It's not often you hear an album that butterflies between vibraphoney neo-classical calm, Tame Impala freak-funk, razor-sharp art-punk and kung-fu flick OST guitars. But 'RIPE', the debut album from boundlessly creative North East innovator Ian Black, aka SLUG, touches on all those sounds and a shit tonne more across its eleven tracks. The result's a joyously perplexing adventure into the pop unknown: one that has you scratching your head and swaying your hips at the same time, chaotic but for Black's delicate vocal, the one constant in an otherwise chaotic storm of instruments. Out next Monday (April 13) on dependably great North London imprint Memphis Industries, it's not a record easily put into words - which is why we asked the man himself to do just that for us. Stream 'RIPE' exclusively below and check out Black's track by track guide.
1. 'Grimacing Mask'
Everyday life getting on top of you? How do you break the cycle of personal and work related problems? I think everyone's been there when your twenties is a memory and adult life has caught up. I think I was listening to lot of 'Einstein On The Beach' by Philip Glass around this time and used sampled handclaps for percussion, vibraphone, sampled backward vocals and surf guitar.
2. 'Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped in Plastic'
This is about how some people in power think they're absolutely untouchable, however there's always a day when you get a glimpse that the foundations that their position is based on are not as solid as once thought. Listening back it sounds like I was trying to combine John Bonham style drumming, a James Brown beat, the synth and squelch bass of Claudio Simonetti and Fabio Pignatelli complete with a half baked surf guitar solo as if it was performed slackly by a Free Your Mind-era Eddie Hazel.
3. 'Sha La La'
This uses surf guitar in the style of Lalo Schfirin from the Enter The Dragon Soundtrack along with some repeated drum patterns (I was aiming for Jaki Liebezeit but failed) and some aggressively clipped brass parts. I think it's about a mix of things..one of them being about the city I've lived in all my life.
4. 'Eggs and Eyes'
It's about this creeping phenomenon where idiocy and vanity is championed in certain youth cultures.
5. 'Greasy Mind'
An art rock take on Def Leppard's "Pour some sugar on Me"?....probably not. It combines elements of Led Zeppelin and Nile Rodgers produced Madonna with a screaming guitar solo!
6. 'Shake Your Loose Teeth'
Everyone is able to take a subject and edit it to support their bias via social media these days. One thing I've noticed that a lot of people cry out for 'common sense'...people often mistake this for pretty right wing narrow minded and unresearched opinions. There's some bizarre percussion at work here....using glass bottles we get this bizarre atonal pitched percussion thing.
7. 'Weight Of Violence'
I wanted to do an ambient piece using the colour of steel drums, I wanted something extremely minimal to break up the album so as to allow the listener to breathe for a bit without having musical idea after musical idea thrown at them, To create this piece a friend of mine helped break me into a certain music venue. I wasn't aware that we weren't meant to be there until he turned off the lights, looked slyly out out the window and announced, "We have 45 minutes". I'm happy with the result even though in those 45 minutes I had to learn how to play the instrument.
8. 'Running To Get Past Your Heart'
This one rides the wave of simplicity. People tend to think that if a song is more arranged with a million different parts it's got to be more intelligent. This can sometimes be true, however sometimes by showing discipline in restraint an artist can achieve a lot more. Hopefully with a 3 note distorted bass riff, a one line chorus purely based on the phonetics, bongos and drums recorded with two vocal mics, Running To Get Past Your Heart can show you can still move people with a dance song where it's foundations are based on pure primal simplicity.
9. 'Peng Peng'
This was me trying to do a Erik Satie meets 'Surfs Up' by The Beach Boys (with a hint of Fabio Frizzi). The title is named after a sheep that was cloned using an earth worm.
10. 'Kill Your Darlings'
Straight out of the horror film soundtracks this one. The verse seems to revolve around a one note guitar riff. Colour is added through piano and finger picking and I told Pete (Brewis of Field Music) to play the drums like a jazz session musician who'd found himself playing in a rock band, hence the multiple drum fills. The ending which was built up with guitar, piano and synth makes it sound like a bad dream from A Clockwork Orange. The lyrics are about as an artist you have to have the discipline to say you're finished with what you’re working and avoid treating each artistic creation like one of your kids.
11. 'At Least Show That You Care'
'What ifs' seem to play a massive part in RIPE. What if we take a stoner metal riff and use it like a dub bass part....that was the idea. Let's add some 4 part harmonies some squelch bass, some hisses and triangle and you've got a peculiar, sinister song. The lyrics are based on conversations I've overheard or been part of. There appears to be an increase of right wing beliefs and these are usually disguised as working class values in tabloid newspapers. When getting into conversations with people, sometimes they look at me as if I want England to fail, the loonies to take over and the planet to burn to the ground.
Check out SLUG at the following live dates:
12 April - Newcastle, The Cluny
13 April – London, Lexington
15 April – Mono Café, Glasgow
16 April – Soup Kitchen, Manchester
16 May - Great Escape, Brighton
20-23 August - Green Man Festival