Following universal praise for their previous releases and a period of assiduous studio hibernation, EastLondon duo ‘Equals’ announce their much-anticipated full debut album ‘1997’. Listen here
Describing themselves as ‘Electronic Soul with substance’, Equals are 21st century modernists with rhythm, blues and modular synthesis; transfixed by creating beatific yet deeply meaningful music.
Alongside the palpable chemistry between songwriter James Low and singer Ade Omotayo, passion, adept studio mastery and marksman-like attention to detail is in abundance throughout 1997. Purposeful light andshade permeate the album which spans pure elation to affecting rawness carried by Ade’s inspiring vocal range and James’ observational storytelling.
From the opening track ‘Triumph’ and its joyous uplifting optimism through to the taciturn sparsity of previous single ‘Husk’, 1997 is an album which consciously comprises timeless studio production of the 80s with a crystal clear view of the contemporary.
Meticulous horns, synths, claps and rolling bass licks echo soulful pop grooves in the vein of Prince, MichaelJackson and Chic, whilst future-pop hooks are flanked by loops and off-kilter stabs in a nod to the likes of Kaytranada, Frank Ocean and James Blake.
The album features guest appearances from members of Submotion Orchestra and the Bonobo band with contributions from producer Loxe (Nao), Ghosttown (High Focus) and Titeknots (Tru Thoughts) culminating in an immense immersive listening experience.
In James words:
“Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Solange’s A Seat at the Table inspired making a certain typeof album – combining different musical styles, weaving each track into the next with skits or segues, repeating lyrics that reference and contextualise each other, still having songs standalone but, as an album, the songs paint a bigger picture…I’m not saying we come anywhere close to these incredible albums – but they created space in which it feels legitimate to try.”
1997 is in fact a concept album, about how it feels to have lived through the cultural, political and psychological cul-de-sac of the last twenty years – waiting for 1997 to deliver the progress it promised.
The album as a whole is inspired by action against the conveyor belt of mediocrity that’s experienced walking through identikit high streets (Psalm for the Shadows), watching endless TV remakes (Hi-Def Retro), listening to cover versions of cover versions and bland meaningless music (Fizzy Pop). The juxtaposition of mind-numbing boredness but never being bored because you’re anxiously repeating meaningless patterns of behaviour and trying to be more productive (Modalert) with only exhaustion, self-doubt and depression to show for it – which you’re convinced must be your fault (No Right). With time speeding up, we’re remaking the old but being obsessed with youth (Husk) and using nostalgia as a coping mechanism (Weary Eyes) to help us feel grounded in some kind of shared or common experience. Feeling and recognising these patterns of behaviour, but being unable to operate outside of them – when all you really want to do is make good music (Triumph).
“The late cultural critic Mark Fisher, and in particular his book “Ghosts of my Life: writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures” gave us a way of articulating these feelings sonically and verbally. His writings provided the conceptual scaffolding for this album – it wouldn’t exist without Mark, pure and simple” – James
Deep layered content rewards the attentive listener, but the duo never let lyrical or conceptual depth get in the way of pulse-quickening rhythms and earworm-worthy melodics – this album has satisfaction in abundance no matter the surroundings – whether lighting up dancefloors or indulging solitary headphone excursions, 1997 will arouse your spirits to years to come…
Catch Equals live:
March 3Bristol, Trinity – supporting Submotion Orchestra
March 8Plymouth, The Hub – supporting Submotion Orchestra
March 14London, Album party, Ace Hotel
March 17Leeds, Canal Mills – supporting Submotion Orchestra