When a band seemingly conceals their roots in their online presence, and in interviews gives elusive and wild answers to innocent questions, I am suspicious and have a compulsion to dig around and find out why. The thing is Black Futures describe themselves as “sentient sonic anarchists” selling their “apocalyptic anthems” but are signed to “hyper-capitalist” Sony, a clean-cut major label. But Black Futures make music that ordinarily Sony would not release in a million years.
What is going on? Who is really pulling the strings here? Most people don’t care about such things, but I can go from liking music, to loving or hating music when I find out that either true artists or ‘Drooling Midrange Accountants’ are behind it all. There is a definite feel of the subversive nature and sharp humour of KLF in the way Black Futures have approached their marketing and promotion, even down to the imagery of boiler suit air force uniforms and flag-waving, masked survivors of the nuclear holocaust on stage. So is this band a new generation of pop saboteurs and have they anything interesting to listen to? Well, yes and yes.
Predictably, the trimmed down history in the press pack and the detailed story of the band circumnavigating the globe, as well as the use of presumably ironic pseudonyms (similar to the KLF) is quickly undone with a few hours on the internet. So you find out that SPACE and VIBES are actually… Well, maybe I won’t divulge that because as KLF main man Bill Drummond once said “I know.
But I’m not going to tell, because then other people would have to stop having to wonder and the thing about beauty is for other people to wonder at it. It’s not very beautiful once you know.” And the thing is who’s to say whether Black Futures haven’t actively sabotaged the online information already and the whole thing is a pure fabrication; a bit extreme maybe.
The Black Futures’ debut album ‘Never Not Nothing’ was released last month and despite all the smoke and mirrors of the marketing, it is a startling piece of music. It manages to pull together different genres in a coherent way. Electronica, industrial, punk and pop blend seamlessly, with real drums and electric guitars rubbing shoulders with samples, synths and sub-basses, but always with an ear for a great hook and a focus on a memorable melody. They are drawing inspiration from the likes of pioneers Big Audio Dynamite and later Pop Will Eat Itself, but with a broader, more sumptuous sonic palette.
Like those bands, it feels as if there is a deliberate attempt to craft a perfect pop song. A plethora of rhythmic hooks and loops pummel the listener, and instrumental verses and the often-used dropouts all focus and guide the ear to a powerfully addictive chorus. Sometimes hard-punching dance music like this only makes sense in a club or played live, and I understand Black Futures’ live sets are ferociously energetic and compelling, however, such attention has been given to the melodic content of the album that it is still just as exciting and listenable in the comfort of your own home. Crucially the vocals throughout are a key part of the arrangement delivering politically charged lyrics (particularly ‘Riches’, ‘Gutters’ and ‘Me.TV’ featuring a stunning soliloquy by Bobby Gillespie).
The use of guest vocalists in addition to that of Space’s screams and Vibes’ harmonies also takes tracks into a place so much more interesting than a standard dance track. I guess this is the beauty of a band that is happy to cross genres and mix things up a bit. The fact that they can do so without losing any part of the original sound illustrates their skills as musicians and producers perfectly.
Black Futures will tour in October supporting Black Peaks at the following venues: