Release Date: Mar 17, 2014
Record label: Keysound Recordings
“Big up my family… yeah… Goin’ on lockdown, yeah… It’s UK, it’s real.” The art of the introductory track has vanished in recent years. Not so for Wen. ‘Intro (Family)’ is a bracing and distinct call to arms. Swirls of noise echo and drift, a booming bass kick is iced with microphone feedback from boxed up pirate studios and dank, cramped underground weeknight clubs as shout outs to family and the underground are lovingly laced over the top.
Signals, Wen's excellent debut album, starts off with a sample that sounds like someone saying "the UK's reeling." The uneasy state of politics in the UK has been infecting its dance music lately—just ask Perc—and it manifests in Wen's music through black soundscapes and shivering rhythms. Owen Darby takes on grime, a genre founded in the anxieties of urban existence, strips it down to a percussive skeleton, choosing terse snippets of MCs over proper verses. It's danceable as hell, but also relentlessly dark.
Wen — Signals (Keysound)Wen’s debut album Signals is a love letter. It doesn’t appear that way at first — there aren’t any names wistfully recalled, no sappy couplets, and no richly romantic melodies to sweep you off your feet. There’s a song with a sample cut up to suggest your head should be swinging. It’s not something you’ll instinctively be playing for your better half.Unless, that is, your better half is the city of London.
Journalists love a hook from which to hang their adverb-laden coat, and in Wen’s case that hook is vocals. Specifically, grime MC chatter sampled from ’08/’09-era radio sets – this being the period when the Kent-raised Owen Darby was enthusiastically discovering the style through radio and online forums. Knowing this biographical tidbit, these minuscule snippets of vocal take on a certain emotional significance; perhaps they even reflect a desire to re-examine a bygone musical era.