Angels & Devils marks an evolution of the sound that made London Zoo a classic. It's divided into two clear halves, beginning with "Angels," which has a more introspective sound. It can, at times, feel miles away from the furious dancehall mutations we have come to expect, but it still retains all the elements that make Martin's productions stand out. Opening track "Void," with Liz Harris of Grouper on vocals, slowly fades in through thick static. Delicate vocals like these, while central to King Midas Sound, are rarely used by The Bug. There's no angry grime chatter, no patois. Instead, the tension is increased subtly through tight hi-hat rolls. "Pandi," a beat-less, organ-led number, is unmistakably Martin purely through the dread and drama it evokes. "Mi Lost," featuring his frequent live collaborator Miss Red, is the closest this section gets to his past output, but it's still much more ethereal than what we're used to.
The "Devils" half, on the other hand, comes bursting through as hard as ever. A furious delivery from Flowdan on the heavily percussive "The One" can barely prepare you for the onslaught. Warrior Queen's turn on "Fuck You" is a worthy companion to the iconic "Poison Dart." But it's the new sparring partners that give us the standout moments. Manga provides a cheeky counter-point to the ridiculously screw-faced beat of "Function," and in the process equips the album with the sort of anthem many of us were hoping for. The instrumental of "Fuck A Bitch" suits its Death Grips vocal so well that it's hard to believe it had originally been written for Roll Deep.
This is true of every vocal track: you always feel like Martin is carefully considering the unique voice and flow of his collaborator, and is building his songs around them. That's why, despite the angry and abrasive nature of his sound, he's had durability well beyond most of his peers. Angels & Devils is an improvement on what was already an all-time favourite, and I haven't even heard the record on an obnoxiously loud soundsystem yet. That should be another formative moment.
Mon / 25 Aug 2014
01. Void feat. Liz Harris
02. Fall feat. copeland
04. Mi Lost feat. Miss Red
06. Save Me feat. Gonjasufi
07. The One feat. Flowdan
08. Function feat. Manga
09. Fuck a Bitch feat. Death Grips
10. Fat Mac feat. Flowdan
11. Fuck You feat. Warrior Queen
12. Dirty feat. Flowdan