Heralded by a first single which proudly declared its ambition, this debut EP by Brian Destiny was certainly one of my most eagerly awaited releases of the year. Brian’s Got Talent is a product of the buzzing South London music scene, and is in a sense a perfect calling card for it in the way that it is bold to the point of brazenness, almost erudite in its knowledge of the music landscape while still being adventurous and unique, with cuttingly frank lyrics and a sound that is simultaneously complex and direct.
The mastermind behind Brian Destiny is that of Nathan Saoudi, most often seen manning the keyboards for the Fat White Family (among other things) and joined here by a remarkable line-up of familiar faces from the South London scene. The ability of all musicians involved plays into the extreme maturity of sound displayed here, far greater than what one would expect in a debut. The complexity of composition is easily the most striking thing about this record: the breadth of sound is in places imposing while never becoming cumbersome, the songwriting and production are both sharp, meticulous, and precise, the blending of electronica, guitar, brass, and voice executed with practiced smoothness. Saoudi’s range and soulfulness in delivering lyrics which often border on poetry is one of the stand-out features; so is the skill in inserting little, pointed synth phrases into a tapestry woven over multiple layers and held together by a backbone of bass. All four tracks in the EP can be potentially dissected into a remarkably broad array of elements, all brought together to create a voice that is both distinct and versatile.
It is also a clever record in the way that it hints at so much music history before proceeding to do entirely its own thing. Opener ‘Is It Gonna Be Love?‘ has echoes of Gary Numan and late-Seventies Bowie filtered through a use of synth that is entirely Brian Destiny’s own. The crescendo of strings emerging in the instrumental bridge before breaking into the coda of the song is one of the most interesting snippets of music of the last year. Follow-up track ‘What If I Told You That‘ – a personal favourite and an absolutely banging song to hear live, as well as a merciless earworm – is short and extremely precise, bringing the bass to the front and playing around with disruptive saxophone chatter while delivering an undiluted punch of a lyric. The most recent single drawn from the EP, ‘Feed The Horse,’ is a very dark trip, a vortex of sticky psychedelia which accomplishes the far-from-easy feat of almost directly quoting the Vapors’ Turning Japanese and making it haunting. It is the best example of this record’s command of synth, its unbroken line of electronic suction sounding in places like Kraftwerk gone dark. The controlled chaos of this track is a good sample of the way that this EP has an ability to suddenly open his voice up into something almost symphonic when you least expected, something that is most fully realised in the closing track, ‘Never Again,’ which also has some of the best lyrics on the record. It’s almost as if the EP made a conscious choice to come to an end by unloading all its metaphorical guns and showing its listeners all that it can do. There is something almost heartwrenching both to the lyrics and to the way this song sounds, in the vocals – earnest to the point of cracking, a calculated chip in an otherwise perfectly smooth execution – as well as in the way keys, flute, drums, synths all contribute in making the track mount like a wave without losing any of its airiness.
Very rarely, and almost never on a debut, is an EP so precise, poignant, unique-sounding, and without any low point. I am absolutely eager to hear more, and will be listening to it again and again – there is a pleasure on noticing all the small things that went into it, the evident effort of love made in producing. One thing is beyond doubt: Brian has certainly got talent.
Brian’s Got Talent is available to stream exclusively through Bandcamp now – with a vinyl release arriving later in the Summer via Dash the Henge.
Photo Credit: Lou Smith