You Make It…
You Make It… is available at:
2nd December, 2016
THERE have been some terrific British sounds bouncing all over…
the place this year. Whilst, in terms of critics’ choices of the year, the U.S. is gathering most of the attention: our home-grown acts are not to be overlooked and have made some terrific music in their own right. Most of my ‘job’ involves scouring the vastness of music’s landscape for the best and most nimble talent out there. A lot of great bands have come to mind; some terrific Folk-based artists and musicians you really can’t compare with anyone else. One of the things I have been looking for is a fantastic young Hip-Hop talent. I mention this based on the rise of great Grime and Rap acts putting this country firmly on the map. If the U.S. has been scoring a lot of the focus regarding this year’s best albums: Britain’s hungry street poets are among the most relevant and important voices in our midst. If you had to look at certain nations and sounds associated with them: many would not put the words ‘Hip-Hop’ and ‘Rap’ with ‘the U.K.’. That natural partnership has always been an American possession. We shine when it comes to Rock bands and some kick-ass Electro.-Pop acts; some of the best and brightest young songwriters you’ll hear. The Americans tend to corner the market with reference awesome Hip-Hop acts. This genre, when linked with Rap, has so many offcuts and sub-genres. There is the more granite-levelled spit of Grime – where the portrayers talk about the realities of the street and what it is like growing up in a twenty-first-century Britain. There is Trip-Hop – which was more prevalent and popular in the 1990s – and derived styles – including Breakbeat, Ghettotech and Rap-Rock. That final one links me to former Bi:Lingual frontman, Dylan Cartlidge. His solo venture, Chaos Jigsaw, teases together Rap and Hip-Hop but not as you’d expect. Not your average, contemporary version: what we are treated to is something much more rounded, unique and heartfelt. I know a lot of modern Hip-Hop splits its inspiration between personal issues and more wide-ranging societal concerns. I know Chaos Jigsaw’s creator has had a rough and eventful last few years – having to struggle against depression and doubts – and brings this into his music. That is not to say the songs are awash with depressive and anxious songs.
What Chaos Jigsaw produces are songs that look at personal concerns and love but a lot more interesting and original than all that. You get some strange and fascinating characters; some wonderful storylines and quotes – a writer who does not follow a ‘norm.’ and tries to fit in with the mass of other artists out there. Being Hip-Hop/Rap-flavoured; you do have that swagger and intensity but plenty of discipline, melody and groove can be detected. Before I move onto other points, I wanted to look at artists starting out and things to consider. Cartlidge’s endeavour is not his first foray into music but it is a brand-new outfit. Departing and moving on from the band days – which I will address later – it is a bespoke, fascinating mixture of British and American Hip-Hop styles with that undercurrent of Funk, Rap and Rock. I know Chaos Jigsaw will want to expand, develop and grow as time elapses: get the music across the country and not just become confined to British audiences. You Make It…is not the first Chaos Jigsaw song but it is the first video. That is a scary and exciting prospect and one that has been greeted with a professional and memorable film. When arriving into music, as I have said in countless blogs, you have to consider all things and not assume others will do the work for you – or you can be a bit slack with some areas and not others. In terms of that first video, you have to create something true to the song but is not generic and uninspired. Bringing people into platforms like YouTube not only means the music is exposed to a lot more people but gives the music that crucial visual aspect and reality. You Make It…has a fine video and I will make sure to address that at an appropriate point. What I wanted to look at is the other visual aspects of new music. One of the biggest criticisms of artists in 2016 has been their lack of social media information, photos and official websites. Although Chaos Jigsaw is a newborn; there are thousands out there who will want to hear that music and discover everything on offer.
Because of this, you have to make sure – as Chaos Jigsaw does – you have the spread and nourishment the consumer needs and demands. The music is hefty, authoritative and pure: the other, lesser elements have to be addressed. There is not a demarcation between the music and the peripheral aspects – or the neutron floating outside the proton and electron. Making sure your website and social media pages are proper and easy-to-navigate is crucial. This is the last time I shall whip this particular mule in 2016: it is something that every single artist needs to get right and keep pushing. If the Facebook/Twitter sites are kept updated, on-point and interesting then you are going to stand a much better chance of keeping fans and recruiting new ones. I have stopped following so many artists because they either fail to provide updates, and thus slip into obscurity, or they post too much asinine, trivial things – one of the most irksome and fury-inspiring things about social media. You have to have some biography and details: who your influences are and a brief timeline; where you came from and a bit about your sound. On top of that (there is quite a bit to get sorted) you need a selection of good photos. I see a lot of acts with a few, badly-shot live snaps and a few Smartphone-produced candids. It can be quite depressing having to struggle to put faces to names and letting the music itself fill all the gaps out. Chaos Jigsaw is one of the most promising and original artists I have heard, and knowing Cartlidge and how prolific he is, I will be looking closely to see whether these recommendations are fulfilled. The fact there are a few photos repeated around this review is no big deal but I know there are opportunities for Chaos Jigsaw to get some professional shots made, or, at the very least, some high-quality shots around Stoke-on-Trent/Birmingham – some location pictures or whatever suits the mood. Give the Facebook site some more information (personal insight and goals) and get an official website sorted out. The photo point is the first one to look at – then, make sure there is information and all the pertinent links included.
Making sure you can quickly access the music-sharing platforms is paramount – without a new fan having to put it all into a search engine and having to do all the hard work. Lastly, and perhaps just as important, is making sure all the existing music is promoted and pushed; any forthcoming tracks and teased and mentioned. I bring this point up, not just to have another rant, but prepare the best and brightest for next year. We are just about to leap into 2017 – make it a rosier and less tragic one than what has just passed – and the horses will be bustling out the gates come 1st January. I think Chaos Jigsaw will get that nailed and go on to enjoy a lot of success in the industry. Not just because there is a definite niche for Hip-Hop and Rap but because of the type he provides. Traditionally, the genres are defined by a lot of aggression, sound and confidence. You do get more reflective, nuanced cuts but there is a certain image we all have when you mention this kind of music. Chaos Jigsaw has a lo-fi agenda which places bass funkiness and twang over hardcore beats and polished production. Things are stripped down and honest; imbued with a production sound that is D.I.Y. and uncomplicated. You get plenty of excitement and confidence but things, for the most part, are more restrained and controlled. It is not often you hear an artist that steps into a genre like Hip-Hop and give it such an inimitable spin. I have heard a few songs from Chaos Jigsaw and they are consistent in the fact the lyrics are intriguing and original – not addressing the themes you might imagine – and has that distinct production. The way the bass comes out front; the song has that homemade feel – it is exciting thinking just where that music can go and how it will change. Whether it does change is up to Cartlidge and how he envisions things going. I am really fascinated by Chaos Jigsaw and how the music makes you feel. When listening to it, you never hear any elements of anyone else. It is a rarity discovering an artist impossible to connect with any other. It is down to that special approach and dynamic: sounds that are going to inspire others and change (many musicians’) way of working.
Before looking at Chaos Jigsaw’s past and present music; I have been thinking about former band leaders who have to embark on a new career on their own. I shall not bring up Bi:Lingual too much (although the split was, for the most part, quite amicable) only to use it as the springboard for my point. I have seen many bands break up over the year and that dilemma befalls its members: where do you go when your way of life ends? You can get comfortable in a group and feel it will last for many years to come. When things, for whatever reason, change you have to look around and come up with a Plan B. In that way, it is a musical divorce: separating from that former rock and having to rebuild your life. Cartlidge was frontman for the Rap-Rock/Hip-Hop band. Their music was defined by stunningly inventive, fast-flowing raps and modern poetry: songs that addressed important themes but did so in an intelligent, thought-provoking way. Whether the pitfalls and obsession of social media or humans that deserve a dressing-down: the band was masterful at highlighting these common grievances and bringing life and character to them. It was Cartlidge’s voice and delivery that made the songs what they were. His accent and passion; that ability to switch from angered to sly and witty – there are few leaders that have quite that range and ability. Like (fellow review subjects) The Bedroom Hour and Crystal Seagulls; the frontmen of each of those acts has managed to find new lease and life after the collapses. Rather than replicate Bi:Lingual, Cartlidge has taken the band’s best assets and put them into his solo venture. Being a one-man arsenal, it is impossible to project that same epic sound and primacy that his former colleagues created. Instead, you have a musician who retains that exceptional songwriting talent and sounds completely in control. There are no nerves and hesitations; he is not struggling to find balance and security. It is just a point I thought I’d raise. Many assume transitioning from a band to solo work (or another band) would be fraught and difficult. I am very pleased Chaos Jigsaw has been formed and already picking up new fans and eager listeners.
There is a bit of Outkast in Strawberry Blonde’s Snip and its cool, casual delivery. The hero needs some time alone to figure out the riddles in his head. Our man feels old and is trying to come to terms with things and make sense of it all. Maybe the result of a relationship division or something inside of him: it is a curious tale that gets you guessing and a tune that will definitely lodge in the head. The percussion is quite heavy and consistent throughout. Never too dominant or clean: it is a punchy and hollow sound that gives the song plenty of smack, rouse and guts. The bass is assuredly catchy and proud. It has that elastic funkiness and is perfect backing for a vocal that ranges from achingly cool to cautious and vengeful. It is a performance that makes the song such a complete thing. The composition has its own life (as do lyrics and vocals) and a song you keep coming back to just to experience that incredible performance. The World Outside looks at the… well, world outside. It is a faster, more ‘traditional;’ Rap performance. Where Strawberry Blonde’s Snip was laid-back and two-toned: here, there is more emphasis on that urgent delivery and quick-stepped rapping. The vocal is constantly flowing, encapsulating and emotional. Occasionally, and like Bi:Lingual, there is that quiet-loud dynamic which yields some overt anger and fire. For the most part, the track looks at personal and universal issues; the bad kids becoming side-kicks and things not working the way they should. Instead, the topsy-turvy skin of The World Outside is a truth and hopefulness that come out. Even if there is a lack of justice and fairness at times; there is much to live for and reason to keep going. The hero lets his voice rise and crack at times; it has so many different sides and expressions. The bass is less prominent on this track. Greater emphasis is placed on the percussion which is a solid, defiant heartbeat that gives the song its guidance, rhythm and melody.
Love Spoons gained Chaos Jigsaw his first review a few months ago and is, at that point, the most confident and stunning track in his locker. Little vocal eccentricities remind me of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins; there is a whiff of Big Boi and little suggestions of Prince at times. For the most part, it is the Stoke-on-Trent native putting it out there and owning it. That message of strength and fortitude can be found once more. If love seems wrong or people are telling you to do something you don’t want to do – you can fight against it and need to follow your own mind. It is a song raging with Funk and cool-assed stride. You bounce along with the track and its blend of relaxed temperament and river-flow lines. It might take a few listens for all of the song’s layers and pleasures to come together: when things do fully form the result is pretty special. One of the reasons I love Chaos Jigsaw’s work is because of the difference between each number. There is no repetition and sticking with boring themes. Every song sounds completely new and the work of someone who does not want to repeat tricks and stand still. Each song, and the positive reception it accrues, gives Chaos Jigsaw the confidence to up his game and produce even better material. His first songs were wonderful and stunning but songs like Love Spoons and You Make It… are his finest yet. The latter has its own video and shows just how much faith its authour has in the music. With at least four solid and incredible songs under his belt there is enough material to go into an E.P. Maybe Chaos Jigsaw will look at an album and getting some other musicians into the fold – to provide his upcoming tracks other sounds and instruments. I am not sure what he has planned with regards new music but I know there are so many possibilities. I would love to see an album and a ten/eleven-track record that boasts the sort of gems we know Chaos Jigsaw is capable of. He may be starting out but his material already sounded properly formed and without equals.
Keen to create something new and progressive – but keep the best bits of his previous material – You Make It… has pattered, enticing beats and some groovy bass. These are elements we know and love about Chaos Jigsaw. Here, they are mingling and sparring with one another in a brilliant introduction. When the hero comes to the microphone, the syncopated, propulsive lines get the mind working right away. If the girl didn’t change the list of games – getting tied to her “Zimmer frame” – our boy would be amazed; the wire from the sirens is in the mains and all manner of things is going on. The words compel some imaginative diversions and speculation. The “internal rubbish” being lobbed at the hero is not only predicted but digested. He never seems to see it common but still allows it to get inside his head. Maybe the girl is old before her time or spinning those same lies; she might be trying to pull a fast one or deceiving the hero. Her apologies and excuses are finding a willing scapegoat: that long-term beat-down has to stop right now. Not wanting to take this anymore, you can hear an audible annoyance. The lead is weary of all the same old days and feeling a particular way. We all know that kind of situation/person: where a heroine takes advantage and uses the guy; the lessons are not learnt and the same mistakes seem to be made. The chorus is a chance to step away from that fevered and excitable verse delivery. It is here where our hero is more relaxed but seems to be wrestling with his own mind. The song’s title is sung but with no real answer. There is that lingering ellipsis and question mark remaining. Maybe the weight of emotion is too heavy – or there is too much suppressed answer to provide a conjunct, restrained answer.
Aiming “silver bullets” and inside the “pet cemetery” of the bond seems to be some fonder memories and times. Maybe things were not always so sour and unsettled. You Make It… keeps you invested with its unpredictability and changeable nature. Towards the middle stage, the vocal gets even more accelerated and tumbling. Like emotions bubbling and the heat rising: the song gets more intense and determined as time elapses. Some of the words you catch whereas others free-fall and rush right by. It is an exciting section that departs from the more lackadaisical, louche sound of the chorus. Still keeping nimble and lively; the vocal then changes directions again. After the chorus is a shouted and different-vibed delivery that is the tensest and most unsettled moment in the song. Your head, at this late point, has been stretched in all sorts of directions and is taking all the words in. In my mind, I was seeing a hero that had had enough of the constant disappointment and sacrificial lamb behaviour. He is getting caught up in something rather unwarranted. There is always an air of mystery around the song. I say this about a lot of songs but lyrics that are not too obvious (and make you think) are much more appealing. You think it concerns love and a spiteful heroine but maybe there is other things are play. Perhaps the song looks at problems beyond relationships and the world at large. Given the themes explored on The World Outside; it would not be a huge stretch to suggest You Make It… casts its imagination further than you might think. Whatever the true nature of the song it is a marvellous offering from an artist unlike anyone else. I have mentioned other artists but they play such a small role in the overall sound. It is all down to Cartlidge and his personal vision that goes into the music. You Make It… got me thinking and guessing; it made me come back and want to listen countless times. The lyrics have that intelligence and poetry that means they warrant digging and care; the performance is assured and commanding whilst the composition has so many different strands.
I have been looking at the so-called ‘best’ albums of this year and what they represent. Depending on whose polls you look at you’ll notice a few names cropping up time again. Aside from the likes of ‘6 Music; there has been a general consensus that is recognising music that strays away from the usual mainstream fare. It was the case, a few years ago, that Rock bands and radio-friendly albums were topping those end-of-year lists and exciting critics. You know the kind of album I am talking about. This year, and given the way politics and the world stage has changed, there seems to be a need and demand for music of a different nature. Beyoncé’s Lemonade seems to be the out-and-out champion: that record that resonates and gets into the heart; propels the soul and body whilst spiking the brain and imagination. The most confident, direct and personal album of Beyoncé’s career: maybe not a surprise it was deemed the finest album of this year. In fact, black artists are being exposed and included in a way they have not in previous years. This is something I will mention in a separate post but it is pleasing to see some (attempt) at equality. Aside from Beyoncé, artists like Chance the Rapper, Kanye West and Michael Kiwanuka have been lauded and tipped; Solange, A Tribe Called Quest and Frank Ocean have made it into the top-ten lists. Not only is there a racial and national split (American artists stealing focus) but stylistic and genre, too. Gone are the predictable lists of Rock and Alterative darlings; the banal and heavily-processed Pop acts – replaced with something a lot more credible, relevant and high quality. It is the ‘relevant’ part of that sentence that stands out. 2016 is taking no prisoners in the wider world – with regards notable deaths and unquenchable violence – and that extends to music. Consumers are growing tired of the same old generic crap and forgettable fare.
Albums that burn, explode and linger are being favored; ones that look at the world around and deal with serious issues are en vogue. Even Lemonade, that looks at infidelity and love, does so in a new and very personal way. This should give artists like Chaos Jigsaw direction and confidence. The British Hip-Hop upstart is making music that would not sound out of place was it dropped among the big names of 2016’s music. Perhaps it doesn’t boast the same fresh and polished production values but that is part of its appeal and originality. It is the subjects, sounds and genres of You Make It…that will see Chaos Jigsaw do some big business in 2017. Before I come to Chaos Jigsaw and look at his future, I wanted to wrap up the points I made earlier. Artists coming into music not only have to make sure their aural packages are full and prepared: they need to consider their social media platforms and the visual side of things. It may seem like a lesser importance but that would be foolhardy in a modern, digital age. Your social media pages are you selling yourself. Musicians that overlook this issue and provide scant details are going to struggle to find big fan numbers and really impress. It is not a coincident that the new artists building the biggest fanbase keep their pages updated, full and visually arresting. Chaos Jigsaw is just starting out but is keeping fans updated and looped into his happenings. I would like to see a lot more photos going up and all those (all-important) social media links in one place; a full biography and more revelation from the songwriter. Not merely for disclosure and confession: it gives reviewers, fans and the curious what they need to form a fuller picture and get inside an artist’s mind. I know Chaos Jigsaw will continue to build pages because he is an exceptional and promising artist.
It is that promise that comes at a time where music is redressing the balance of sorrow felt in the world. Artists are filling gaps and providing us some form of escape, fulfilment and distraction. British music is at its peak right now. It is not just the mainstream that is improving, changing (for the better) and diversifying. Our underground acts are matching their critically-approved colleagues and showing huge energy, invention and quality. Certain genres are coming to the forefront like never before. I am not sure whether it is because of society demands – acts that talk about real life and have a grittier sound – or something else: we are hearing Hip-Hop, Rap and Grime coming much more into the fore. Aside from the Mercury win of Skepta; there has been a band of agile and striking acts looking to make big footprints next year. It is encouraging to see and a perfect time for the likes of Chaos Jigsaw to rock up. Whilst his brand of Hip-Hop and Rap is not as swaggering and pummeling as many of his counterparts; it is a lot deeper, more interesting and accessible I feel. Those who prefer their music more sedate, emotional and romantic will be seduced and tantilised. It is that more stripped-back, bare-boned approach to music that perfectly bridges sounds like Folk and Pop with the more edgy and physical excitement of Hip-Hop, Rap and Rock. I know Cartlidge has plenty more songs under his belt and excited by what is to come. I have heard his previous songs and can see that consistency and variation. He is not a musician that repeats himself and narrows his focus. You have a core and solidified sound but the subject matter and signatures change; each song has its own soul and says different things. You Make It…is a typically assured and compelling slice from a young man who has plenty more left inside. Being lucky enough to hear some early drafts of his music; I can vouch at just how far he has come along and fervent his imagination is. He is based in the Midlands but is no mere local secret.
I know Chaos Jigsaw will be looking forward to the coming year and what he can achieve. I know there is talk of an album or E.P. but not sure what form it will take. The music put out there is being met with praise and love. I expect Cartlidge to keep producing stunning songs and setting his sights far and wide. Here is a musician constantly experimenting, working and teasing new music. He never seems to slow and is one of the hardest-working acts I have seen in a long while. Even if songs talks of darker subjects – the weight of mental illness or painful fall-outs – they are never presented with negative emotions and fatigue. I would love to see a Chaos Jigsaw for a couple of reasons. For one, you will get to see the full range of moods and ideas from Cartlidge. His songs are so fresh and addictive you will keep coming back and be transfixed by what they to offer. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it will put a genuine talent into the mix. There are few Rap stars that do things like Chaos Jigsaw and have the same demeanour and abilities. Given the music being celebrated in 2016; it is likely Chaos Jigsaw will gain foothold and momentum in 2017. I am not saying he will be elevated to the mainstream in the coming months but will make necessary strides and bring in new followers. I know his music is being heard right across the U.K. and that will lead to gig demands up and down Britain. I can see him finding small fortune in London and slotting alongside the Hip-Hop/Grime stars bringing life and sermons to the capital. Who knows just what he can achieve next year but I know there is a real need and desire for the type of music Chaos Jigsaw is producing. After such an unforgiving and expendable year, that is…
WHAT we all need.
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