiked imagination and is an “extra-terrestrial” creating something daring and huge. A resident of “M14”; there are dizzying scenes and declarations put to tape. Filled with doubts and anger, there are so many ideas thrown into the melting point. From profanity to religion; along to ambitions and the realities of the street, you are drunken by the hypnotic rhythms being put out. Exhilarating and tornado-speed, it is a parable you go back to and unpick. Our hero is filled with doubts and anger for sure. He is separating himself from the crowd and trying to make his way, yet there are fears and stresses plaguing his thoughts. As the walls start to close and that sense of suffocation reigns, it is the chorus that comes to the rescue. That drop-smoking and relax-your-mind melting seems like sage advice given the circumstances. Perhaps not the most medically-advisable solution to the issues at hand; it at least offers restraint and comfort for Black Josh. The anxiety and passion with which he spits makes the song a sizzling and ballistic assault to the brain. If the song continued along these lines- and simply extended the rap onwards- it would be tiring and rather overwhelming. Breaking up the missives with something reflective and chilled and you get a song of contrasts and seamlessness. It is never unnatural or strange- hearing those disparate sounds and elements come together- and you get a delicious fusion of Reggae and Hip-Hop. Stating “you won’t know life ‘til you try to escape”, the blissed-out chorus gets a gradual kick-up through the gears. Not returning to that rapid-fire scat of before; it is an ascent that sees a definite fear. Looking at pissed and drunken visions- even tales of mermaid-kissing are in there- you feel like you are caught between a dope-fueled hallucination and a gritty insight into modern-day Britain. There are a lot of street-level concerns and concrete ideologies; ravaged and wracked souls having to retreat from life. Maybe assessing the population as a whole- people that are wasting their lives or self-destructing- or concentrating on a particular person; you get a real sense of reality and realisation. It feels as though our man has seen too much and been through a lot. As the song progresses, you get a drive-by view of fat-fried chicken and late-night drunkenness. Each new verse offers fresh angst and anger. Each presentation is salvaged by that reflective and caution-laden chorus. As it is told- “it goes on and on…”- these realities continue unabated. Ambulance sirens and pub debacles mix with stunned realisations and personal confessions.
Sit Back is a song that needs repeated listens to take everything in. Such is the breadth and quality of the tune, you instinctively come back to reexamine and investigate. That stand-out chorus becomes more relevant and impressive with each new view. Those heady and head-spinning raps showcase some exceptional talents and lyrical genius. Something that is not just reserved for lovers of Hip-Hop and Rap, you get a track that can be appreciated by all. There is a definite funk that mingles with the edgy and straight-talking flows. Each element works wonderfully together and nothing seems forced or out-of-place. The production values are exceptional and do not give unsure focus to any aspect of the song. The composition propels the vocal and gives it a wonderful backing. Provoking such a sense of adventure and atmosphere; the beats are hot and the piano notes teasing and tender. It is the songwriting and vocals that impressed me most. Whether you absorb every word and sentiment- you would need to have listen a few times to pen them all down- it does not matter as it is that flow and energy that captivates the most. The twin talents of Truthos Mufasa and Black Josh work wonderfully together. It is almost like a father-son relationship with regards the chorus and verse. Whilst the verses are heavy and angry; filled with anxieties and concerns, it is that chorus that brings it down to Earth. Perhaps not the wisest fatherly advice you could hear- smoke some weed and chill- it at least advises relaxation and chance to breathe. As a newly-bred convert to The Mouse Outfit, I have checked their songs out and that which best assesses their sound and appeal. Sit Back is a song that is perfect for any season, reason and mood. It compels the listener to pen their own tunes and write lyrics down (or maybe just me as a songwriter) but at the very least it gets inside the mind and compels something quite wonderful. If you have not discovered a stand-out song from one of the U.K.’s most urgent and stunning acts, then make this the natural starting-point.
It is an exciting time for new music, in no small part due to acts like The Mouse Outfit. I have been looking around for artists that are different and unique. You get a lot of great act coming through, yet few differ from the pack. I love Rock and Indie bands but find there are too many sound-alikes and a real lack of difference. It has forced me to expand my horizons and looks at other genres. Sit Back is a track that has been out for a while, yet shows the Manchester clan at their strongest and most arresting. At the moment, the guys are performing across the country and conduction interviews/promotion etc. Having just played Camden’s Jazz Café, they are on a real high. The following year should see them producing new music and conquering new territory. I am not sure how much of the world they have seen- when it comes to performing outside the U.K. – because they have a sound and passion that could translate well abroad. I know finance is an issue that plagues every musician; The Mouse Project could well be future stars across the U.S. and farther afield. It is vital we embrace and support the best new music out there. When it comes to this Manchester outfit, the signs are all promising and exciting. They have been performing for years and produced a string of dazzling and unforgettable moments- you feel their finest times are still ahead of them. Before I finish up, I wanted to circle back to my original thesis: with regards Manchester, Hip-Hop/Reggae and new music at the moment. Inventiveness and originality is something that is much-needed and lacking. Aside from the originals and ambitious acts there are far too many that do not stick in the imagination. Those that dip deeper and are braver get the biggest acclaim and remain in the mind. The genres of Hip-Hop, Rap and Reggae are still genres that tend to be niche and under-appreciated. Go into any music store and you have a proliferation of Rock and Pop- few aisle inches are dedicated to other styles of music. Mainstream radio still strays away from going beyond safe and comforting borders. With the likes of B.B.C. Radio 6 and others embracing the best of the underground, it is high-time other stations and outlets follow suit. Music should be celebrated and promoted to the masses if it possesses quality and potential. Too many stations are obsessed with what is mainstream and marketable: Music that rules the charts is not indicative of wider tastes and needs. If you listen to The Mouse Outfit; they are an act that do not push people away and want to stay in a corner. Embracing and pioneering, their music brings people into their dazzling and scintillating world. The fast-flowing Raps fuse with jagged and pummeling beats. The sun-drenched Reggae vibes unite with some Hip-Hop attitude to create music that defies expectations and easy labelling. I know a lot of Ska and Reggae outfits that mix in elements of Hip-Hop and Rap yet none with the degree of success and wonderment of The Mouse Outfit. Manchester is showcasing some wonderful musicians at the moment; it is an exciting time to be there and it will be wonderful to see what 2016 produces. I cannot wait to see what the next year comes up with. It is likely The Mouse Outfit will be creating a lot more buzz and excitement as we head into 2016. I am not sure whether a new E.P. or album is imminent; I suspect they will be performing around the country and dropping a few tunes along the way. It is only left for me to direct you their way and get involved in their multifarious and genre-splicing gems. If you are a hardcore fan of the genres they play- Hip-Hop, Rap, Reggae etc.- then you will find authenticity and a lot of relatable sounds. If you are not overly-familiar with the genres- or find the current crop rather off-putting and underwhelming- then you should not let The Mouse Outfit pass you by. What the band provides is something wholly unique and brand-new. They expertly cross-pollinate and tie-in genres to create something truly memorable. For new music to inspire and motivate, we need to embrace artists that do things different and have their own voice. Musicians with passion, energy and innovation are those that are going to survive and make it to the mainstream. The Mouse Outfit are one of our finest acts and more people should latch their ears in their direction. Too often one misses out on some truly wonderful music due to the worst traits of social media- sometimes great acts are not promoted and shared as often as they should. Make sure you investigate The Mouse Outfit’s music and discover something fresh and alive. Not just an underground act reserved for niche clubs and avenues they are a band that can…
TAKE the scene by storm.
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