Bad Tango Album Review – ILK

Bad Tango’s debut album “ILK” (22/10/2018) can be found on his Bandcamp page HERE.

Bad Tango is the love child of Mr Will Railton, and his lifelong affair with the delicious amalgamation of electronic and acoustic music. Influenced by artists such as Hedflux, early Far Too Loud, and Simon Posford to name but a few; Will took inspiration from a plethora of sources around him and began crafting his own sound. With a solid background of regular gigs underpinning his ongoing passion for music production, he decided to take the leap of faith and go public. Little did he know the impact it would have on the electronic music scene of the time, which had evolved far beyond the boundaries of DnB, Hip-Hop, Breaks, House, Trance and Techno; spawning sub-genres and crossovers faster than David Cameron could bolt from his post-Brexit parliament.

After his first official release in 2011, Bad Tango very nearly broke the internet, with his incomparable sound exploding onto the Tech-Funk, Psychedelic and Breakbeat genres simultaneously with a Big Mistake remix, ‘Paradigma’ (Bad Tango Remix) 2011. This response was soon noted by the likes of several UK record labels of the era, including Logarridim, Exogenic and Yellow Finger, with whom he released various tracks with great success before being approached by the legendary Broken Robot label to work alongside the likes of Hedflux, Neurodriver, Monk3yLogic, Broken Eye, Mr Snook, and many others, who inspired much of his journey. Less than one year into his whirlwind production voyage, Bad Tango was nominated for Best New Producer at the 2012 Breakspoll International Breakbeat Awards, and 2013 saw him receive yet another nomination for “Breakthrough Producer”.

Since then, he has taken his sound on tour to tear up dance floors both internationally and here in his native UK, playing to festival crowds at the likes of Glade, Waveform, Noisily, Life, and Sunrise etc. Also, apparently playing at Tribal Gathering in Panama last year was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for him, of which he loved every single second. This heartfelt enthusiasm fuels the epic performances and consistently outstanding releases that have earned Bad Tango a sterling reputation as an artist and producer. No hyperboles here… His crisp, meticulous production and attention to technical detail, twinned with brilliant A/D creates positive, uplifting and downright funky soundscapes you can virtually climb into.

From the humble beginnings in his town of study Cambridge, October 2018 saw the eagerly awaited release of his debut album, “ILK”, available now on Bandcamp (see links below). After much consideration, he decided to release without any label affiliation, meaning all of the pre/post production and promotion has been conducted personally, truly demonstrating how much work, effort and love has been put into this release. He made a poignant statement while thanking his current label..

I’d like to extend my gratitude to Dom at Broken Robot Records. His belief in my music and support over the years has been unprecedented. It’s stemmed from nothing other than sheer love of the music and a deep desire to help sustain the future of independent producers like myself. And in releasing this album independently and trying to accomplish all the necessities that facilitate a release like this, I realise just how integral his work has been to the exposure of my music”.

The album was mastered by Colin Bennun, (of OOOD fame), and his comments on ILK speak volumes..

You know that feeling when you listen to an album that you’ll be mastering and the whole thing is fantastic and you know that for this short time until you finish it, you and the artist are the only ones in possession of something wonderful that, if there’s any justice in the world, a lot of people will (or should) remember for a long time, yeah? And then you realise that the ultimate responsibility for its final sound lies in your hands, and you’re simultaneously scared of doing to it what you did to that other amazing album back in 2008*, the one you don’t like to think about and which luckily nobody seemed to notice, and excited by just how amazing you know it’s actually going to sound when you’re done with it?

Yeah, that.”

With no further ado, lets get into the album itself – a 9 track, full-length, multi-genre collection. This is an unrestrained, versatile and eclectic demonstration of his unique and multivariate sound. Taking influences from Psy Breaks (his familiar territory), liquid DnB, chillout, glitch-hop, down-tempo and more; the contrasts are incredibly well-handled, meaning ILK is a genuinely unparalleled album, encompassing a melting pot of genre-deyfing tracks that create a definitive sound of their own, hence the apt title – “ILK” – which means class, category or genre.

Already celebrated by the likes of Gaudi, Mouldy Soul, Headroom, MONK3YLOGIC, Kaya Project, Hedflux and more, ILK concocts a fresh, vivid scene for each track. A free-flowing album that glides from track to track like quicksilver, each complimenting the next, while offering enough contrast, playfulness and rhythmic squelch to keep the audience on their toes. ILK’s eye-catching artwork was created by “The Brand Distillery”, an up-and-coming micro-agency with a wealth of commercial experience partnered with a hard-working ethos that aims to assist in building clients’ brands from the ground up. They are also behind the fresh Bad Tango logo, featured on the album.

Opening with the ambient, dub-flavoured Dawn Of The Scarlet Cyclone (08:18), listeners are drawn into the album with smooth, chilled, glitchy beats and a beautifully-placed sample from Jim Carrey’s infamous commencement speech from 2014. Featuring his partner Heather on flute, and a close friend, Don on guitar – these instrumental additions really lift the track and give it a tender, expressive quality, demonstrating his mood at the time of completion. One of two personal favourites on the album, it sets the mood wonderfully for the style and ethos he is portraying through his work, before blending seamlessly into the next track. Wonderful backstory for this one too, as Will had been asked by several people what the meaning of the title was, so, to let you into a secret, “The Scarlet Cyclone’ is the synonym for a nickname my partner Heather had among my friends in Cambridge for when she’d been a tad overzealous with her gin. She had a sort of trophy/plaque in our old house and everything!Ordinarily he would write in one sitting that spanned a few weeks, but this particular track was written in two sittings with around a three year gap in between due to studio relocation. Will didn’t want to return to it until he was in the right head space and claims he was really pleased he came back to it when he did, as these integral instrumentals wouldn’t have played such a key role otherwise. Safe to say that I’m sure his audience would agree as it really does introduce the album marvellously.

Moving into the second track, Romulan Rainstick, (09:20) – we up the tempo somewhat and after a breathy, ambient entry, move into a more squelchy, Tech-Funk sound. This particular tune was one of the last to be written after Will had been on a semi-sabbatical from his usual sound, exploring other styles for a few years and having a great deal of fun picking up new skills along the way. Its blend of cyber-synths entwined with light, ethereal manipulated vocals lays deliciously across the bassline, providing a sonic platform constructed so logically, even Romulan-cousin, Mr Spock would loosen up and get his groove on.

Taking it down a notch, the third track of the album, The Sky’s Not Big Enough, (08:04) has a deep, down-tempo tone, smattered with murky, warped leads, illuminated throughout by the uplifting vocals and chord structures. This was the first track written after a torturous time building a new, custom studio. For almost a year, Will had nowhere to produce, so often found himself imagining the sounds, structure and form of tunes he had kicking around in his mind. When the day finally came and the new studio was ready, he said this: “practically fell out of me” after so much visualisation. Inspired by a train journey, whereby a friend exclaimed “this can’t be Brighton, the sky’s not big enough?!”. This statement actually made absolute sense to Will, yet still managed to result in both of them crying with laughter for the remainder of the journey. My second favourite sample appears as a cheeky “Watership Alan” quote for the Coogan fans among us. I was delightfully amused as I listened for the first time and remembered the 20-foot chickens, and thought of farmers with plums in their mouths.. Superb reference, well-placed. Nice.

The fourth track, Seven Breaths, (07:06) is another favourite, both sonically and conceptually. Interspersed with a variety of granular processes and both synthetic and acoustic instrumentation that could hint at a Japanese influence, the track title is indeed a reference to the code of the Samurai. They believed that one should make a decision within the space of seven breaths, as “if discrimination is long, it will spoil, according to Lord Naoshige.

For this particular track, the ancient enemy of creatives across the expanses of space and time – writers block – had played a key role. “This writers block was horrific. The most frustrating thing was attachment. I’d make sounds, or make a certain setting and become so ridiculously attached to what i’d created that it was almost unbearable to change anything. And that become the modus operandum for practically everything that followed. No longer was the creation process free and flowing, like it ordinarily should be, it was painful and constricting. It took me ages to learn to let go and not be quite so obsessive over every tiny detail. There were times I tried to justify it to myself as “this amount of care and attention is what makes the difference between a good track and a great track”, which couldn’t have been further from the truth, which quite simply was that your overall vision and output suffers from over attachment, and you’re less likely to attain what was in your head in the first place if you become too hyper focused on every mundane detail.”

After a period of stagnancy, Will was liberated by challenging his indecision and applying the seven breaths concept to his production. This had an immediately noticeable effect, halving the time it took to write, yet producing results he was far happier with. The resulting track itself has a heartbeat, hypnotically driving through Shpongle-esque riffs, against a backdrop of tight, breaksy leads and hooks, and subtle samples of breathing, in an elegant nod to both the title and the meaning behind it.

Track number five, Plasma Strand, (07:59) ups the tempo slightly as we move into the middle of the album. A staple classic from many of his sets over the years, driving bass and his trademark vocal synth wizardry, are complimented by bright and exacting acid leads bringing in a psy element and really ramping up the energy. Look out for the tasty breakdown around 04:27, before slamming back into the tune with punchy bass and buoyant time stretch instruments. With regards to the title, there is a story behind this one too..

I usually start a track with either a melody/chord structure or a bass line, however this track stemmed entirely from the lead line in the climactic section at the end. I used to have one of those plasma balls in my old studio back in Cambridge, you know the things you’d touch and little bolts of light would zap to your fingers? Well I wanted to make a patch that kinda mimicked the movement of the plasma ball, so I wrote a patch on one of my old Virus modules and that’s what came out. I named the patch ‘Plasma Strand’. …go figure haha.. I love playing this out, I hope you like it too!”

I suspect the hypnotic rhythm, tight drops and mid-paced beat will see this track being remixed and played out by many artists in the coming months. A DJ-friendly version with more mixable intro/outro is available as a bonus track when the album is bought in full.

Track six – Subject To Change (09:00) is, in my humble opinion, a magically maverick piece. As the title suggests, this track really takes you on a journey with what Will describes as “in-your-face-transitions”. Opening with a strong vocal sample, before demonstrating the incredible skills of both Heather and Don (clarinet and guitar), which flourish alongside some steamy pitch-bends, and the delicious almost ‘reese’ style bass lines called my attention from the kitchen on first play, causing me to immediately down spatulas and crank it up. Effects like this have always grabbed my attention on the dance floor, and to marry them with organic instruments so seamlessly is nothing short of legendary. Winding down towards the end of the track, keep ears peeled for more stunning guitar which adds a real richness to the outro even Bisto would be envious of.

Up next is the shortest track, number seven: “Dusk Of The Scarlet Cyclone” (02:28). A sister track to the album intro, it has a softer, chilled and ambient flavour, entering with another Carrey sample with a modulated delay and descending pitch/tempo shifts. The sample has a clear message from producer to audience, before picking up the pace and leading beautifully into the penultimate track – “Eucatastrophe” (08:10). With a sound that verges on Liquid DnB blended with dubby Psy-Breaks and a midway 6/8 switchup with 8/8 compound drum fills, this track is time-signaturetastic. Aside from the obvious synthetic sounds and some of the drum sounds, the rest are organic recordings from around his house and studio, manipulated to create the unique soundscape. Tolkien fans may have already spotted the reference, as a “eucatastrophe” is “a sudden and favourable resolution of events in a story; a happy ending’. Coined by Tolkien himself, Wills late Father had the honour of having dinner with him and the term became an apt description of the track’s journey. After originally descending into a chaos that felt right at the time, Will became displeased with the darker elements and felt it was too messy. The addition of the lead using his own voice, and a rearrangement of the chord structure allowed the piece to “come to a happy ending”, therefore “eucatastrophe” was not only a nod to one of the greatest authors of our time, but a mighty fine title for the track.

The final track, “Making The Most Of It” (11:07), is a truly seminal piece, and closes the album perfectly. Will described it as “My personal favourite…Maybe one track in a hundred you write that you feel is truly special, and this has got to be it for me”. Speaking to the audience again via the magnificent, ad hominem samples, this track sums up the musical and personal voyage taken in order to release this to the masses. Opening with an entrancing vocal and a pure, bright Japanese violin called an ‘Erhu’, the production is superb. Spiralling lead melodies and whirring synths overlay twinkling broken beats, and lead up to a breakdown (<04:59>) that features a perfectly placed vocal sample, that portrays his ultimate message, before dropping back into a great percussive rhythm as both bass and beats rise and fall fluidly, invoking images of a smiling, swaying dance floor of closed-eye revellers. Experiencing this at Noisily Festival this year was a definite highlight as it works so well on a big system. The melodic motifs resonate throughout the track, giving rise to a joyful, yet sincere energy so often attributed to the Bad Tango sound.

In closing, I truly believe that ILK is a ground-breaking, genre-defying release. An auditory delight for die-hard fans and newbies alike. Achieving enthusiastic praise from fellow artists for his technical prowess, production and flow, it is a salient effort for a debut album, and hopefully an indication of what is in store for Bad Tango fans in future. As he says, now that he’s here, he is going to make the most of it, and I for one cannot wait to see what he has in store..

Bad Tango’s debut album “ILK” (22/10/2018) can be found on his Bandcamp page HERE.  My personal opinion is that considering the years of hard work, production, contemplation and sheer love that has gone into this release, at least a tenner is appropriate for such a well-produced, authentic and heterogenous album. However, in his humble and genuine manner, and because he sincerely enjoys connecting with his audience, Bad Tango, aka Mr Will Railton has released ILK starting at an insanely low £6.50 /$8.50 (available in the standard mp3, FLAC, WAV, as well as ALAC, AAC, Ogg vorbis, and AIFF). So, go, fetch.. You are in for a treat.

Keep your ears and eyes peeled for Bad Tango at home and away festivals next summer. Already confirmed for Tribal Gathering, Sunrise and Anthropos, Bad Tango will be also be supporting Ott and The All Seeing I at Planet Shroom next month. To keep up to date and find more tracks, remixes and collabs, from Mr Tango, head over to his Soundcloud HERE
and his Facebook page HERE .

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