Real is available at:
24th October, 2016
THIS review will contain – disclaimer alert! – a heavy amount of wistfulness, vacillation…
and introspection. Given the arrival of my featured artists – who I shall introduce soon – I am minded to investigate the variety of young artists emerging right now; duos and how compelling they can be and songwriters that address everyday issues and deeper concerns. Before arriving at the bearded boys of MAJIK: I wanted to take a (brief) dip into the warm sea of new artists and their cocktail blends. I have waxed lyrical about certain musicians and have been very satisfied and nourished by the range of musicians that have presented themselves throughout 2016. Last year, as I have long-mentioned, there was a bit of a dip in 2015 – a year that was not as consistent and stunning as it could have been. Maybe it was the mainstream’s problem: musicians here not really creating the sort of records expected; that overall consistency lacking. New musicians always impress but have really stepped up this past year.
Aside from the wonderful bands and duos that have been emerging: solo artists have really come into their own – especially female musicians. I have rhapsodized concerning the divine merits of artists like Billie Marten – dedicating an entire piece to her music and talents – and she is just one (of many) exceptional musicians of 2016. Whilst Marten ensures critics are suitably immersed in her soul-grabbing vocals and wise-beyond-her-years lyrics; there are some fantastic Electronic acts and brilliant Rock bands emerging. I am not sure what is causing the spate of brilliant music but one suspects there is a connection to the state of the music/wider world and problems being faced. There are so many circumspect artists out there: finding terrific ones that have endurance potential is really encouraging. I will touch more on the importance of addressing the wider world but it seems like a fraught and unpredictable year has caused musicians to really up their game. The death of musical stalwarts like David Bowie have really had an effect on many artists – I have asked and there are a lot of musicians creating music in his honour. In terms of music-related deaths, it has been a rather active and unhappy year. In wider terms, the world at large is becoming unpredictable and unsettled. Given the political happenings in the U.S. and violence around the world: music seems like an escape and perfect way to immerse oneself in something comforting and safe. That is not to say all great music has stemmed from a general fear but there seems to be a correlation. Speaking to a lot of new artists coming into music at the moment and they have the same feeling: there is a desire to try and make the world better and change things; provide something beautiful and deep. It is hard to say just how many other incredible acts will showcase before this year is done but it has been a wonderful year. Not only is the quality and passion at an all-time peak: the variations and genre-mixture is scintillating.
This is something I will elaborate on towards the end of the year but I am stunned by how many stars of the future are arriving in 2016. It is unsurprising to find a duo like MAJIK arriving in the fold and fitting directly into my discussion – a duo that has a very clear and definite future – who just walked away from Unsigned Music Awards as Best Electronic Act. I will raise a couple of new points, but before I do, let me introduce them to you:
“MAJIK are a band of two talented twenty-something’s who don’t mix ordinarily. Don’t be fooled by their identikit beards. They lead separate lives and come from very different backgrounds. There’s Jamie: the scientist from Ayrshire, Scotland – the college-trained music wizard of Logic, and the guitar. And then there’s Marcus: the artist from Marlow, England – the sensitive, soul-searching wordsmith turned vocalist.
To date, the magic’s happened in the bedroom – in makeshift studios where they’ve managed to conjure a potion of sounds and soothing vocals that are already intoxicating thousands of fans and have garnered support from the likes of BBC Introducing and Radio X. Real is no exception; a heady mix of lush chords and potent words with the power to heal.
MAJIK: “Real talks of the introspective world we live in, when discovering ones commitment; before we lose ourselves in one another.”
The single release is supported by a debut European tour alongside Eden, including a sold out show at London’s Dingwalls on the 17th November.
Last week, MAJIK were awarded ‘Best Electronic Act’ at The Unsigned Music Awards. The show will be broadcast tonight on Sky Showcase (Channel 212) from 9.30pm (GMT)”.
MAJIK are yet another duo sprouting from the capital and get me thinking about just how many are out there. From my favourites REWS and Gypsyfingers (London) to ISSIMO (Bradford); there are so many awesome duos making music much more interesting and strong. I have speculated what it is about duos that make them more appealing than bands but have yet to formulate a conclusion I am happy with. I feel the two-piece has that undeniable connection and togetherness that is missing from a band or solo artist. I love both musical camps – and am fascinated by the solo acts of this year – but the duos often get overlooked by a lot of people. Whereas the sole musician will be applauded by their one-man/woman fortitude and steeliness: the bands are congratulated and featured in the coolest music websites and magazines around – always a fixture of critical allure and the acts that fill festivals and venues. I am fascinated by duos and the music they play. Not only (is the music) freer and more nimble: the tightness and kinship of the two members are very special and unique. In terms of sounds; I find the duo is as agile and ambitious as any artist you’ll hear. Solo artists are, by and large, limited with regards scope and sound whereas a band tends to be more ‘focused’ and linear – often fitting into mainstream demands and replicating their heroes.
It may a general, all-sweeping statement but there is something in it. Jamie and Marcus certainly prove my point before musically and spirituality. Almost brother-like in their bond and energy: listening to their music and one senses two distinct (but familiar) artists that have that natural affection and understanding. When you properly listen to the music; you get a real sense of affinity and passion – both chaps really putting their all into every word and note. I am not sure when the duo came together but MAJIK seem like a years-old duo that have been touring the world and sharing some wonderful experiences – two men whose excellent and original music is the result of a close friendship and huge respect for one another. I can, and will, spend more time unraveling the merits and complexities of the duos, but the point is this: they are, in my view, the kind of acts we should be watching closely. Often overlooked by much of the music media: MAJIK are a perfect example of a two-piece that has the ability to adapt to the demands of the mainstream and provide something quite wonderful.
Before I get down to reviewing the guys’ music: their approach to songwriting has stirred something rather emotional and vulnerable in me – denuded my soul and created quite a sensation. Jamie’s wizardry and technological prowess and Marcus’ sensitive side: both fuse to create something affirmative and heartbreaking. Real is a song that I will provide my own views on but, in their own words, it looks at the introspective world and the danger of losing oneself – becoming adrift and disconnected; not opening our eyes to what is around the embracing opportunity. It may seem like, on the surface and image-wise, the duo are similar and identical – as they explain, their souls and personalities are quite distinct. It is Jamie’s college training and scientific background that provides the music an intellectual edge and philosophical depth – able to burrow into the deep recesses of the subconscious and ensure the listener thinks more deeply about the world (and themselves). On the other hand; Marcus has that poetic tenderness and curious heart – a wordsmith who resonates in the heart and provokes emotive outpouring and self-searching. Together, they are an irresistible combination of tones, bones and contradictions – a unity and brethren whose music is among the most arresting and nuanced about. I use a word like ‘nuanced’ and it is not something you can apply to many new acts. Those that go for the gut and keep their minds close to the groin will never have any sense of nuance and mystique. In fact, love and relationships – broken and endangered – are commonplace and becoming rather fatigued. Those musicians that step away from relationships and (unselfishly) concentrate on something more important and
MAJIK have been casting a spell for a while now and have a series of songs under their belts. The boys have produced tracks like It’s Alright, Save Me and Closer but have, in my opinion, not crafted something as compelling and full as Real. It is, in a lot of ways, their most daring and immediate track – a song that gets to you straight away but has plenty of charm and intrigue the more you play it. That is quite a hard feat in music and one they do rather well. It makes one wonder whether the boys have an album or E.P. in the pipeline. It seems like there is plenty of energy, inspiration and creative impetus in the ranks – surely enough momentum and reason to put something out to the world. That may come with time – and arrive next year – but Real is a song that really announces them and distinguishes MAJIK. It’s Alright has just been released on YouTube – its video arrived two weeks back – and shows a different side to the duo. More bracing and driving than Real – a soulful and pulsing moment that you clasp to the heart. Despite the song having been out for a while: the fact it has a video release shows there is a lot of demand and faith in the song. It is quite rightly placed as it, perhaps dissimilarly to Real, deals more with the heart and personal relations. In a sense, the combination of composition and themes reminded me of London Grammar – those sparse and twilight electronics (the sort that runs through tracks like Strong and Wasting My Young Years).
Although the vocal is up-front and in charge: the backing provides spirituality, verve and passion; a myriad of emotions, thoughts and ideas. Combining with a silky but lustful vocal performance – a song that is a paen to a girl; a private prayer to the benefits of a deep connection. Maybe I am misreading the song but it has a pure beating heart and a loyalty to it – the hero connecting with the girl and satisfied with his lot. Despite personal interpretations and the complexities of the song: it is a beautiful number that has a contemporary edge but very much the sound of MAJIK. I have mentioned touches of London Grammar – other acts can be heard – but the boys’ rare talent overcomes and makes it very much their own creation. It is fascinating digging into the song and trying to reveal its truths and hidden layers. It is a contrast to Real but shows a definite consistency – an urgency and instant reaction. It’s Alright overflows with sensuality, sweat and sexiness – perfect audio accompaniment and perfectly-placed notes with a smoky and breathy vocal. Whereas It’s Alright accompanies you on a night-time drive and is a perfect soundtrack for a city drive – where the lights are dimming and you are alone with your thoughts – Real makes you sit up and concentrate – a song that appeals to a different side of the listener; a more cerebral number but no less raw and attractive. The fact MAJIK have started their careers so strongly shows there is more life in them and plenty of determination. I would love to see an L.P. from them and a greater exploration of their (multiple) talents and abilities.
It is hard to pinpoint the most impressive facet from Real’s first moments – it is a veritable smorgasbord of synaesthesia and intertwining emotions. You get the sound of a metronome (or a representation of one) and some faint beats; little shivers, shimmer and edges of light – some dark undertones and crackling neon. Perhaps it is the liquid, shivering guitar line that registers hardest, first. I have brought in London Grammar but you hear that line and think of their debut album – the same sturdy and disciplined sound; packed with coolness, potential and candour. The compositional elements perfectly set the stage and get the listener involved and imagining. All the best songs spare little time seducing and flirting: making sure impressions are made right up-top and you jump right into the track. I leaped into Real and cast my mind between a bedroom scene and a young man’s view of the modern world. I have stated how MAJIK are writing songs that look out at the world and assess the state we are – introverted a little reluctant to embrace improvement and the need to affect change. On the other hand, one can hear – in the initial lyrics – some romantic revelations and something close to the heart. The duo have laid down their interpretation of the track but Real is a fascinating song that will have many reaching for different definitions. I get the feeling – when the song was written – there was a split feeling between being committed in a relationship and being faithful to the world. One senses that need to open up and be honest: making sure (you) let your feelings out and not lose your identity; again, I get the idea the boys are casting their gaze to the larger population and seeing too many people getting lost and turn their eyes away from harsh realities and their fellow man. Our hero is willing to let things slide; he is able to sacrifice himself. Running on “instinct for you” one gets the feeling more than a single relationship is in his mind. Maybe having been scarred and let down in the past: a general malaise and commentary about how cloistered and closed some people can be. In my mind, I see an alluring and beautiful girl: someone who is more addicted to technology and electronic feelings; perhaps a little vain and self-centred.
Maybe there is shyness but one imagines she is being reserved for the wrong reasons – not so much coy but uncaring; getting lost in the social media world we live in. With the hero willing to give up himself and overlook certain things: you wonder if there is any way back for the ill-fated lovers. The chemistry and instinct of MAJIK’s conjurers make the song such a beguiling and tender thing. In the back, one discovers some rich and whispered embers; a graceful guitar line and plenty of atmosphere. In the foreground, the sermon-like vocals are knee-buckling and honeyed – one man so close to the microphone and eyes closed; letting his soul and doubts flood out. Listening to the song and it seems like a gamble is being taken. The hero will give up a lot and compromise, if his girl is willing to be open and real. It seems like the love, as genuine and solid as it seems, is missing that necessary spark and hit. If it were pure and unbreakable; one would get that warm and nourished sense – that is not happening here. It is easy to assign blame but the hero seems to have it all figured: too much insularity and coded messages; not enough human conversation and honesty. Trying to assuage that anxiety and anger: the central performance mixes huge soulfulness with something tempered and refined. The song never comes on too heavy and you are not carried away with histrionics and melodrama. Similarly, the vocal is never too slight and casual that it passes you by. The best thing one can say (of) a track like Real is it mixes the sparseness and raw sound of a bedroom-made production with the finery and polish of the studio. MAJIK have built a reputation on D.I.Y. dynamics: here, they put half your mind to the wall (a fly listening to pillow talk and lovers conspiring) and the other in the modernity and luxuries of a high-end recording facility. There are plenty of other compliments one can levy at Real. Pattering, tom-tom beats and flat-packed edges drive the song forward and really help illuminate the lyrics. If there is a gravitas towards the vocals then one cannot ignore the command and relevance of the composition. Whether you are compelled by the bright and heartfelt guitar twinges or the heartbeat vocals – so much story and progression are achieved in the composition.
The guys not only unite and entwine throughout Real but have their distinct merits and roles to play. You get hooked by the lyrics and the bare honesty of a young man who wants something committed and uncomplicated. It seems, delving into the lyrics of Real, that not only do you get some personal insights into a rocky relationship – there are nods to those who keep themselves shrouded; people who shut themselves off from truths and reality. I always like to peel away the façade of songs and look for deeper meaning. Listening to Real unfurl and swim, and one imagines themselves immersed in the tranquil recesses o f a coral bay or secluded island. One detects a distinct hazy breeze and sun-kissed entice: there is a dichotomous emotive drive and organic pain that is hard to overlook. These contradiction and distinct pillars and brought together in a song that continues to search and question into its latter stages.
Real becomes heavier, more emphatic and orchestral as it progresses: the full weight of the situation starting to crystallise. “Why don’t we feel a little bit more? /It’s all that I’m asking for” seems to the central coda – the supplication that is falling on deaf ears. One can picture the two sweethearts pacing a room and exchanging furtive glances: not willing to talk; each with a tense look on their face. It would be interesting to imagine where the song originated – whether a previous relationship for one of the guys or a general composite of failed relationships – but it is a song both personal and ubiquitous. Everyone who has found pure love has experiences the turbulence and silent hurricanes of Real. It is not until the final seconds one sits back and takes the song in. I was instantly revisiting Real and discovering it in a different light. A song that resonates the first time you play it but keeps on giving you light and meaning (upon further spins). It is that n-word again: the nuance that few other acts can muster. A lot of love songs deal with carnality and impunity: so forcefully and unsophisticated in their mandate you come away spent and unlikely to revisit the song – if you do it sounds flat and insipid. The thing with Real is it a song that has some distinct burdens and woes but carries hope and strength with it. Never defeatist or capitulated: the hero is always looking for an answer and resolution to the problems faced.
That is one (of many) reasons the song captures the heart and mind. The other reason is the musicianship and vocal brilliance of Marcus and Jamie. Their spoonerism-anagram-portmanteau has come up with something both modern and unsettled with oldskool vibes – complete with widescreen messages and intelligent concerns. Real posits the benefits of communication and the dangers of insularity – applicable to every relationship and problem that arises in the modern world. Jamie’s twin peaks of guitar mastery and Logic rationale gives Real its clothing, flesh and movement. Whilst I am typing this, I’m cleansing the palette with some Groove Armada – At the River, to be precise. Listening to that song it makes me think more deeply about Real and what I have heard. You will swoon over Jamie’s blood-rushing guitars and the way he blends technological beats with pure and unfettered strings – making sure the track is consistently engaging, grand and beautiful (listening to the luscious horns from At the River gets me thinking about the vocals and lyrics). Marcus’ words and vocals are curative, semi—philosophical and imbued with poetic sentiments and bravery. Another terrifically spine-tingling vocal turn and set of lyrics that gets one thinking and looking at the world around them. Not only does his prowess and talents draw you directly into the song: Real stays in the head and will continue to release timely snippets and echoes when needed most. Put all of these ingredients and components together and you have a terrific song from a duo on the rise. Real is not only a wonderful number from the London-based boys – one hopes it will parlay into new material and big ambitions.
There is already a pretty loyal and impressive fanbase behind MAJIK. The conjuring duo of Marcus and Jamie have already impressed radio stations like Radio X and made their way under the radar of B.B.C. Introducing. If – thematically and sonically – the magic happens in the bedroom: the boys have transitioned from the four-walled safety of home to the vicissitudes of the world. So far, things are looking very positive. Over the next few weeks, MAJIK have some impressive tour dates under their belt – MAJIK Live (w/Eden): 15th November – King Tuts, Glasgow, 16th November – Deaf Institute, Manchester SOLD OUT; 17th November – Dingwalls, London SOLD OUT, 18th November – The Academy, Dublin SOLD OUT; 20th November – Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast, 22nd November – Prince Charles, Berlin SOLD OUT; 24th November – Paradiso, Amsterdam SOLD OUT, 25th November – Botanique, Brussels SOLD OUT; 26th November – Les Etoiles Theatre, Paris, 27th November – Start The Bus, Bristol (w/ CUT_); 6th December – Birthdays, London (w/ CUT_) – and will ensure their music reaches as many ears as possible. The Parisians will love the guys and (the) Deaf Institute is going to be an unforgettable gig. It occurs – given the fate and spate of London venues closing – the duo could restore some local pride and perform at some of the capital’s most notable venues – they seem readymade for Village Underground down Shoreditch’s Holywell Lane. There is a lot of territory the boys can claim in London: they might be too busy touring the country to consider that just now.
I will complete the review summing up their future but, and with some focused brevity, a worth revoking the earlier points – the young talent of 2016; duos and their merits with a bit about addressing unobvious themes. I opinioned this year has been a stronger time for music than 2015: a declaration I maintain and find no burden of proof. Billie Marten – someone whose name I will flaunt like a tattered feather boa; I composed a piece dedicated to her – is a perfect example of the key pillars of a future-star talent: sustainability, originality and personability. Her music is ageless and the progeny of the guardians of legendary Folk and Pop – from John Martyn – her surname was part-inspired by him and her favourite shoes, Dr. Martens (mine too, truth be told); her real surname is Tweddle – Nick Drake and Kate Bush – and an apostle of inspiration for those entering music. Her agile, bird-song voice – best exemplified in her album Writing of Blues and Yellow’s standouts, Heavy Weather and Bird – is enough to tempt the Muses from the Heavens. She comes across in interviews as grounded, modest – and a juxtaposition of ideals we hold on teenage musicians. I am also in awe of solo artists like XamVolo and (band) Saints Patience – the latter I housed at The Finsbury a few days ago. While Marten is top of my ‘to-see-live’ list, MAJIK are very close in second – another hugely viable act that fulfills the trio of considerations – two men whose music will endure and evolve; likeable and fascinating with plenty of original sentiment. Real is the purest distillation of their talents so far: a song that could form the basis of a solid and variegated E.P.
I am not sure what the duo have in mind with regards an E.P./album. I would imagine Real to feature in the top-half – it seems like a perfect second track; maybe following It’s Alright – and you’d imagine a four/five-track release could make its way into the hands of international D.J.s and venues – bolstering the boys’ portfolio and raising their stock immeasurably. Until that arrives, we must note them as one of the most promising duos in the country – a nation that is top-of-the-league when it comes to the two-piece dynamic. You can hear and feel the simpatico and faith between Jamie and Marcus – two boys that have a quasi-brotherly relationship. Aside from the away-from-music revelry and play is a seriousness and focus that is already reaping dividends. Incorporating familiar threads – assessing love through a prism of Electronic and Pop sounds – and something resolutely personal has seen MAJIK overcome early hurdles and establish them as serious players. It is their approach to songwriting and lyrical palette – tender and poetic but always universal – that impresses me; the incredible interplay and seductive vocals. I’ll leave it there, only to urge those reading to listen to Real and discover a young band with a rich body of work and a busy touring schedule. If you can see them live then please do – sure to be a memorable experience. You can say what you want about their moniker: when it comes to London’s MAJIK they are…
HARDLY an illusion.