Review: Interesting Times Gang ‘Are We OK’ EP

The appropriately named Interesting Times Gang is a solo project for Ian Miller which to quote Shaman Lee in the premiere for the EP (back in March) sees him exploring ‘the realms of hip-hop, trip-hop, and breakbeat that has more in common with Roni Size and DJ Shadow than Neurosis and his day job in Kowloon Walled City’.

Interesting Times Gang 'Are We OK'

The EP follows up last year’s critically acclaimed Beats, No Rhymes, No Life album whose cover conjured visions of A Tribe Called Quest and certainly courted my interest despite not being the most avid listener of hip-hop. It is on the basis of this alone that I decided to take a stab at this, Interesting Times Gang‘s latest. According to the project’s Bandcamp page, Are We Ok is meant as something of a stopgap to ‘tide us over’ until the next full-length hits later in the year.

The opening track Are We OK is an immediately arresting piece with grooves and hooks so infectious that you will find it almost impossible not to want to get up and dance. According to Miller‘s Earsplit interview, the track takes influences from 90s big beat such as The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers and there are certainly those groups influences present, however, I also detect some dance-punk/funk influences ala Liquid Liquid, ESG, and Konk too. If you were blindly played this without any context as to the artist’s identity, you would swear this originated from the late 70s/early 80s. Get down people!

Duck You is definitely a little trippier with some more er, trip-hop vibes and nods to Massive Attack and Tricky, making for a nice track to wind down to in a club after you’ve been dancing your ass off for several hours. Gods On Feedback  is as smooth as velvet or Barry White (take your pick) and there is a cool psychedelic/dream pop tinge to the track. You could imagine rolling up to your destination with this playing in the background feeling pretty good about yourself and life in general, even if that destination happens to be your workplace on a dreary and wet Monday morning, in Lancaster (UK).

grooves and hooks so infectious that you will find it almost impossible not to want to get up and dance…

Bewildering Fog was described on the press statement as golden age hip hop meets chiptune. I had to look up what ‘chiptune’ was and saw that it has some origins in old style arcade games and video game consoles that bands like Yellow Magic Orchestra utilised when creating their music in the late 1970s. Speaking of YMO, there is an oriental flavour about the track, and seeing as I have a fondness for that band (Haruomi Hosono in particular) it made for the most engaging track on the EP for me.

‘Baroque country crossed with downtempo electronica’ is never a combination I thought possible, but in the present day of cross-pollination, I guess anything is and strangely it works with Singing In The Wire. The strings (?) nicely merge with the downtempo electronica making for a sound that is equal parts appealing and puzzling and makes for a nice, mellow way with which to conclude proceedings.

Not being a huge listener of this type of music I’m not sure whether I’ve managed to do the EP justice in this review. As someone who is always on the lookout for new creative and interesting sounds, I will say I found it a hugely enjoyable listening experience. I certainly have a massive amount of respect reserved for Ian Miller for wanting to stretch his musical boundaries, which he has managed to do so here with aplomb.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Bandcamp

Scribed by: Reza Mills