Before listening to Dead, you might not expect Edinburgh to produce challenging, avant-garde hip-hop: however, this seems somehow fitting for a debut album which operates on casting off and undermining expectations. ‘War’ opens with a menacing a cappella from the dark hinterlands of hip-hop which MF Doom calls home, before moving into a chorus whose reverb-heavy vocals over a xylophone sample are dreamy, ethereal electropop. ‘Eclectic’ has become a cliched epithet to level at any artist slightly more ambitious than an X Factor winner, but it is difficult to avoid using it to describe Young Fathers’ distinctive sound, setting up classic rap flows over unapologetic sonic weirdness comprised of tribal drums, primal screams and infectious riffs which are always slightly distorted beyond becoming comfortably hum-a-long.
And yet, despite the disjointed, non-linear trajectory of each track, employing samples which sometimes sound like a polyphonic ringtone heard underwater, melody is the most fundamental principle of the album. Every song on the album, even those as off-kilter as ‘MMMH MMMH’, reaches its climax in a haunting, often euphoric chorus: the mash-up of styles and genres and the resistance to overly slick or ‘finished’ production is unified by Young Fathers’ pervasive eeriness into an organic, elusive but cohesive whole.