Normanton’s Street latest EP ‘Much Respect‘ has been a long time coming. Fans who have been following the band since their last EP, ‘Phoebe Freya EP‘, which was launched at Green Door Store in Brighton in December 2013, will have most likely already heard some of the tracks from the new EP. It seems that unlike a lot of bands, Normanton Street do not just use their gigs to sell their CD and play the tracks from it but to craft the future of their music by reaching new audiences wherever possible, to add to their substantial local fanbase.
The band have been performing some of these tracks since I saw them play in February and over time they have changed them up, refining them through live performance to make sure that the record was ripe and ready when it was recorded. ‘Much Respect‘ is less a record about right now as it is the logbook of the journey that the band have taken throughout 2014. With fantastic support slots in Brighton, a number of great gigs up in London and several festival performances including The Great Escape, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Love Supreme and Oxjam Takeover, the band are one of the busiest in Brighton, constantly writing new songs, touring in the UK, performing in new places and supporting local talent through their label QM Records, in particular the young poet Tommy Sissons whose EP they recorded and they perform live with.
‘Much Respect’ was launched in London at The Elgin on 30th October and in Brighton on 31st October, following on from a tour of the UK starting in Nottingham, working their way down the country to their adopted hometown. The Halloween launch party was fully loaded with talent, with great supporting performances from indie-rockers Wolflung, london-based Northern Soul group New Street Adventure and folk/world music from Time For T. Their was great new music all around with new tracks from NSA’s recently released debut album ‘No Hard Feelings‘ and previously unheard tracks from Time For T, celebrating their first home show in far too long.
Here is my track by track guide to Much Respect. The EP is well balanced in the mix and the arrangements, shining light in all the right places and combining six very different tracks covering a wide range of styles, all performed and recorded with the Normanton Street flair, style and finesse that we have come to love and expect.
If you like it, please do come along to a gig, have a chat with the band and buy a copy. Respect the artist and respect the music. Much respect all around.
1. Fly Lady (Get Money)
Opening with a pornographic bass-line, this sexy song has plenty of sass even before the vocals drop (and when they drop, they drop heavy with a three part harmony/call and response. Phoebe’s vocals have a relaxed free-time feel, something developed as the song has been performed live throughout the year. The song doesn’t have a traditional structure, more like different sections that take over from each other with equal weight and importance. The sax sits nicely on top of Ned’s deep voice in the refrain, adding a subtle flair to the counterpoint of instruments and voices.
2. New Dawn
Starting with Phoebe’s a cappella vocals floating freely, before being joined by a distant clean guitar, the track leads you into a false sense of security that it’s going to be a chilled out vibe until EVERYTHING drops in with a visceral punch at the verse. The song gives Ned free-reign with his rapping as he tells us a story with a colloquial charm, repeating phrases and turning them into motives (as seen particularly in Empty Space (Mud Riddim) here). Combining a lot of elements in this track too, the precise drums provide the backbone that the guitar rhythms and bass licks cling to, whilst the vocals are clear and punchy (Ned) and delicate in places and powerful at others (Phoebe). A great track!
3. No Drama
Opening with a sultry sax solo, that’s three songs with different solo instruments starting them off; already it is clear that this EP is very well balanced and thought out. The vocals and guitar parts have a hint of the late Amy Winehouse which sharpens as the song unfolds. Led by the female vocals, the track is passed on to Nicholson as he raps, including these fantastic lines:
“No spark like a dormant volcano.
A gloomy Vesuvius,
No prizes for who can be the moodiest,
I imply for you to be calmer,
Mary J Blige, No More Drama.“
Normanton Street at their Halloween EP Launch – Photo by Lauren Joy Kennett
4. Grass is Greener (Nico Rhythm)
With hard hitting drums and vocal effects aplenty, this track has more of an electronic edge to it, with a clear focus on the production’s sound. The track combines two repeated vocal lines “Nico says I’m blessed so I must be” (Ned) and “The grass is always greener on the other side” (Phoebe) which overlay each other throughout the track as Ned and Nicholson take it in turn to rap verses over the rich texture of a down-tempo drum groove and simple accompaniment from the guitar and bass. Whilst a lot of modern songs don’t have much substance, this one probably has a little going spare! Perhaps they should donate to it to somebody.
5. Rakim (The 26th Year)
Going back to their Hip-hop roots from the early ‘MOVES EP‘, Rakim has a totally different sound to the preceding tracks on Much Respect. The lyrics are very precise, reminiscing on their lives growing up from house parties to football stickers “Teddy Sherringham shiny, no swapsies“, games consoles and other childhood memories in this warming song, broken up by funk sax interludes, almost leading into the dreamlike flashbacks.
6. This Wolf
Ending the EP with this slightly dark and haunting track, the clean electric guitar and Phoebe’s vocals on This Wolf knit together closely, with female backing vocals overlaid, highlighting the vulnerability of the melody when the bass, sax and drums are stripped away. The delicacy of the track is something that is not often seen from Normanton Street, with their style usually being far more upbeat, but this little gem shows that even under the brightest of lights with everything else removed, the exposed veneer is faultless.