Our Daily Bread 393: Elian Gray ‘Awkward Awe’

August 17, 2020

ALBUM REVIEW/MATT OLIVER




Elian Gray ‘Awkward Awe’
Album/14th August 2020


“We got blogs to tell us how journalism lost its essence/and Urban Outfitters are hosting ayahuasca sessions” 

 

Dystopian is too convenient a sonic description. Claustrophobia is a given. Conspiracy theorist is a bit on the nose. But there’s no doubt Elian Gray is revelling in a no man’s land just shy of pitch black. At various points referencing The Lasso, Aesop Rock, Acyde, Tinie Tempah, Ed Scissor, Riz Ahmed and Ghostpoet, Awkward Awe is music for the fibre optic generation trapped in a tangle of their own wires, relaying scenes seen through CCTV that have its lookout warning that you’re still not seeing the whole picture. It’s all-knowing, antiestablishment, reality too skewed to become fantasy, hip-hop/grime from someone with the world in the palm of his hands, whose attitude means he’s likelier to toss it back and chuckle villainously upon its implosion. His sometime involvement with the DefDFires crew makes sense as well, given the days of reckoning permanently ringed on that particular outfit’s calendar.

A dry, beady-eyed delivery made spiteful when at full speed/spiked by microphone distortion, is further enhanced when it drops down into skulking, night vision reportage (the aromatic ‘Mango Lassi’) and mounts a throne while predicting death by screen burn with a quiet relish. ‘Haters Will Say Its Photoshop’ proclaims, without a hint of irony, “with this access to boundless information/I’m sat in my pants, on my phone, judging strangers”. Gray’s occasional, intentional running into dead ends nicely sums up society’s mindset of misaligning deeds and thoughts. Thing is, some of his rhymes are so biting that they sound ideal for a hipster to scrawl across an overpriced tote bag. Maybe Gray has been burned by the lifestyle he now admonishes, or is inexplicably trying to bring civilisation down from the inside while the oblivious keep calm and carries on. Virtually praying by candlelight on ‘Awe’ while fallen angels read their own last rites, Gray is dismissive of the vulnerability he can show (“I’ve been so afraid of love it’s made me bitter inside”) – the world order will flippantly take care of that particular caveat anyway, citing the fact that everyone’s made their bed, so all’s left is to lie in it.

 

“It’s no secret the world’s outgrown its own leaders/yet I can’t help feeling our defects might go deeper” 

 

Interrupted beats, of broken, backfiring connections to trip hop, are all digital oil drum fires and London wastelands with irregular electronic heartbeats, infrequently flashing back to slick moments in time akin to a black box recorder spewing out something pertinent. The thoroughfare ‘Mary J Poppins’ allocates time to get your head together, and ‘Meanwhile’ surprises with its bursts of glam rock guitar. The restored glamour of ‘High Art’, and ‘Leonards Got Bars’, occupy life at the sharp end – or at least live with the idea of doing so – the latter in particular nut-shelling the fallout of high def beats and alternations between the balance of ignorance and bliss. ‘Another T Shirt’, trap booms grappling with blinking 8-bit neon and a lone songstress wailing, is Gray developing an Infinite Livez incision, but burying the slapstick with a cold stare and trigger temper, cultivated and remaining coiled since the rooftop shouts of opening track ‘Awkward’ give a momentary impression of just another loudmouth shooting their five minute shot.

In these current times – and that includes the stick-to-the-sheets temperatures of late – there’s no better soundtrack, and Awkward Awe becomes more and more a perfect description of Gray’s caustic detailing. Throughout he is undeniably passionate and articulate, but as on ‘Pisces’, able to tear down the façade of life, the universe and everything without breaking stride, not looking to gain constituents and not particularly caring whether you take his word as gospel. It’s hard to argue with the logic that “once the lie detector detected itself lying/the polygraph it seems is not without a sense of irony”. And with the world showing no signs of doing anything other than going through the motions, Gray won’t be short of work anytime soon.

His is an inner circle operating as a force field keeping out the rabble, so good luck trying to offer your admiration: even his most amplified call-to-arms, ‘Come Down with Me’, isn’t an entirely convincing statement of brotherly love. Sharpen the scalpel for repeated dissection of Gray’s 50 shades of antipathy.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: