“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”
(Psalm 34: 4, King James Version)
The most interesting artist in British music today is also the one you haven’t heard of.
After two albums with Maria Uzor under the banner of Sink Ya Teeth (Sink Ya Teeth and Two), Gemma Cullingford released her debut solo album, Let me Speak, in 2021 and followed it up with Tongue Tied a year later. Both albums drew inspiration from the likes of New Order, Depeche Mode, A Certain Ratio and all manner of 80’s and 90’s dance/electronic music. But neither album sounded like anything other than Gemma Cullingford. She is an original of the species. How many people can you really say that about?
This year she has joined forces with performance poet/poetic performer, Luke Wright, a man whose CV includes some 20 stage shows, 12 publications, and goodness knows how many accolades across the past twenty years.
Earlier this year the pair released “You Are Making Progress With Your Therapist” which sounded like John Betjeman’s “Banana Blush” crossed with John Cooper Clarke and a Hacienda floor filler.
“Did you hear the dark waves murmur
Gently on the shore?
And see the morning breaking,
Though still stood within the night?
When those waves came lapping,
Each one nearer than the last,
Did they sob amongst the shingle?”
Look, you can bray as long, and as loud, as you like about whichever “legend” of what used to be indie music, and which is now just trad rock in a cagoule, as you like, but not a single one of them has ever committed to the grooves of a record anything as literate or beautiful as that.
Don’t blame me.
Blame your heroes for being lazy.
Now the duo are back with “FOMO”.
“The poem” says Luke “was written from the perspective of a man whose lover is on a night out hundreds of miles away, and the self disgust and insecurity he feels when faced with the negative representation of toxic men in the media.”
I think it is safe to say that we are not dealing with council skies here.
“And I can’t even picture the bar she’s in
But it’s probably like 1920s Paris:
A razor-wire back and forth
Absinthe green, electrified.
And all the blokes are fucking Hemingway:
A dashing rugby squad of enfant terribles”
The familiar dark, but danceable, beats, bleeps, and grooves, of Cullingford’s music combine perfectly with Wright's voice, and with her own whispered howl of a vocal which, according to her is “Speaking on behalf of people that have experienced the feeling of being shut down by loud, overbearing and entitled folk and the mental exhaustion that can leave you with.”
There is something quite devastating about the fact that the forthcoming E.P. from Wright and Cullingford will be a digital only release, music this vital, lyrics this magnificent, deserve to have a physical form, to be held in the hand, and to nestle in the record collection. No matter, the thing that really matters is that here we have music that matters…again.