Ugly Side Of Love


"Ready for something different? No, really different. Then prepare to meet the B-boy Syd Barrett. His name's Malakai, and his debut album, Ugly Side Of Love, is going to fry your brain and serve it up in a full English. His name is Hebrew for 'angel', but he might equally be named after the ginger bloke from Children Of The Corn. We're not sure, and neither's he. Strictly speaking though, Malakai's a duo. There's a mysterious figure lurking in the background supplying beats and tunes. But he's a shy sort, preferring the music do the talking, happy to let Gee, the outspoken front person take the limelight. Malakai's from Bristol, and the kind of artist that only comes from Bristol. Dubstep running through their bones. Hip hop in the fingers. '60s psychedelia in the heart. Only right, then, that Portishead mastermind Geoff Barrow has a thumb in this project. Barrow's a kind of a mentor for Malakai, and is releasing the album on his own Invada label. 'There's no Bristol 'scene' as such but there's a lot of people making music here so heads know to produce something unique,' says Malakai. 'In this industry, you're supposed to choose your weapon and keep in your lane, but the last thing I want to do is repeat myself.' There's certainly no repetition here. At times, the album sounds like a Jamaican garage rock band. Elsewhere it sounds like Merseybeat if the beats were supplied by the RZA. Or Dick Dale surfing the River Severn. Malakai loves psychedelic music too, 'the colour, the innocence and optimism of it all,' but he's 'more of a two minute and out man.' That's why some of it sounds like an ADHD kid flicking through the Nuggets box set. At other times, Malakai's music sounds like the apocalypse itself. One track, 'Fading World,' was written after watching a news report on Hurricane Katrina. 'I suppose I was taken aback by just how much at the mercy of the elements we are, but mostly at the plums who run things and where their priorities lay,' says Malakai. You can hear that track and three more on Film Four sci-fi flick Franklyn (starring Sam Riley and directed by Gerald McMorrow) -- a suitably apocalyptic usage. Malakai are film buffs themselves. One track heavily samples cult movie The Warriors. It's called 'Warriors.' Obvious really. 'That film has everything you need: afros, flares, subway trains and spraycans,' Gee says. Malakai's also closely connected to the Bristol art scene and (whisper it) knows Banksy. They've commissioned lots of their buddies to produce the artwork for the album, including the more than up-and-coming Nick Walker, Paris, Marc Bessant, Johnny O, 2Keen, FLX, Eko, K148, Dave Stansbie, Milk, Acer, Naomi Sisson, Mr. Jago and Andy Council. The album's closing track, 'Simple Song,' namechecks an odd cast of characters, including Judy Finnigan, Bella Emberg, Cheryl Tweedy and Lord Charles. 'I just put 'em all together like sticklebricks,' says Malakai, whose British cultural touchpoints fit his wider feelings about Blighty. If the image of Gee posing with the cross of St. George in his press shots is provocative, it's meant to be -- but not in that way. The pictures are a direct reference to famous shots of cult Frank Zappa associate Larry 'Wildman' Fischer, 'one of the most natural and incredible talents ever,' according to Malakai. 'My generation grew up under a flag that had been hijacked by all the wrong people, but during my lifetime I've seen much to be proud of and it needs to be reclaimed,' says Malakai. 'England is The Beatles, The Kinks, Del boy and roast dinners but it's also The Specials, Asian Dub Foundation, Desmonds, The Kumars and chicken tikka masala.' A spin of the album tells you all you need to know. Malakai's thrown the rule book away. 'It excites me to think where I'll go musically, as you'll hear I draw influence from all over,' says Malakai. 'It's not about cherrypicking, it's more about how 'it' fits into me rather than how I fit into 'it'.""