The Mercury Prize-winning, virtuostic trio from Edinburgh, took to the stage in Brixton earlier this week with an electrifying set – in every sense of the word.
Since their inception earlier this decade, critics have been feuding in attempts to pinpoint Young Father’s sound. Descriptions range widely, from ‘alternative lo-fi R&B’to ‘melt throbbing dub and roots reggae’ with a ‘miasma of trip-hop production’.
Somehow, these various elements are melded together brilliantly and made for a sold-out show with an audience determined to dance against the harrowing prospects of current politics.
Following from their most commercially successful (and latest) LP, Cocoa Sugar, Young Fathers have at last garnered a significant following, enough to produce two UK tours this year alone. The band roped sounds from across their entire discography into a tightly-knit 17-track set.
Commencing with the twisted electronics and plodding, bass-driven drum beats of ‘Get Started’ – the track swims in gospel influences with the band chanting, “I’ll try and I’ll try / Cause my soul is malnourished / I’ll try and I’ll die”.
These churning electronic sequences were strewn throughout the following half of the set with such tracks as ‘Wire’, ‘Queen Is Dead’, and ‘Feasting’. These particular tracks were infectious – compelling the audience to groove along to the West African polyrhythms at the core of the tracks. Littered with sporadic fits of rage and vocal outbursts on stage, the atmosphere conjured inside the Brixton O2 was like nothing witnessed before.
The pinnacle of the evening’s set came in the midst of this unrestrained concoction of emotions. One of the most favoured tracks from Cocoa Sugar, ‘Toy’, retained this incessantly high tempo, ensuing its rubbery electronic refrain with bouts of screaming. This volatile energy soon transcended into a decaying wall of sound, fusing gnarling bass vibrations, cataclysmic drum tones, and varied vocal ranges from the trio.
For someone who’d revelled in the past 45 minutes of jolting dance vibes, the introduction of the slower-paced, R&B-tinged ‘I Heard’ and slightly more subdued tones of ‘In My View’ proved an awkward respite. Both tracks seemed lacking in their overall instrumentation and sampling – from the former’s sampling of ‘Corporate World‘, to the muddied vocal mixing of the latter track.
‘Only God Knows’ and ‘Lord’ however, exuded heavy-laden synths and wonderfully constructed backing vocals from sampled gospel choirs. The latter track in particular entranced the audience in a gospelised, synth-driven experience. Wavy stuff.
This spiritual experience ultimately subsided to the final track and hit single ‘Shame’, from the band’s second album White Men Are Black Men Too. Perhaps the most apt song of their discography to end with, the lyrics implore the listener to retain passion and hunger for life. With the return of this buzzing bass refrain guiding the track, Young Fathers’ set proved that you can let go of common frustrations in life. Even if it is just for the one night.
Young Fathers turned up with an arsenal of intricate sounds and breathtaking mixing on stage for their live format. Credit must be given to the lighting design for the show. It allowed the 20-foot tall bed sheets surrounding the band to illuminate each song with a variation of sequences and hues.
Young Fathers proved their worth to the crowd. From the dance-fuelled electronics, to the spiritually-healing, gospel-flavoured tracks. Young Fathers have not only lived up to their potential since winning the Mercury Prize in 2014, but surpassed it. With flying colours in fact. But maybe that’s just some residual effects of the hallucinatory show.