There has been a lot of hype around this album, and it’s easy to see why. ‘Basic Volume’ is not an easy listen, its dark instrumental contours mapped by moody vocals from the Brixton producer. There is a healthy cultural clash here, with dancehall, grime and R&B meeting minds but clashing over some dark and brooding textures that see the world through wary eyes. Dark harmonies dominate, while the simple but menacing ‘Hackers & Jackers’ seems to spend the whole song looking warily over its shoulder. This is an extension of the London portrayed by The Bug, but Gaika’s vocals give a first-hand account of the present day issues it faces. ‘Seven Churches For St Jude’ is powerful stuff, driven by big bass chimes and a penetrating vocal, with a haunting coda over hollow textures, while ‘Crown & Key’ goes for booming bass and orchestral stabs. Gaika’s vocals speak of pain and strife, as does the music – but there are glints of light within the darkness, suggesting a brighter day might somehow lie ahead. ‘Basic Volume’ makes a strong impact for sure, if not perhaps being the era-defining album some have claimed it to be.
 
Ben Hogwood
4 out of 5

 

GAIKA – Crown & Key [Official Video]