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Live Review: 'Wake Up' is an early highlight off Sagrada Familiar's debut LP

26 April 2018 | 10:25 am | Kyle Fensom

'Wake Up' is an early highlight from Sagrada Familiar's debut album, a concise distillation of everything the multi-limbed group do best.

SAGRADA FAMILIAR are a seven-piece experimental hip-hop collective whose music exists somewhere between the smoky jazz of To Pimp A Butterfly, the psychedelic beat kaleidoscopes of FLYING LOTUS, the sun-kissed funk of THUNDERCAT, the soulful grooves of D’ANGELO, and, occasionally, the abrasive noise of DEATH GRIPS. The plethora of influences are necessary in describing the sound of their just-released debut full-length, Unfamiliar, which channels these stylistic references into a sprawling, ambitious collection of downbeat, jazz-tinged hip-hop.

Arriving second on the LP’s tracklisting, ‘Wake Up’ is an early highlight, a concise distillation of everything the multi-limbed group does best. Like their previous single, ‘Wolf In A Mist’, the band complement vocalist CHARLIE SUNDBORN’S restless, fidgety flows and paranoid lyricism with constantly mutating arrangements whilst taking a more non-linear approach to composition. At the same time, ‘Wake Up’ evinces a low-key pop sensibility previously unheard in Sagrada’s work, with Sundborn trading rap verses off the smooth, silky-voiced hooks of co-vocalist SID SPRINGWINER.

In this, the track becomes - structurally, lyrically and musically speaking - a study in contrasts. It’s a study in the contrasts found between the character you present to others and your true personality, between living in the night and living in the day, between feeling alienated from your surroundings and learning how to only feel comfortable in the same environment, between ambition in “wishing for something greater” and the mundane realities of your life. Ultimately, it builds to an arresting, subtly nuanced portrayal of the contrasting emotions and impulses of drug dependency, Sundborn repeating the refrain: “All a dream ‘til I wake up / All a haze ‘til you blaze up.”

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Musically, the rest of Sagrada play around with these light-and-dark dichotomies as well. Beneath dulcet keys, far-off saxophones meander deep in the mix, occasionally intruding upon the foreground to add some blaring notes of dissonance and injecting an edge of darkness to the track. Through dense textural layering and virtuosic musicianship, an otherwise sunny groove bolstered by a G-Funk-indebted bassline, thick synths and a lightweight backbeat coalesces into a gooey sludge dripping with unease.

As a microcosm of the full project, ‘Wake Up’ can tell you a lot about Sagrada Familiar’s debut album, namely in how it’s stylistic diversity belies an ambitious scope and a complex attention to detail that converts their debut record into a statement of artistic intent moving forward. It’s not surprising that, according to the band, Unfamiliar underwent a long creative gestation - two years, in fact. On ‘Wake Up’, the details of that labour are felt acutely.   

Unfamiliar is out now via Late Night Cereal Records - you can stream or purchase it here.

IMAGE: Sebastian Callum