Hearing that two drummers from two heavy bands have teamed up to make a record – in this case the duo of The Body‘s Lee Buford and Braveyoung‘s Zac Jones – will no doubt infer that the resultant platter will lean the bulk of its’ weight on percussive and rhythmic elements. Accordingly, Manslaughter 777‘s debut does just that, but perhaps not with the result you might be expecting.
Far from some sort of industrial strength drum barrage that you might expect from these two batterists, Buford and Jones have made a record that absolutely excises any of their art sludge backgrounds, and instead is essentially a dance record that owes more to 90s UK dance culture, hinting at jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, dancehall and even grime at moments. As such is probably something more attuned to Fact Mag than The Sleeping Shaman’s usual readership. This shouldn’t come as all that much of a surprise, with Buford‘s day job having experimented with electronic elements extensively, both alone and in their collaboration with The Haxan Cloak particularly, and within the framework of his work as part of the Sightless Pit trio last year.
Here beats impact with a force aimed squarely at propelling movement, rather than hammering the cranium. It’s apparent from the echo vocal and breakbeat driven opening duo of No Man Curse into Jump And Spread, where understated vocals move from background in the former, to foreground in the latter, feeling like one continuous evolving liquid beat spreading itself out. By the third track ARC they’ve broken out the famous ‘Amen Break’. Three songs in and it feels less like 2021 and more like a field somewhere in the country with a massive sound system late at night.
Some of the synthesised chords feel nocturnal, and while the rhythmic elements are tightly wound…
At this point, we’re closer to Roni Size than Swans, so it’s safe to say preconceptions based on the duo’s other projects have been well and truly shattered. And it does feel like a caveat to mention that, but honestly, given where this review is appearing, it bears repeating for those who are closed to sample (ostensibly) dance music. While the core of the Manslaughter 777 sound is beat based, this feels more focussed on atmosphere than sheer pugilism.
As the album unfolds, and on repeat listens, certain pulses and their weight and texture become more apparent. The organic bass drum sound that anchors What Is Joke To You Is Dead To Me is sheer brute force jutting out of a glacial, spectral series of tones and providing for an unsettling juxtaposition. Gainax has a strangely hollow, almost woodwind timbre to some of the tom sounds that open it, set against a strangely metallic vocal sample and almost marching snares. I Cannot Tell You How I Feel is surprisingly emotive given its construction from synthetic elements, the sound of feeling alone in a big city infused into its’ electronic bones.
Perhaps feeling at times like an American equivalent to some of the early Hyperdub records (Burial, Kode 9, etc) or some of Kevin Martin’s more meditative works, but with less focus on bass pressure. It has an urban feel – not in the R ‘n’ B sense, but as with the last mentioned track, it seems like music that echoes the pace of a metropolitan area in the early hours. Some of the synthesised chords feel nocturnal, and while the rhythmic elements are tightly wound, there’s a sense of space and of drift at work in a lot of the music, making it as well suited to headphones and solitary meditation as it does the club.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes