Benin City | Fires In The Park

by Lee Adcock

Genre-bending has become so commonplace in our great big alternative universe of music, that it’s become difficult to get psyched about yet another this/that fusion. But fused genre trio Benin City have welded together a striking (and remarkably definitive) new style on their debut LP, Fires In The Park. With utter disregard to boundaries or hipster pretensions, they’ve meshed hip-hop flows, drum n’ bass beats, electro details, and jazzy instrumentation, along with other disparate elements, into one unpredictable, yet surprisingly consistent sound.

Tom Leaper, who mans the horns, synths, and other samples, conjures this supremely urban vibe with sassy saxes and horns, and colors it in vivid shades with synths. ‘Wha Ghan’ is perhaps the brightest showcase of Leaper’s finesse, where a rumbling sustain and a golden riff from the saxes combine in an absolutely stirring chorus. Granted, his wizardry permeates the entire album in sundry forms, from the pulsing ‘Faithless’ to the chilly, vibraphone-laced ‘Only The Beginning’. Theo Buckingham, co-producer, mans the drums, favoring a crisp timbre and dubstep rhythms; you can hear his crisp and versatile rhythms working overtime on the ever-shifting, hip-hop breakdown ‘Winning Streak’.

However, the “it” factor to Benin City is totally Joshua Idehen, a veteran of the London spoken word scene. His enticing delivery, rife with expression and tempered by nuance, can command any song he wants to. The brooding “D.A.M” is graced with Idehen’s natural suavity; on ‘Baby’, his utterly compelling vocals caress an achingly soulful, hauntingly sparse ballad; with ‘Pencils’, he maintains a sweet flow and squeals some delightful exclamations.

As an album, Fires In The Park is exceptionally cohesive. Two short, snazzy instrumental sections – the funky ‘So You Say Reprise’ and the snaky, flowing ‘Winning Streak Reprise’ – highlight the greatest sax lines on the album. Curiously, though, that incredibly suave melody from the former interlude doesn’t recur until the very end of the album, on the hypnotically catchy ‘So You Say’ (which, by the by, features one helluva jazzy sax solo). Sequencing touches like this further reinforce the sprawling metropolis vibe that Benin City have already portrayed so well, providing familiar landmarks in the dazzling urban maze.

Bottom line: Benin City have something astonishing here on Fires In The Park, something which ought to turn heads and cause quite a stir. As the rebellious name implies, this LP could be at the forefront of an underground uprising, raising the floodgates for other dubstep engineers or hip-hop MCs to bring their craft to wider, obliging audiences. Fires In The Park will be out via Audio Doughnuts on July 1st – and you must not miss it.

Pre-order Fire In The Park via Boomkat here.

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