Spaghetto (Limited Edition Clear 12")

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Spaghetto (Limited Edition Clear 12")

[ Warp Records 12" / 12in ]

Release Date: Friday 25 November 2016

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The London artist's latest is a protean collection of a new kind of reggae lovers rock record that finds power in its diverse, hybrid style.

Gaika Tavares is from the south London neighborhood of Brixton. It is a heterogeneous immigrant neighborhood endemic of the city's rapid pace of gentrification. Just this year, protests erupted after a cluster of small businesses along the area's railway hub were presented with sharp rent increases. Gaika returned to Brixton from art school just as the face of the neighborhood began to change.

He notes, in an interview with the Fader, that the schizophrenic logic of real estate development would place an artisanal grocery store across the street from a housing project. That image in itself, while increasingly common throughout the globe, still feels like some anachronism playing itself out, as if the future of the neighborhood was flipping off its past.

In just the last two years, Gaika's been busy archiving this experience of local change into defiantly industrial and viscerally uncomfortable music. His self-released mixtape Machine and his sophomore release Security (for Dre Skull's Mixpak label) were the building blocks for a musical identity that he has called "ghetto futurism." In each, he's honed his blood-curdling howl and hypnotic patois into a sophisticated weapon he uses to castigate the milquetoast evil of the Queen's government. He is not exactly a rapper, hewing closer to a dancehall deejay (in the style of Popcaan or Vybz Kartel), but the riddims he chooses to "toast" to are startlingly hybrid. He simultaneously borrows from the opiated beats of Clams Casino, the futurist dancehall of Rizzla, the industrial sneer of Death Grips, and the digital discomfort of Objekt or Amnesia Scanner, combining them into a slippery and metallic iteration of unique dance music. His latest release, Spaghetto (and his first for Warp) is a protean collection of eight songs that Tavares has described as his reggae lovers rock record.

Opening with "Neophyte," he displays a new liturgical aspect to his sound. There is nearly a minute of humming, ambient static, and clouds of hisses before he enters the scene. It renders the entire vibe of the album far more gothic than any of his previous releases and allows himself to widen the scope of his sound and subject matter. In "Neophyte," he considers the ways in which the black body has been pathologized by racist theology: "We're insecure in this image of God," he says, and repeats with desperate urgency a warning about the shared vulnerability that creates: "Don't you know they'll break your body?/Don't you know they'll take your body?" He's joined by Leila Adu, whose chorus ("Feelin' so raw/Livin' in these times/Oh, raw, so") gives the track gospel-like feel.

In fact, Gaika creates his version of lovers rock by weaving electronic gospel into his dystopian sound. He manipulates his voice in different ways, dropping his howl for a syrupy and sometimes shaky singing voice, and relies on the help of female vocalists. He resides mostly in the background of "The Deal" complementing the singer Alyusha with sharp lines ("It's the deal that we made in blood/And it's written on your skin"). It almost sounds like a knockoff Kelela track, but Gaika's voice is such a weird instrument. It can be goofy and melancholic, almost recalling Lil B. He adds a tinge of goth sad-boy to his production that can soften the acidic dystopian vibe he usually works under, like on "Glad We Found It," where he relies on a strangely tantric whisper that is overly earnest but lovable. It would almost be more interesting he if sung more songs with his inimitable howl. When he does, like in songs like "3D," his screed on gentrification and cold city politics feels more forceful and intimate.

That said, Spaghetto is a strong EP from an artist who is surely going to release something even more wondrous variable and strange. He might not have the range, but he does sure have an intelligent sense of adventure and experimentation. Perhaps his music works so well because of its hybridity: mixing dancehall into German techno into gospel into stuff that sounds like Yeezus, all so powerfully.

As Homi Bhabha theorized in regards to colonization, hybridity in cultural expression was an essential form of subversion on the part of the colonized and the oppressed. Gaika, like say, Elysia Crampton, is able to fuse vernacular forms into the sounds of popular culture in ways that are pleasurably disruptive and undeniably in your face.
7.8 / 10 Pitchfork.


A1 Neophyte
A2 3D
A3 The Deal
A4 Glad We Found It

B1 Little Bits
B3 In Between 2
B4 Roadside