Bristol Duo Malakai Unleash ‘Ugly Side Of Love’ Album Debut on Domino Records November 3, 2009
“Malakai are a stand-alone Bristol sensation” – 4/5 Mojo
“Malakai mix Love-style garage psychedelia and trippy samples with modern production savvy. The result is catchy, off-kilter backdrops for vocals that are a clear tribute to Horace Andy. Think Mellow Gold-era Beck crossed with the Kinks.” — The Observer
“Outsider pop that’s unlikely to remain out in the cold for long” 4/5 – Q
“Like a hyperactive DJ spinning between a nuggets boxset” – 4/5 Uncut
“Malakai are into everyone from Public Image Ltd to Tricky; from Morricone to UNKLE; and from Bushkiller to Boards of Canada – which is possibly why everyone from Annie Mac to Gilles Peterson are into Malakai” – The Guardian
Malakai is Hebrew for ‘angel.’ It was also the name of the red-haired bloke from Children Of The Corn. From which the band’s name is derived, we’re not exactly sure and neither are they. Strictly speaking, Malakai’s a duo. There’s a mysterious figure lurking in the background supplying beats and tunes. But he’s a shy sort, preferring the music do the talking, happy to let Gee, the outspoken front person, take the limelight.
Malakai’s origins are in Bristol, on the West Coast of England in Briston and are indicative of the kind of artists that originate from Bristol: dubstep running through their bones, hip hop in the fingers, ‘60s psychedelia in the heart. It’s only right, then, that Portishead mastermind Geoff Barrow has a thumb in this project. Barrow’s a kind of a mentor for Malakai and released the album on his own Invada imprint earlier this year. “There’s no Bristol ‘scene’ as such but there’s a lot of people making music here so heads know to produce something unique, ” says Gee. “In this industry, you’re supposed to choose your weapon and keep in your lane, but the last thing I want to do is repeat myself.”
There’s certainly no repetition here. At times, the album sounds like a Jamaican garage rock band. Elsewhere it sounds like Merseybeat if the beats were supplied by RZA. Or Dick Dale surfing the River Severn. Malakai loves psychedelic music too, “the colour, the innocence and optimism of it all, ” but he’s “more of a two minute and out man.” That’s why some of it sounds like an ADHD kid flicking through the Nuggets box set. At other times, Malakai’s music sounds like the apocalypse itself. One track, “Fading World,” was written after watching a news report on Hurricane Katrina. “I suppose I was taken aback by just how much at the mercy of the elements we are, but mostly at the plums who run things and where their priorities lay, ” says Gee.
You can hear that track and three more on in the Film Four sci-fi flick Franklyn (starring Sam Riley and directed by Gerald McMorrow) – a suitably apocalyptic usage., Malakai are film buff themselves. One track heavily samples cult movie The Warriors. Which one is obvious really. “That film has everything you need: afros, flares, subway trains and spraycans,” Gee says.
Malakai’s also closely connected to the Bristol art scene and from whence the mysterious Banksy has sprung. They’ve commissioned lots of their buddies to produce the artwork for the album, including the more than up and coming Nick Walker, Paris, Marc Bessant, Johnny O, 2Keen, FLX, Eko, K148, Dave Stansbie, Milk, Acer, Naomi Sisson, Mr. Jago and Andy Council. The album’s closing track, “Simple Song,” namechecks an odd cast of characters, including Judy Finnigan, Bella Emberg, Cheryl Tweedy and Lord Charles. “I just put ‘em all together like sticklebricks, ” says Gee, whose British cultural touchpoints fit his wider feelings about Blighty.
If the image of Gee posing with the cross of St. George in his press shots is provocative, it’s meant to be – but not in that way. The pictures are a direct reference to famous shots of cult Frank Zappa associate Larry ‘Wildman’ Fischer, “one of the most natural and incredible talents ever, ” according to Malakai. “My generation grew up under a flag that had been hijacked by all the wrong people, but during my lifetime I’ve seen much to be proud of and it needs to be reclaimed, ” says Gee. “England is The Beatles, The Kinks, Del boy and roast dinners but it’s also The Specials, Asian Dub Foundation, Desmonds, The Kumars and chicken tikka masala.” A spin of the album tells you all you need to know: Malakai’s thrown the rule book away. “It excites me to think where I’ll go musically, ” says Gee. “It’s not about cherrypicking, it’s more about how ‘it’ fits into me rather than how I fit into ‘it’.”
Ugly Side Of Love
Only For You
Lay Down Stay Down