EP REVIEW: JOCKSTRAP – Wicked City: we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto

WARP debutantes Jockstrap – the duo Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye, jazz and electronics students respectively in a previous life – really do screw with the ol’ head, in the nicest possible way. 

It’s not like you haven’t heard many of the influences they draw on before, perhaps; but it’s the insouciant way they combine and recombine them that really throws you off the tightrope. Whoah.

Their debut five-track EP for Warp (after the Love Is the Key to the City CDR in 2018, and the one-track “Acid” taster earlier this year), and also their vinyl blooding, Wicked City begins in classically outre IDM territory. On “Paul” the vocals are slowed and fractured and filtered, eerie and nightmarish: so okay, there’s a little of Warp predecessor Leila in that, even a line back to Bam Bam’s original acid folks-frightener, “Where’s Your Child”. Beats skitter and chop; a central rap pillar also gets an Escher redesign. Yeah, it’s weird, but gloriously weird in that Warp way we know and love. Music is melted and sparked and flowed into new moulds as ever in that Sheffield crucible. So far, so good. 

And then they go and do that. That. “Acid” woozes in on delirious strings, and settles to a kind of jazz torch song reimagined for the 22nd century: never mind future jazz, it’s future swing, future Dennis Potter play nugget; it’s Sarah Vaughan backed by The Flaming Lips in a bar in Logan’s Run. At which point your correspondent fell over.

And then they only go and do it again. “Yellow and Green” has, I guess, Portishead as a very, very distant cousin. It’s theatric, it has piano glissando, it has confession; it has disembodied backing vocals. It’s a torch song that needs a single spotlight and David Lynch overseeing proceedings. And then it falls into digital filters and crackles and fades as the dial turns and the long wave drifts, the signal to whatever we were receiving lost.

“In the City” follows a similar course out there: the prettiest of torch songs suddenly descending down the rabbit hole of glitch and electric squeak and sourced vocal free-association: “He sat on the beaver’s face and told him what the problem was … the only thing he heard was the shower water falling like a beating heart … I hate you and I hate your money”.

Speaking about the EP, Georgia said: “The songs on Wicked City are presented in chronological order, with “Robert” written in the summer of 2018 and “City Hell” in summer 2019. The EP was finished in January 2020.”

In summary: it might be classic 1950s’ jazz torch song confessional, as reimagined by Jeff Lynne inside Stephen Drozd inside Richard D James. In Blue Velvet. It might be. Only that. It’s the best directional advice I can give.

It’s furiously inventive, visionary, the strangest and prettiest and wooziest of collisions. If they can keep inventing and gene-splicing on this kinda curve, who knows where we’re headed.

Let me rest now; I can offer no more. Go stream it; go buy it.

Jockstrap’s Wicked City is available now through Warp Records https://warp.net/releases/188166-jockstrap-wicked-city and at Bandcamp https://jockstrapmusic.bandcamp.com/album/wicked-city

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