Alt Blk Era could find no space on the musical map to call their home, so they designed their own extension. This Nottingham duo, made up of teenage sisters Nyrobi and Chaya Beckett-Messam, announce their arrival with a debut EP that shatters antiquated notions of genre, setting out a blueprint all of their own where rap, metal and electronic are mere toys in their deranged playground.
“They say we lack their beauty, but it’s our power that they despise,” they sing on ‘I’m Normally Like This’ – and this powerful line could easily could be the band’s manifesto. Alt Blk Era represent the misfits, the people that society seems determined to marginalise. The five tracks that make up ‘Freak Show’ are a safe space, a place for advocacy and empowerment, and woe betide anyone who intends to stand in this duo’s way.
‘I’m Normally Like This’ moves forward with huge, Pendulum-like drum’n’bass squelches and a processed percussive beat, while ‘Misfits: SOLAR’ at one point descends into a literal primal scream. The glockenspiel intro to the title track rings out like the opening credits of a British folk horror film, before erupting into a soundclash of filthy, ’90s-style rap, alt metal and the darkest corners of modern pop. The horror-core stylings ramp up on ‘Misfits: LUNAR’, as the duo seem to mutate into a dark-side Billie Eilish, their vocals building to an operatic climax. “OKAY, OKAY, OKAY,” they yell, each vocal take overlapping the last – the effect is both claustrophobic and provocative.
These tracks are raw and homespun, and even if at times the production can feel frayed at the edges, the music screams with urgency, every second of it soaring with such conviction that you come away feeling invigorated. In a just world, an audience of disaffected young people will discover ‘Freak Show’ and find strength in the knowledge that they have been seen. In that respect, Alt Blk Era have hit upon the essence of alternative culture; by eschewing normative conventions, they have found who they are, and their shared eccentricities are not a hindrance, but a superpower.
- Release date: September 1
- Record label: Alt Blk Era/Independent