Across their first three albums, Young Fathers created their very own sonic universe; a sound which remains truly genreless, hovering between a multiverse of influences. An artist’s fourth album always makes for an interesting move - typically groups shake up the formula or cement their identity further at this juncture; ‘Heavy Heavy’ is the sound of an intense resurgence where Young Fathers’ sonic identity is celebrated front and centre. Cooked up after some time away from each other following a hectic schedule in the wake of third LP ‘Cocoa Sugar’, we hear the electrifying results of the Scottish trio reuniting in a back-to-basics studio setting.
The ten songs here are expansive but seldom dribble over the three-minute mark. Tightly wound over its 33-minute running time but dense in its substance, the busy chaos of life surrounds the tracks like the city: sounds bleed in from the outside, voices fade in and out whether they’re whispering, shouting, screaming or singing while drums pound away as the beating heart at the centre of it all. Ultimately though, joy flows throughout this record, in all its various ways.
Opener ‘Rice’ with its pogo-ing bassline morphs from a jangly shuffle to an eruptive finale like a magic trick. The layers continue to shift like tectonic plates across the record, smoothly rearranging the terrain beneath the songs as they go. The group’s knack for hooks allows this trick to be pulled off, acting as a distraction while the scene around it changes, as is evidenced on ‘I Saw’ and ‘Drum’; their vocals collide on the former to stunning effect exorcising the spirit of the song while percussion and synths flutter behind the addictive melody of ‘Drum’.
‘Tell Somebody’ offers a little breathing space - slowly architected around a cyclical melody and a swelling organ, it builds and grows receding only when it feels literally on the verge of exploding out the speakers. Lyrically, their abstract approach remains but often brushes shoulders with fragments of reality you can hold onto. “I wanna be your lady forgetting I’m the man,” they sing on closer ‘Be Your Lady’. ‘Geronimo’ is draped in paternal imagery, the phrase “Breathe in like a lion / Breathe out like a lamb” is whispered like a mantra to oneself before they sing “Being a son, brother, uncle, father figure / I gotta survive and provide.” Consistently, it feels as if the words pull from a place of experience offering advice: “And for one night only don’t procrastinate,” they plead atop the jittery instrumental of ‘Holy Moly’.
What remains evident about this group is the preservation of themselves as an entity - it’s very difficult to pinpoint which member is providing the vocal at any one time which feels like a deliberate ploy to celebrate their bond. ‘Heavy Heavy’ finds Young Fathers fired up in each other’s company again venturing deeper into a world only they can occupy. Unique, raw and totally joyous.