|Album Review: Murkage - Of Mystics & Misfits|
Of Mystics & Misfits
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Manchester, England, is a city steeped in rich, musical history. In the early 70’s, bands like Joy Division and The Smiths ruled the UK with their guitar fuelled tracks that have gone on to earn cult status amongst fans and critics alike. As we moved into the 1980’s, we had the birth of bands such as The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays who were ignited by Manchester’s now iconic Hacienda nightclub. A further decade down the line and we were first graced by arguably Manchester’s most famous, or at least recognisable band, Oasis, fronted by two brothers who hailed from the inner depths of the city. Which leads us nicely into the present day, and a group who are making their own sound and are hell bent on letting themselves be heard; Murkage.
Consisting of supremely talented emcee’s Murkage Dave, Two One and Gaika, and backed by the exquisite drumming talents of Amat Amas Amo and the insurmountable DJ’ing talents of Klepto DJ, Murkage are one heck of a formidable fivesome. Whilst the group are not entirely from Manchester, and with two members living in Amsterdam and Berlin, they have called Manchester home for the past 7 years, as their club night has been tearing down venues across the city in that time. The past five of those years has seen the group go through a couple of lineup changes, whilst releasing a handful of singles and touring across Europe, including shows at the infamous Reading & Leeds festivals and countless dates across France which has even seen them supporting the well followed S-Crew. As 2013 drew to a close, word that their debut album was close to completion circulated, and the hype was unsurmountable when lead single "La Plage" was debuted by Radio 1's Zane Lowe. Well, with 2014 well underway, we finally have the completed album, but was it worth the wait?
The album opens up with the seminal title track “Of Mystics & Misfits”, with fat, distorted synths crashing through the mix as guest vocalist Ursa Minor produces a delicately beautiful vocal melody before, the drums drop in with an almighty stomp, and Murkage Dave bellows the opening line “heavy is the head that wears the new era”, truly signifying the start of something special. Gaika delivers some memorable lines in his verse, including my personal favourite “empires fade if they’re built on hate”. If “Of Mystics & Misfits” was the powerful and mark-setting opener, lead single “La Plage” acts as the catchy and anthemic track to let everyone know exactly who Murkage are. With Manchester’s very own Bipolar Sunshine on the hook, the guitar riff driven beat, featuring some incredibly bangin’ drums, sets as a melodic yet grimey backdrop for Dave and Gaika to discuss political themes, whilst also telling us about what they themselves experience.
“Officer Parker” is the next track up, and we see Murkage Dave show a side of his repertoire that isn’t seen very often as his soft and subtle tones ring through, as he sings the catchy hook before we get kicked in the chest by a huge drop that goes into the rowdier side of the group, with hard kicks and in your face bass notes that lean towards the groups grime roots. Lyrically, this is arguably my favourite track on the album, as Murkage deal with the recent dealings of police brutality in the UK and the state of the UK government in general, which has the raw passion that many punk bands of the 70’s had. “Burntout” sees the album take a more laid back tone, as the hypnotic hook and reverb heavy guitar lines echo around as the most chilled out beat on the album knocks through.
“Manifesto” is, in my opinion, the most iconic track on the album, and shows exactly what Murkage are all about. From the hook which screams “Rick James that’s Murkage, Malcolm X that’s Murkage”, to the distorted, dark synths that roll over the trap-heavy beat, this track oozes pure enthusiasm. Two One delivers one of my favourite verses on the album, with a rhyming pattern that was embedded in my head for hours, and the guest verse by French emcee Nekfeu (part of France’s S-Crew), is equally as hard and even when it was spat in French, I was nodding my head in appreciation.
“Fat Tits” serves as a jokey interlude, showing the bands funny side, and showing that they’re just normal, everyday people like the rest of us. “Can I Live” is a space-rock jam that features some nice sounding synth lines laced over a live drum beat that really bangs, and sees a catchy hook take hold of the song. Some rather west coast sounding synths build up, as Murkage Dave finishes the track with some spoken word. “Excellent Adventure” has one of the most catchy hooks on the album as Dave says “look at me tryna be Bill & Ted, flick a switch change everything, come again”. Before dropping into a shuffling flurry of airy synths and crunchy synths.
“Spaghetti” is the real ‘in your face’ grimey vibes that the group grew from, as abrupt bass lines bounce over hard-hitting drums and barks. All three emcee’s rap with the raw passion and hunger that they're known for, as they put together the most aggressive track on the album. We’re then treated two special versions of previous tracks, in the final two selections. First up the group are joined by another French emcee in Orelsan, who delivers an extra gritty verse that had me instantly googling his previous solo works. The final track on the album is reserved for fellow Murkage Cartel members Acropolis Sound, who were called upon to remix “Officer Parker” (which they had a had in producing the original). This time around, the duo have created a 7 minute long masterpiece, complete with orchestral strings and epic sounding drums, as well as a heavy drop, complete with some sweet sounding trap horns and pulsating bass lines that really finish off the album well.
Of Mystics & Misfits isn’t just another album by another band, it symbolises the hard work and dedication of a group of men trying to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Murkage aren’t backed by a major label, but they’ve managed to captivate an audience of tens of thousands all across the globe with their brand of electronic rap with that raw punk edge. In this album, they’ve delivered one of the most refreshing projects to come out of the UK in a long, long while. Everything the group do, from their studio work to their live shows is fuelled by pure ambition and passion for their craft, and Of Mystics & Misfits showcases this perfectly.