Enough words have been written about the kind of year 2020 has been. You would assume the same would apply to music, but as Channel Tres drops his late retrospective of the year, i can’t go outside, you realise that not enough artists have given the topic the approach it deserves. The mixtape, released on Tres’ own label Art For Their Good, blends the personal claustrophobia of lockdown with broader social commentary over production so smooth it doesn’t need a Gillette kit this Christmas. The mix of house and rolling west coast G-funk could have the most hardened Necro fan donning aviators and cutting shapes.
The intro track is a heavily sedated beat full of reverse drums and pitched down vocals. The track carries the refrain: “I can’t go outside, I can’t act wild,” a sentiment genius in its simplicity. The track sets up the album by perfectly depicting the anxiety we’ve all been feeling in this godforsaken year. “2000 chevy malibu” kicks off the album proper with sleazy chords and 808s. Tres sings and raps in the most understated but effective way, utilising his flow as an instrument instinctively.
“skate depot” is the first track to bring the full sound we’re looking for on a new Channel Tres release. Widdling synths, sun-kissed melodies, vocoders, big claps. The lyrics are dripping with nostalgia for the days of innocence when outside was a thing. The track made a cruel Northern English winter seem like a cruise down the strip wearing a vest with palm trees on.
“fuego” brings the first big name feature as Tyler, The Creator blesses a gem of a track. The beat bounces, the bass bops, the drops deliver. Tyler’s appearance is a real coup for the mixtape as he brings his literal mother-fucking madness to the mix. His verse is pitched-down, which is hard to tell at times, the guy has a deep voice. The verse is also highly sexually charged, packing in a few bizarre forms of seduction before taking off unexpectedly in the last few bars, spoiler alert.
Tinashe drops by on the funky house joint, “take your time”. 9 times out of 10, any combination of the words ‘funky’ and ‘house’ do not honestly fill me with excitement, but Tres does it in such a LA Funk style the groove is undeniable. It just sounds like a purple suit. Tinashe’s vocals soar and swoop predictably over the infectious beat, beautifully segueing to a melancholy piano line, before a rousing duet at the end.
I can’t decide whether Channel Tres’ ultimate aim with this release was to give the people some relief after 2020 or to purge the year from his system. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Regardless, it was needed at a time like this to translate rage and fear and fucking into dancefloor-friendly heaters. It’s the only language some people understand.