Rusty Malcolm Is Dead


9th February 2022

It's gone three in the morning as we rock up to the sea wall, our hands are dusted with colourful freckles and mission done, we're sat on the concrete cliff top and roll up a couple of smokes, crack open a couple of beers, and start to wind down. It's a crisp night, and the world is silent, paused as it always is between three and four. It holds it's breath, the susurration of the sea only punctuated by the distant indiscriminate yelps of a city on the weekend, most everyone is asleep, warm, safe, and secure. Other than the odd reveller taking the scenic route back to student down we're alone and heady with the adrenaline of mischief managed. After a while she pulls out her speaker and asked me what I fancy, so I find the album I've just downloaded, tell her I'm supposed to review it, check it out? Sure.

The music starts with electronic percussion as we dick about the volume and get the right level for the introductory “Yo!”. We don't speak again for thirteen minutes and fifty four seconds, when we do it's only to say “fuuck” with wide eyes and appreciate nodding. We take another swing and stare out at the rumbling sea for a while long, wait until we come too.

Rat King, seemingly starts of with the usual enough, a little ode to the love affair with the music and the life, getting mullard down the pub, kicking off and all that. However, it's all surface. Spattered through-out the comfortable shell are the sharp stabs of introspection and the lyrics drip with fragility and displacement. Across the track an underlying internal struggle is laid out. It leaves me with the alienation and unease you feel after the nights capricious fun has worn away and you're still you. This is all the more highlighted by the discord between these gritty lyrics and the drifty dreamlike, almost etheric driving pace set by the beat. The track truly becomes something else when Floralis launches into a tsunami of emotional and mental distress, the idiosyncratic flow here is audio butter. My company teared up with this sudden explosion of fear and helplessness, as did I, heck, damn right I did, I was entirely shook by this sudden and unexpected wave of anguish. Where the fuck did that come from? An immediate change down tempo follows and we're given a moment to breath as they fade outwards, stripping out the elements until we're left which the twinkling reprise that, come to think of it reminds me of Playstation era Nobuo Uematsu, both bright and charming, while overflowing with the bittersweet.

Rat Poison opens with an slow, purposeful drone and the lyrics start in a calm refined poetic manner. Then the chorus kicks up. I hate trying to read into what someone else's music is about, especially when it's so obviously emotive and charged, but me? I heard the story of overdose (The eponymous “Rat Poison”) and holding onto someone's life as they slip away, loving them, hating them, cursing them and pleading with deities you don't believe in. The relationship you had with them, the moments, and the meanings all blurring together. All of which is all to recent an experience for me, it hit me like a sledgehammer. Fuck. It has more than a dash of the likes of Atmosphere, The Streets, and Scroobious Pip. Easily on par with these luminaries, the verses are critical and powerful, dripping with substance and meaning. Not a single word is wasted. My compa is sat hugging her legs, cig burnt down unsmoked, I pass her another bottle as the next track opens with a highly pitched moment of calm.

Rusty Malcolm Is Dead, the only track I'd heard before, is a visceral attack on the injustice put upon us by the cold and careless police. Valhalla Kid opens with a verse about an undercover's brutality, OS Elliott follows with the painful moment he realises the police, the protectors, don't care and Floralis rounds of the opening recalling a defeated moment after trying to speak up before we return to Valhalla Kid who lays out exactly what this track is about “We all feel little, hands on you anywhere, Even at a fucking vigil when you’re sitting down in Bristol, Even when the killer was colleague”. It's a powerful audio assault on the police, pulled from real moments and the events we are living now. Each chorus, verse, and interlude barrels onwards, the guttural rage and distorted vocal creating a uncomfortable mantra before dropping off back to the fragile and melancholic loop we started with only now it's layered with distortion, to my ears, less naïve to the world. I realise as it ends that tho I had heard it before when it was shared with us, I didn't listen. We'll I'm fucking listening now.

(Thinking about it, “Rusty Malcolm” is the name of the stock car racer Malcolm (in Malcolm In The Middle) is named after. He (kinda sorta) represents the halcyon days ending, and he's out for one more race. I don't know, maybe those Halcyon days are over. Crash and Burn. So long Rusty, So long the naivety. Could be talking out my arse here. 50/50.)

Thunder (remix), returns to a more traditional hip hop form, a soliloquy for some lost love, it's a much shorter track, but no less punchy, the lyrics are expertly put together and delivered and it's ghostly score had both of us giving an appreciative nod to the beat, tho if I'm honest, the down-pitched vocal elements, just ain't for me, I know, I know, plenty of people love 'em. Shhh. Other than this mild whiplash it's a grand bookend to the EP

As the witching hour started to draw to an end, we loitered a while longer, finishing off the beers before walking back into the urban maw. Usually we'd keep listening to tunes, watch some videos, fuck about. That night we left it muted. As we headed away from the edge of the world back into the city sprawl I knew full well we'd both been struck hard. You don't let music like that pass without note. You have to leave it to settle and digest before you carry on.

(My friend would like to add : “Yeah they are fucking rad man.”)

Rusty Malcolm Is Dead (EP) isn't easy to listen too, it's dripping with pain, passion, love and rage. The collective have put together an crucial and potent EP loaded with ridiculously evocative lyrics. These lyrics are set against a distinctive combination of uplifting melodies, driving rhythms, and disconcerting overlays. The dramatic shifts between beats that attack you like a freight train barrelling towards you and the more playful elements, each punctuated moments of silence throughout, stands out in a genre of music that all to often relies of more formulaic backgrounds. Similarly hip hop often loses itself in self indulgence and self inflation, and there is none of that here, even if one of the lyrics is “So I got more fuck than a flesh light” haha which is, well it's something.

The Lowlives Collective are - Floralis - Orange Bloom - Valhalla Kid - OS Elliott, predominately from the South East of England (tho we'll forgive them), self describe as an “LGBTQ+ anarcho communist alternative hip hop group, drawing influences from Bjork, Frank Ocean, Aesop Rock and Brockhampton.” They all do solo stuff too, which is always interesting for me, dissecting a group and seeing each of the collectives in their own solitary splendour. Floralis recommends Salamander Crawfish by Valhalla Kid (a very disrespectful anarchist song) or their own track Watch Out for the Western Lights (a song about neocolonialism), it's all quite distinct and well worth a deeper dive. As for the collective itself, well here is someone else's blurb “Using their gothic, art pop and electronic influences throughout their hip hop, they strive to immerse listeners into a colourful, experimental and abrasive sound.” - I'd agree with that and they certainly succeed. I cannot wait for a full album and truly hope I get to see them live before they blown up.

Rusty Malcolm Is Dead (EP) came out at the start of December and a quick look at their social media shows a shocking lack of people aware of them and this banging EP. I got my copy from their Bandcamp for a few quid, but they're up on all the usual locations, Deezer, Spotify etc and you can find them on social media, go and give them some love. Oh and smash that like, follow, subscribe on Youtube too, their videos are quite fun, the love child of Death Grips and Yung Lean, low budget and full of all that post-retro VHS charm that seems popular at the minute. You'll find the usual links at the bottom etc Trust me tho, don't just chuck the EP into your playlist and pass through it like a yuppie backpacker “doing” Lisbon. Find a moment, whether alone or with someone who knows you enough not to front apathy to save face, and let your self be absorb. I'm not just saying this because it's been two months since I said I'd put this review out, I'm saying it because they stole my night. It's honest and raw and fucking beautiful.

Rusty Malcolm is Dead is avilable for £5 on Bandcamp: Rusty Malcolm Is Dead

Peter Ó Máille

Instagram: @lowlivescollective
Twitter: @Lowlives1
Facebook : lowlivescollective

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