We’re all waiting for the new R.Kelly video series and the new D’Angelo album. Let’s not kid ourselves; neo-soul and mid-to-late-90s R&B was about as good as it got for white kids who wanted to kick it like they weren’t. In the meantime, a whole bunch of dudes their own complexion popped up to fill the void between Voodoo and Miguel. What became passe in the wake of garage rock suddenly became cool again, but most of these guys were too jerky, too earnest, and frankly, not sexy enough to be believable as the guy who sometimes wears a shirt with his own face on it and potentially slept with an underage Aaliyah just because. But then we reach Inc., a sibling duo from the UK who just really get it. Out on 4AD, one of the few record labels on the planet (XL, Matador, Sub Pop excluded) that just don’t know how to release anything that isn’t stellar, their debut is so smooth it actually has no edges.
Inc. have released a few singles of this album but ‘The Place’ is the one that really grabs me. It sounds like ice and crystals, all hissing hi-hats and pinging snares that bounce off the cavernous walls of the igloo created by chiming synths. It sort of sounds like a train speeding up and slowing down, with the vocals gliding in and out of the frame in time with these changes. These transitions – the bits where you hear percussion hits everywhere that usually occur at the end of the phrase- are really hip-hop. It’s what you’d typically hear at the end of a Drake, Weezy or Yeezy verse, where the ramp up the word flow while the drums lock down behind them. Instead, the multi-tracked vocals of Andrew Aged shine through in a way only contemporary updates of this genre can. It’s like they almost release the tension as it’s being built, a weird cross-section between funk, soul and chillwave. In other words, it’s god damn gorgeous.
In some way, Inc. arew like the cross-Atlantic, less stressed version of Autre Ne Veut, but in others, they’re completely different. Their whole album, rather than trying to stun you into submission, is an exercise in mood and an experiment to see how long you can sustain a theme. They succeed primarily because even if you’re a cynic like I am, there’s no denying that this is such a nice thing to listen to, and that it’s the aural equivalent of sex with a beautiful woman who only likes you for your intellect in an infinity pool in Bali. But there’s darkness hovering beneath the glassy water with Inc., sometimes apparent, sometimes implied and its what makes them interesting to me. Much of this is supplied by Daniel, the other brother in the equation, who mans the bas and production. Some of those riffs drop, ever so briefly into unnerving minor territory, and you can glimpse what’s happening inside the machine. Like a good art house film, Inc. will always keep you guessing.
Inc. – ‘The Place’