Brooklyn based Brasstracks blow the roof of Birthdays with their explosive brass sound.
All trends come in circles. Just like how fashion rotates back around every twenty years, so newer musical genres often return to their root material. Hip-hop, trap and neo-funk are all now inexplicably linked. Thanks to genre fluid acts like Mr Carmack, Lido and Kaytranada, the last two years has seen funk, soul and old school hip-hop elements storming back onto the popular music scene. Joe Kay, the host of Soulection’s radio show, recently talked about the re-emergence of 70s and 80s genres in the last few years, including the return of the D’Angelo variety of neo-soul. The fusion of electronically produced elements and live instrumentation is so great to experience, and it takes real musical skill to balance the two together successfully.
Brasstracks are an enigmatic pair from Brooklyn, New York, and describing them as a unique act with a unique sound would be a huge understatement. Using good old fashioned big live brass they transform modern hip hop and electronic synth sounds and create something completely different and fresh. Versatile, charismatic and pioneering in their approach to modern hip hop, their Birthdays set was to be a UK debut for the pair, and was bound to be an unforgettable performance.
With a 7:30pm start, Birthdays was fairly quiet for a Friday night. The small audience was busy conservatively getting down to the sounds of Dobby, an energetic London—based DJ who played a mixture of trap and hip-hop. Her tunes were on point, and she managed to inject some much-needed energy into the room, despite the early start. The MC for the evening was Jamz Supernova of Radio 1Xtra, who curated the night. Her voice rang out extremely clearly, giving the strange impression that you were actually within a live radio broadcast.
The first live support act of the night came in the form of Raye, a South-London singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. A lot of the crowd, surprisingly were mainly there to just see her, and it would appear that she’s starting to make waves on the London scene with her Mura Masa-esque beats and vocals. A good comparison for her sound would be Mura Masa’s most well-known song ‘Firefly, which includes a twinkling synth sound and a pulsing beat. In this same vein, Raye and her backing band channelled lyrical feeling and hard hitting beats in their opening songs.
Raye took to the piano at the end of her short twenty-minute set to give a more intimate performance. Her final rendition of her hair-raising song ‘Distraction’, which acts as a bitter-sweet love-letter to her South London roots, was extremely moving and it was clear that the audience were looking at a future star. Truly from the beginning she had the crowd on side, and she showed a love for her own lyrics which is a real treat so see in any performance. Raye had all the fresh-faced excitement of someone who is about make it big.
As Raye exited the stage, the complicated keys, a drum pad and controller set up behind her was slowly dismantled. An important part of any performance is to not leave the audience waiting too long between sets. Admittedly, this is sometimes unavoidable, and Brasstracks once again had a complicated stage set up which included a full drum kit and a huge tangle of wires, controllers and various other musical knick-nacks. Because of previous complications with the venue’s sound, set times were pushed forward and the crowd was left waiting anxiously for Brasstracks to take to the stage in their UK debut. Jamz Supernova, however took to the booth once again kept the crowd’s ears busy with some fresh-house and hip hop sounds, so the audience weren’t too unhappy about the wait.
When Brasstracks took to the stage, it was clear why they describe themselves as a future brass act. They immediately launched into a high-energy cover of KayneWest’s ‘Good Life’. Brass provides such a unique sound, and has the quality of sounding like a bright human voice which has so much character. Ivan Jackson was the man behind the brass for the evening and looked like he was having the most fun it was humanly possible to have. His interaction with the audience was positive and consistently hilarious as the pair stormed through their one-hour set.
As well as covers the pair played a large amount of material from their upcoming EP ‘Telling The Truth’ which includes collaborations with Jay Prince, Lido and London’s own Roses Gabor, who appeared on stage half way through the set. She blew the roof off with an un-rehearsed performance, and everyone on stage seemed surprised and overjoyed to see how smoothly it all went. The pair were tight, upbeat and amazingly fresh sounding throughout their one-hour set, which even included a full brass section for its final two songs.
Truly, this was a standout performance, and with the audience reception fingers-crossed that Brasstracks will come back across the pond to smash up another, perhaps bigger UK stage in the future.
This Brasstracks article was written by Zoe Anderson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.