Photo: Ninja Tune

Young Fathers: TAPE 1 and TAPE 2 (Reissue)

The reissue of Young Fathers' TAPE 1 and TAPE 2 shows the Scottish group's early promise.
Young Fathers
TAPE 1 and TAPE 2
Ninja Tune

The Scottish group Young Fathers is a uniquely 21st-century ensemble both with the identity of the creators behind the music as well as the styles the music moves through. The group is made up of Graham ‘G’ Hastings, who grew up in Edinburgh, Alloysious Massaquoi who is originally from Liberia by way of Ghana, and Kayus Bankole who was raised by his Nigerian parents in the US before moving to Scotland. In their later work, like on the recent album, White Men Are Black Men Too, the group’s relationship to identity is foregrounded. But on their two early mixtapes, aptly titled TAPE 1 and TAPE 2 they communicate their identity more through sonic means, although some lyrics like “white boy beat, block boy rhythm” off “Rumbling” on Tape 1 make direct reference to the group’s unique perspective.

The music contained on the recently reissued TAPE’s is a confluence of dark-edged trip-hop, experimental indie production, and varying vocal styles that shift from reggae-ish melodies and phrasing to group shout-alongs from punk records. While their style is indeed unique, there is a deep similarity between the music contained here and the early records of TV on the Radio, particularly the Young Liars EP and Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. TVOR left this sound behind after Return to Cookie Mountain — the expansive connective tissue between their early more lo-fi/experimental leaning works and the full-bodied funk workouts they still put out today. So, hearing a group explore similar sonic ground is refreshing, as it feels like an area of synthesis that is too under-explored. (Consider the deeply plundered area of Joy Division-style post-punk or the ramshackle post-Pavement and Guided by Voices sound-alikes and you’ll probably agree too.)

But Young Fathers wouldn’t have achieved the acclaim and success they have if they were simply retreading sounds proffered by a legendary group. The group feels particularly novel in their decentralized approach to both music making and the perspectives presented within the lyrics. The tapes are produced from the band themselves, so there isn’t necessarily a distinction made between where one musician’s input starts, and another’s ends. By the same token, the vocals and lyrics throughout never feel out of step with each other despite pursuing different ends in themselves.