Girl Can’t Decide (Moto Blanco Club Mix)
26th August 2016
The album Beat is available at:
IT is back to an artist who I last reviewed a little time ago…
when her album, Figments of Our Imagination was released. When reviewing that album, I was struck by the talent and range that appeared throughout the record. It was not just Bird’s voice that struck by the quality and memorability of the songs. Before coming to her music – and looking at how she has progressed – it is worth looking at artists who have faith in their material (producers and D.J.s remixing the songs and bringing new life to them) and the finest acts coming out of London right now – the musicians that are continuing to play and enduring against a tide of failing acts. Bird is a musician who, like my review subjects yesterday, has a bit of mystery about her. She has been recording for years now but, apart from yesterday, little is known on social media. There are not many biographical details – list of influences and background – but she keeps in touch with fans and is keen to provide updates and insights. I argued yesterday, when looking at Italian band Black Flowers Café how vital it is to have details on your social media pages – making it accessible and way for reviewers and new fans. There are a lot of musicians that keep too hidden and are willing to just let the music do all the speaking. It is a debate that will rage but people will fall on one side of the fence: too much information leaves little for the music to say; not enough makes it challenging for a listener and the artist comes off a bit aloof. I am more towards the latter and would be great to see more musicians put more details into their social media and websites. When it comes to Bird, she does keep her pages up-to-date, but I will like to know her backstory – where she arrived from and what inspired her to make music; the artists that mean the most to her. She is someone keen to connect with her fan-base and new music is in the ether – a bit more about the woman behind Bird would be great for new fans.
I was compelled to review a track from Bird’s new album because it shows how strong her material is – a remix album that works the tracks from her 2015 album, Figments of Our Imagination. That album is a 10-track work filled with sweeping and dramatic compositions full of details and wonderful moments; a voice that seduces and hooks the listener; lyrics that come from the heart but have plenty of personality and lovely little stories. It is great finding a musician that wants to take their material to the next stage and bring talent in to rework the songs. I feel there are a lot of bands that gets too saturated and fatigued by touring – when releasing new material – they are keen to move onto the next project and forget about the songs. After an album is released, the number of times you have to perform and hear those songs is high. Many will get to a point where they want to walk away from that material and focus on something new. Musicians that create a wonderful album and decide to remix tracks clearly have a lot of love for the material – the fans obviously want to hear them too. Bird, within Figments of Our Imagination, crafted an album that resonated with people and caused a lot of love-filled outpouring. She has joined with a range of top-producing talents to get the songs reinvented and reworked. Not only do the songs sound new and fresh: Bird crosses into new genres and shows she has authority when playing in the Dance/Electronica milieu. Beat is a record that is full of life and vigour; it has that endless energy and will speak to a host of new fans and clubs. Bird has been busy promoting Figments of Our Imagination since November last year and will be busy with Beat. There are few musicians that have the talent to endure across two albums (with the same songs) and have that determination.
London is the hub of British music and is becoming busier and more exciting as the years progress. I know cities like L.A. and New York will always be firm in the mind. There are some wonderful artists coming from those cities, but when it comes to British music, London is the natural centre for exceptional sounds and the best young artists. Bird hails from south London which is a part of the capital that is producing some exceptional musicians. Unlike other parts of the capital, which have their own styles and type of musicians, the south tends to favour those with more grit and imagination. It may be stereotyping, but you sense the north and south of the capital plays on the harder/edgier side whilst the west and east are a little more arty and angular. It may be a bit black-and-white but there is a definite difference when you walk through various boroughs of London. Kate Tempest (from Brockley) is putting south London on the map and showing what a fine and consistent writer she is. Her upcoming album Let Them Eat Chaos follows from Everybody Down and is another set of imagination-filled stories and fiery deliveries. Her Hip-Hop –cum-Rap style brings life to tales of inner-city concerns and people struggling with everyday woes and challenges. Let Them Eat Chaos looks at a group of strangers in a neighbourhood/residency who are assessed during a single night in London – they all come together at the end as a storm brews overhead. Bird, whilst playing different styles and genres, has that same gift for songwriting and consistency. Like Roisin Murphy in the north of London: Bird is a brilliant young artist who has a knack for filling her music with so many ideas and colours; the vocal always entrancing and passionate; the songwriting consistently impressive and detailed. It may be a generalisation to say there is a split but there some truth to it. However you dissect London; you cannot deny the amount of future stars it is producing right now. There is no other city or part of the U.K. that is as varied and startling as London. Bird seems firmly at home here and vibing from the people and sounds of London. It is a great place to make music and, with regards Beat and the inspiration behind it, find collaborators and producers.
Before looking at her music – something I will touch on soon – it is wonderful seeing a musician that continues to endure and invent. There are a lot of musicians that find it hard to remain and survive in such a tough industry. Bird made her first album over a decade ago and, apart from looking slightly different, seems like that same hungry artist she was back then. It is wonderful looking at that album cover and that sense of innocence, hope and potential. If her sounds and image have evolved and progressed: the consistency and talent she displayed back then is intact today and she continues to look ahead and plan her next moves. Bird has gained a loyal and huge foundation of supporters who are showing her love and giving her the push and loyalty she deserves. Riding high after the success and fond reviews for Figments of Our Imagination – it seems like she has many more years ahead. There are few musicians that can last over a decade, let alone do so in such an emphatic and impressive fashion. You can speculate as to why Bird has been so successful and managed to remain in music but the fact is this: her passion and talent have seen her through and continues to burn bright. Some artists get lucky and can forge a long career with very little originality and talent. Others will be strong and wonderful but are either overlooked or struggle to gain opportunities and chances to perform. Bird might not have lasted for over a decade, were she not based in London. It is a challenging and packed city, yet when it comes to finding platforms and supporters, there is no other part of the country that is so equipped to accommodate a musician. Having established herself and carved out a home in London: it is likely Bird will continue to press and create more albums; tour hard and get her music as far and wide as she possibly can. Beat is a smart move for a number of reasons. Not only does it bring new dimensions to her songs (from Figments of Our Imagination) but pushes Bird into new parts of music and gives her plenty to think about. It might be conceivable a future album sounds like Beat and is a harder and edgier affair. Maybe Bird will revert back to her earlier material and something more contemplative and softer? Whatever she decides, it is likely to be another assured and authoritative album from one of music’s complete packages.
Just before reviewing one of Beat’s songs, I wanted to look back at Figments of Our Imagination and how it followed from her earliest cuts. It is safe to say Bird has changed and developed since her very first recordings. No longer fledgling and inexperienced: she is one of the most confident and solid musicians in the country at the moment. She released her first album over a decade ago and, although not widely available, is surely not the same sort of record you get with Figments of Our Imagination. Looking at the cover to that album (it is available on her Instagram feed) and you see a deep-in-thought and bright young woman who seems to be full of curiosity but perhaps a few nerves and uncertainties. Fast-forward nearly a decade and Figments of Our Imagination found Bird develop and grow into a bright and fiery woman with no such nerves. She is at her most assured and confident and that seeps through in every note. Figments’ and its songs pack so much energy and drama in. The compositions put in electronic elements but never in an unsophisticated and vague way. She manages to eek so many different ideas and possibilities; always keeping the songs fresh and unexpected. Beat is not a radically different album and that is a good thing. Some producers and D.J.s would have taken the songs and transformed them in their vision and ideals. Bird has had a huge input and ensured the remixes keep the heart and flavour of the original but do not stray too far from her concept. What you get with the new album is the chance for awesome talent to come together and put their stamp on some tremendous songs. If you listen to Figments of Our Imagination and a lot of the work was already done. Urgent and fast-moving throughout: it is not as though the collaborators on Beat had to struggle and sweat to bring life to the music. Bird ensured that album was already rampant and overwhelmed by quality and possibility. It not a shock she decided to remix the songs as, what we see with Beat, is an album that is gaining new audiences and reaching wider afield. A series of singles has already been released from the album. Thrill Me (DEVolution Remix) was unveiled in June and followed by Drink Drink Drink in July (Seamus Haji remixing that one). Full Intention’s remix of Love Love Love came out last month and Moto Blanco’s reinterpretation of Girl Can’t Decide came out the end of last month. Think So will be the next single released from Beat and comes out on 30th September. That brings Wideboys into the fray and will be exciting to see yet another helmer come in and adds their talent into the boiling pot. I am not sure whether Bird is going to keep releasing singles or will be thinking ahead to a new album – she has that rhythm and energy in her blood and seems to be on top form. Beat has already been picked up by a lot of stations and reviewers: new listeners are discovering a rare talent and hearing some amazing songs to boot.
After the success of the top 10-charting club hit of Hypnotise (remixed by Bimbo Jones) there was a lot of appreciation and love for Beat. I decided to look at previous single Girl Can’t Decide as it not only reworks my favourite song from Figments of Our Imagination but channels the talents of Moto Blanco. The duo is based out of south London and consist Danny Harrison and Arthur Smith. They have been dabbling and experimenting with music since they were in school and worked under different alias since – creating the Moto Blanco name in 2003 and moving into mainstream music. They are a consistent duo who has worked with a lot of artists. From Fergie and Christina Aguilera; Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige: some of the finest American talent from the last few decades. They are nimble and stunning force who has that reputation and cache. They are able to transform songs by some of music’s titans and make them (the tracks) sound sharper and brighter. Girl Can’t Decide begins with compacted and tight beats that get the listeners compelled and moving. Aimed for the clubs and late-night revelers: you can hear depth and insight from the very first moments. It is not just a dead-eyed and lackluster throng of beats and electronics. Being such an assured and prolific duo: Moto Blanco give nuance to Girl Can’t Decide and make sure its first seconds is not too heavy-handed and direct. Rhythmic, pulsating and sexualised: you are under its spell but not sure what is going to follow. The percussion starts to expand and becomes less stuffy and dark than previous. Hissing, teasing high notes come in and takes the song in new directions. Not only are your feet moving (after hearing the initial percussion parable) but the hands start to move and you will nod your head in time to the beats. Before long, electronic rushes join and the track kicks up another gear. Before Bird’s voice arrives, the duo have laid down a marker and ensured Girl Can’t Decide gets people engaged and fascinated. Unlike the original – which has a lighter and more romantic edge to it on Figments of Our Imagination – here there is darkness and twilight moodiness to it. The song’s title is repeated and echoed against a wash of hissing electronics and teasing beats. In way, I am reminded of the classic club day of the ‘90s and early-‘00s and the quality coming out of that time.
As the vocal – that simple line of the title being sung – is chopped, layered and fragmented; the compositions remains fairly simple and level. It is great seeing that contrast of vocal and composition. Bird sounds confused, aghast and lost in a whirl – differing from the original vocal of Girl Can’t Decide. Giving the song an eerier, heavy and delirious nature: it decomposes the song and examines its themes and basis; building it back up with steelier foundations and new ideas. In terms of composition, the electronics and beats combine to create a catchy and bouncing coda. A repetitive and get-up-and-move swagger that recalls some of Moto Blanco’s earlier work; you are engaged and brought directly into the song. Our heroine had to go a long way (to get her man) and born out of a complex situation. These lines and thoughts are kept straight and pure – not chopped and mix too far down – and ensure story is revealed and we get some more insight from the author. Before that, some agile and spirited piano come in and provide youthful bursts and little shades of Black Box’s Ride On Time – perhaps an obvious comparison but you hear little touches of that song. Bird looks at a love that is confusing and hard – hence the title one assumes – and is wrestling with decisions. The girl is in love and she can’t decide. That is the central theme and the way Moto Blanco present the world and splice them with the composition brings fresh revelation and insight into those lyrics. Compared with the original album version and those words have new potential and meaning. Bird’s voice remains light and not too suffocated but her thoughts seem more tense and nervy than before – thanks in no small part because of the continuing endeavor and motivation of the composition. Not only is the vocal mixed perfectly into the song – not too low so it is cannot be heard or too high and dominant – that parabond of vocal/composition is a perfect chemistry and will please existing Bird fans and surely unify club-goers and aficionados of Electronic and Dance music. Even if I did not know about Bird I would approach the song and find much to enjoy. The remixed Girl Can’t Decide has been picked up by a good many D.J.s and it has received praise across social media. Tying together the best of the ‘90s and ‘00s with modern-day Electronic sounds: a superb accomplishment from the legendary duo. Bird’s voice is queen and she recalls how she negotiated a hot heat and oppressive climate. She has got this love and affection but need to “get some sleep”. You imagine her pounding the streets or desert and looking for a thirst-quenching affection – something she has longed for a good many years.
PHOTO CREDIT: Johnny Daukes
Into the second phase and the music changes direction and expands its wings. The opening phases were quite tight and racing whilst now there is more variation and openness. Perhaps suiting the lyrical progression – Bird does not know what to do and is in a sea of confusion – the producers match the sentiments and change in the story. If they were to go hard and put too many punishing beats into the fray; it would cheapen the lyrics and give the song too much hardness and violence. They splice electronic calm in and chop the vocals to add to the emotional confusion and turmoil. It is as though Bird is stuttering and chasing her tail; she is questioning her mind and battling her own thoughts. Moto Blanco keep everything disciplined and structured but keep the composition nimble and ever-changing. While the heroine is unsure of the love and maybe has worked too hard to gain it: you wonder whether she will find happiness and who the hero is. Fascinated by her plight and the intoxication of the relationship she finds herself in: few listeners will be able to hear the song and not take anything away from it. The final embers of the song repeat the chorus/song title and make sure those words are firm in the mind – such a catchy and hooky sound that is sure to get clubs jumping and patrons singing. One of the biggest differences between the Figments of Our Imagination and Beat versions of the song is how accessible and flowing the latter is. Where Figments of Our Imagination had that experimentation and emotional candour to it: Beat has club daze (sic.) sunshine and lightness – taking the song into new audiences and directions. Both cuts are fine work but it is impressive seeing Moto Blanco bring new ideas and possibilities into the song. Into the last few moments, the introduction sound is repeated but with lighter shades. The beats persist and run but there is less weight and hardness than before – maybe signifying less anxiety and struggle in the heroine’s mind.
Beat is a smart move and one not many other artists would take. There is a risk inherent in remixing an album and putting it out there. If the original material is not that strong or variable: remixing songs seems like a pointless exercise and a bit of time wasted. Similarly, if the songs are very niche and do not have that flexibility: reworking them might make them worse, or at the very least, not progress them. Beat is an album that sounds fresh and original – if you had not heard of Bird you would think these songs are new. Figments of Our Imagination resounded with many because its songs have reality and personality but that ability to be reinterpreted and remoulded. There are not many musicians that can produce an album and then decide to take it forward and remix it. What Beat does is to keep the purity and intentions of the originals there but elevate them and provide the music a more club-ready vibe. It is not just dancefloors that come to mind when listening to Beat. The music has the ability to score beach parties or accompany someone making a night-time drive. Like Figments of Our Imagination and its vibrancy: there is so much colour and vivaciousness to be found throughout Beat. It is an album I decided not to review – mainly because I tend not to review albums – because it is so detailed and provokes so many different reactions and emotions. One imagines there will be touring demands and plenty of people who want to see Beat’s songs in the flesh and see those tunes given a new lease and sound. I do not know what Bird’s calendar looks like: she is sure to be pretty busy as the year ticks to its close. I urge people to delve into Beat as the album contains so many wonderful moments and it is a solid effort in its own right. I opened by looking at artists who have faith in their music and that is very clear with regards Bird. She knows how effective and loved Figments of Our Imagination was and how many wonderful reviews it garnered. Spurred by that momentum and appreciation: Beat is a decision not many artists would have taken. Normally, when an album does get praise, a musician would take it on the road and bleed the songs dry. It is the way music is and can cause some jadedness and fatigue. It is something that happens and just the way music can work. If you are a popular artist and have that kind of demand then people want to see you live. Bird has that demand and love but rather than tour Figments of Our Imagination for many months and do all she can with the songs in the live setting: she decided to bring in a cavalcade of hot talent and reimagine the track – thus giving them fresh revelation and potential.
Before closing, it is going to be interesting seeing what Bird does next and what moves she makes. I know she is busy promoting Beat and excited by the reactions it has gained. Out for four weeks now and the music is still very fresh in people’s minds. She must be buoyed and warmed by all the appreciation and interest in her work and that is likely to lead to more albums in the future. This year is almost through so one feels, if there is another E.P. or album, it is likely to arrive in 2017. In the past decade, the young hopeful girl that appeared on that first cover has now blossomed into a strong and defiant talent who has no intentions in slowing down and changing. She has tones of life and verve and will be wonderful seeing where that takes her. I mentioned Roisin Murphy earlier, and that is a musician I see a lot of in Bird. Murphy, from her early days in Moloko, has really changed her sound and is producing her finest work to date. Her current album, Take Her Up to Monto, brimmed with ideas, variation and quality. Perhaps less bold and big as previous work: it was a logical move and exceptional album from one of music’s true originals. Bird – Murphy is based in north London – is a south London girl who has that same degree of talent and potential. I would not be shocked seeing her enjoy a Murphy-esque trajectory and becoming a mainstream star of the future. All the foundations have been laid and you feel her time is now. If you have not clasped Beat to the bosom then I suggest you do. Even if you are new to Bird, you will not need to dig back into her catalogue to understand where she comes from and what she is about. It is advisable listening to Figments of Our Imagination and comparing the two – Beat keeps the songs pure but stretches them and gives them added punch and colour. Bird is a musician that has very few equals (in terms of her sound) and I know how much she wants to remain and inspire new generations. It is not going to be easy – there are challenges and competition – but that will not be an issue at all. She has such a desire and love of music which will more than see Bird succeed and ensure for a long time to come. Her latest album proves what a special force she is, so let us all hope that the…
BEAT goes on.