Exponents  –  Agency (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Agency-e1529681209575I spend so much of my time trying to find something new to say about music that lands on my desk with the label R&B attached, music that is really just production line pop with the same stolen groove and an eye on a quick buck, that I have taken to dreading anything which turns up with such moniker attached. Perhaps it is such a backdrop of unoriginality that makes Agency’s Exponents e.p shine so brightly, though more likely it is that what’s going on here is actually something a bit special, cool and totally original, a collection of songs created by thinking so far out of the box that they can’t even see the box in the rear-view mirror as they take this musical vehicle for a spin down the highway.

Take opening salvo Darkness for example. Most artists would want to make a big and obvious impact to kick the record off, Agency opt for a wonderfully weird and glitchy a capella introduction, much more memorable in its otherness than the usual bombastic offerings. It then proceeds to play with everything from sweeping pop balladry to hip-hop grooves, from  up beat soul to mainstream commercial infectiousness. In just this opening track they seem to cover more musical ground than many acts take the first decade of their career and four albums to encapsulate.

Moonlight weaves more ambient threads together, smooth soulfulness, sultry grooves and a wonderful use of space to create atmosphere and anticipation between the notes and the beats and Daylight is the perfect dance floor wind down as the club slips into the early hours chill mode. Nothing Easy About Me,  the final slice of this five song offering, is a brilliantly eclectic musical cut up of spoken word and strangely affected musical interludes.

And whilst it is easy to assign these tracks to broad generic labels, that doesn’t even begin to do them justice as even when they can be pinned down to such normal classifications the songs seem to be constantly either creating new sub-genres within them or making leaps across those generic fences and gene-splicing music and ideas that seem to have passed everyone else by. The ability to do this, to almost turn accepted musical forms on their head and still come away with something cohesive, intriguing and accessible is a trick most can’t carry off. And when they are not reinventing the core concepts of soul, R&B, hip-hop, ambient pop and the like, they are creating wonderfully smooth, musically elegant and lyrically eloquent songs.

If it wasn’t for the fact that you can’t help but love everything about them, they would make you jealous enough to hate them…in a good way, at least.

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