[Excursions] Funk’d @ The Aberystwyth Boat Club (review)

puss puss© Eddie Whitehead Photography 

What: A music event with performances from Roughian, Sgilti Ysgafn Droed, Endeser and Cloaka // When: March 13th, next event slated for May 26th // Where: Aberystwyth Boat Club 

Review: In an age in which Spotify are obligated to offer users the option to hide their guilty pleasures from public view and a BBC Radio One presenter can expect a standing ovation for admitting to liking a Taylor Swift song, one wonders if music listeners have ever been so self-conscious. A song such as Mark Ronson’s impeccably-produced pastiche “Uptown Funk” arguably reaches the masses by deftly dousing inherently cool funk tropes – spangly horn sections, raspy James Brown posturing courtesy of Bruno Mars – in 2014 hedonism. The track’s reluctance to attempt anything truly innovative was apparently of great comfort to consumers on a worldwide scale, and as inescapable hits go, there was still much to enjoy about Ronson’s irony-tinged emulation of a brand of music that is more perceptibly credible by mere virtue of its age.

But it is a notable lack of irony and inhibition that marks out Aberystwyth’s Funk’d as a distinctly joyous music event. The musical jamboree – which has been organised by local musician Gwion Llyr for almost two years – emblazoned the Aberystwyth Boat Club with an eclectic eruption of disco, IDM, techno, and house. The choice cuts of both resident and touring DJs represented a multitude of decades, with the titular genre only sprinkled occasionally throughout.

This is a night in which recently canonised dancefloor staples – from the giddy, neon-drenched EDM of the Avicii and Sebastien Drums collaboration “My Feelings For You” to the irresistible deep bass pulsations of Jauz’s “Feel The Volume” – shamelessly rub shoulders with juicy remixes of earthy classics such as Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” and Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road”. The effect is an intoxicating sense of spontaneity and airborne excitement, and these are excerpts from just one set; that of Aberystwyth’s own electronic music duo Roughian, comprised of Llyr and Steffan Woodruff. Sgilti Ysgafn Droed, Endeser and Cloaka, the evening’s much-buzzed-about headliner, all turned in stellar showings.

Although unassuming in both size and reputation, students and local residents alike should find the Boat Club to be a welcome deviation from the town’s leading nighttime venues, Why Not and Pier Pressure. It has the slightly rickety maritime charm of the latter, coupled with the former’s USP. Yes, you heard right: one may drink on the dancefloor. The venue’s bar-club duality is easy to navigate thanks to a spacious smoking deck, and while it may be comparatively isolated in terms of its location – there is an admittedly galling lack of nearby cash machines, so do bring cash! – it also provides patrons with respite from the often claustrophobic nature of the town’s nightlife.

With Funk’d continuing to grow and experiment – the Boat Club is set to be taken over again on May 26th – the music lovers of Aberystwyth have been afforded the rare chance to immerse themselves in an endlessly ambitious event in its embryonic stages.

[Music] Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint (review)

Niki Minaj

Available to buy on iTunes

Review: There was a delightfully abrasive moment during Nicki Minaj’s guest turn on Ciara’s 2014 single “I’m Out” where talk of “big fat titties when they’re hangin’ out my tank-top” unexpectedly scanned as an ideological move that only the Trinidadian rapper could make. There was nothing smart about the image the lyric created, while the slippery zaniness with which it was delivered rendered it deliberately unsexy. But with Minaj’s name now synonymous with the current hip-hop landscape, it seemed she had shrewdly adopted the cartoonish arrogance of buddies Lil Wayne, Kanye et al in a manner that was apathetic to their male gaze, with indecorous terms such as “fat” and “hanging” instead holding up a positive reflection of the wordsmith’s perceptible body image.

This crass and brazen expression of sexuality was somewhat built upon on “Anaconda”, the inescapable, Sir Mix-A-Lot-sampling summer hit that served as the The Pinkprint‘s second single. The difference this time was that everything about “Anaconda” – from its meme-magnet artwork to its risibly gratuitous video demanded both our attention and our approval. The track’s reliance on creeping guitar plucks and culturally-embedded lyrics derived from “Baby Got Back” was disappointing given the manic energy Minaj poured into verses that stand toe-to-toe with similarly globe-trotting accounts of sexual conquests in Afroman’s “Crazy Rap” and Lil Kim’s “How Many Licks”. The Pinkprint’s clever sequencing follows it up with the EDM headache “The Night Is Still Young”, allowing for an immediate comparison that narrowly spares “Anaconda” from being labeled the collection’s most reductive effort.

This conspicuous pair of chart-friendly contingency plans are undoubtedly the album’s nadir, as even despite additional smatterings of on-trend radio fodder – such as the “Dark Horse”-aping Dr. Luke production “Get On Your Knees”, boosted by a sensual vocal from hook girl Ariana Grande – The Pinkprint primarily divides its attention between introspective mid-tempo R&B and tough, focused exercises in trap-inflected hip-hop. It’s an occasionally jarring dichotomy, but the overarching quality of the music allows such sins to be forgiven. Giving credence to her alleged Enya inspiration, “All Things Go” and “I Lied” get things off to a slow, ethereal start, but the lack of posturing within Minaj’s sensitive verses is refreshing. The similarly styled “The Crying Game” has prickly rock undertones that help further animate Jessie Ware’s bizarrely uncredited turn on the song’s chorus.

On the ballsier half of the album, “Trini Dem Girls” proposes exoticism (“Jamaica dem girls gonna park the pum pum”) over a laudably colourless, handclap-heavy beat, “Four Door Aventador” casts a spell with its mumbled chorus and smoky atmosphere, while the pondering trap beat of third single “Only”, featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown, oscillates between mild interest and tedium depending on who’s on the mic. (Note: Both Drake and Lil Wayne are better utilised on the twerk-ready iTunes bonus track “Truffle Butter”.)

On The Pinkprint, Minaj has refined almost every branch of her musical output, with the notable exception of her adventures in EDM, which really should have been left to fester on 2010’s Roman Reloaded. Its quieter moments surpass the aural mush she peddled on her debut, while the lion’s share of the more overtly hip-hop tracks show a sense of conviction unseen since “Roman’s Revenge”. Our only gripe is with a title that stands as nothing more than a tip of the hat to Jay-Z‘s The Blueprint. Sure, every fingerprint may be unique, but shouldn’t a woman as talented as Minaj be looking to leave a bigger mark on the world?

8.5/10