The fact that the whole Yeezus thing, despite being less than a year old, feels like a tired narrative for Evian Christ, is a testament to what he’s already laid out for himself as a solo artist. It is worth retelling though, as it serves as a significant signpost in what has been an astonishingly steep trajectory for the Ellesmere Port producer. The story goes - as he revealed to XXL Mag in June last year - that after hearing some of his work, the G.O.O.D. Music team got in touch with Leary’s label Tri-Angel Records over email, tentatively suggesting that West was putting a team of producers together for his next record. Eventually, after sending some beats over to the studio, he was invited over to the states to contribute to the recording of I’m In It, a highlight of what was one of the biggest releases in the world. It is a remarkable story, one that is almost impervious to hyperbole (despite my attempts by the looks of it), and has allowed Joshua Leary to command a wide, global audience for his first set of official releases this year.
Signposts, though. At the start of 2012 Leary linked up with the New York based Tri-Angle Records to release his Kings and Them mixtape, exploring the boundaries between hip-hop and electronic music over the course of eight raw, frantic, blistering tracks. The steady, simmering Drip, or the more abrasive Snapback Back, spliced elements of witch-house, early dubstep, trap and any other sub-genre of hip-hop and electronic music you can think of to frame affected rap vocals, turning even the most rudimentary self-conscious hip-hop phrases into powerful and bold centerpieces.
Towards the end of last year as the Yeezus dust was settling, Salt Carousel - the first cut from upcoming Tri Angel EP Waterfall - appeared on his Soundcloud. As the first post-yeezus release he left nothing to speculation, laying some warped, frantic synth and vocal work to an absolutely vile, stomach-churning beat. Second track Waterfall, which dropped last week, goes in even harder with dementia inducing industrial percussion work annihilating its way through some ambient melodic touches. The song reaches no-holds-barred territory by the end, doubling up on percussion and refracting that Yeezus aggression into his own warped, twisted prism.
The songs have rightfully earned praise from all corners of popular music, turning Leary into the kind of artist that can transcend festival tent, MDMA fuelled hysteria and lights down rehearsal space within the same piece of music. And this isn’t aggression for the sake of aggression, or volume for the sake of volume, because despite the maximalist, loud as fuck approach, he never loses control of the billions of little parts crisscrossing all over his songs. The EP, released on the 17th March, is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated UK electronic music debuts in recent years, and the thought of Leary presenting his vision of electronic music within the boundaries of a singular body of work is one of intriguing possibilities.
In a recent interview with Fact Magazine, Leary spoke openly about a feeling of detachment and disillusion with the music scene here in the North West: “It’s wild to me that I can play a show in Iceland or the middle of Canada, but I can’t play a show in my home city, which maybe suggests that there might not be much of an electronica scene in Liverpool”. And it’s true; Evian Christ still hasn’t performed here in Liverpool despite a number of headline shows in London and Manchester. There is a danger of taking these kind of comments too personally though, allowing judgment to be clouded and the way his music is experience to be skewered. And whilst I wouldn’t attempt to presume the motives behind it, I think we can all relate to a cynicism of the town we grew up in. Leary’s relationship, or lack there of, with Liverpool’s music scene doesn’t have to hinder our ability to celebrate him as a flag bearer for the city’s arts culture. I mean, directly or otherwise, Evian Christ’s ascent last year has absolutely benefited local electronic music. Regional press will have spotted and written about it, turning their gaze away from guitar music and making them more open to emerging electronic acts. Students and those skimming the surface of scene will have used it as an excuse to delve a bit further in, increasing the demand for club nights and live shows. And even on a more basic level, young producers will have been inspired to get down and create something of their own with a newfound belief in their city’s ability to affect national trends and tastes. It doesn’t take an anthropologist to spot the links between the local electronic music scene’s recent resurgence and the global success of artists like Evian Christ. And the importance of this – regardless of the influence the city has had on Leary as an artist - should not be understated.