By Cole Parker
Young Fathers defy typical genre placement. The Edinburgh trio is most frequently described as an experimental hip-hop group, but most vocals are sung, not rapped. The buzzing bass-heavy 808s lean heavily on early trip-hop. Prominent organs along with member Alloysious Massaquoi’s hymn-like crooning lend their brightest moments a gospel shine. African music, R&B and soul also lend ingredients to the stew that make up Massaquoi’s, “G” Hastings’ and Kayus Bankole’s music.
Cocoa Sugar is the band’s third album. It is very much a continued evolution of their previous work, with songs that can shift from grimy lo-fi hip-hop verses into soaring harmonized vocals backed by shimmering instrumentation while exploring religious, moral and philosophical qualms.
The greatest addition to Young Fathers’ sound is the embrace of vocal effects to broaden the group’s already extremely expansive range. On “Toy” all three member’s voices warble in unison in the bridge before the chorus kicks back in for a final time with desperate howls dominating the background. “Wire” pitches up Massaquoi’s voice, contrasting greatly with the ringing bassline that chugs along, dominating the rest of the track. These tracks embrace Young Fathers grimier side, while “In My View,” “Lord” and closer “Picking You” lean into their soul tendencies that often prove to be the band’s most affecting.
“You’ll never find your way to heaven/but you can follow me” the group chants on that final track. Where they’re going is never defined, but Cocoa Sugar provides ample proof that we should follow.
Cocoa Sugar, Ninja Tune, Record Review, Young Fathers