Malachai “Return To The Ugly Side” — Album Review

malachai return to the ugly side

Bristolian duo Malachai (formerly Malakai; they had to change their name since the US rapper of that moniker objected) are back with their sophomore effort, Return To The Ugly Side.  A totally different “trip” from their 2010 debut of The Ugly Side of Love, the new album provides listeners with a very interesting musical journey.

Always up for new music, I went into Return To The Ugly Side with a very open mind, not knowing what to expect. The results: still not knowing what to expect. Throughout my listening experience, certain bands kept coming to mind, with the top three being: Gorillaz, the Doors and the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper phase. With that in mind, let me try to guide you through the musical hodgepodge of what is Malachai (comprised of Scott and Gee; no last names needed ’cause they’re that cool).

So the album starts off with the craziest instrumental I’ve ever heard. Basically 2:11 minutes of mashed up sounds, which sort of get you ready for the rest of the 14-track album. Starting off like an epic movie score then getting crazy in the middle with electro-based tunes before going back to the epic, classical sound, it pretty much sets the tone for Return to the Ugly Side. Oh, it’s also called “Monster.”

What comes as the third track is pure Mad Hatter-like madness. “Mid Antarctica (Wearn’ Sandals)” is pure hardcore bass with grimy vocals…think trip-hop on acid. Yeah, that hard. But then somewhere in the middle it gets soft and sweet, almost smooth before jammin’ your ears with some hardcore distortion. The guitar riffs will make you think of Jimi Hendrix for some reason (or at least it did for me). A must hear to get the full scope of the track.

“Rainbows” is actually one of my fave tunes on the album. As a more laidback song, it’s a lot smoother than any other on the album. It’s this weird combination of ’60s folk with ’70s soul. For me, it’s the “psychedelic hippie jam.”

Another dope track is “Distance,” with its tribal-like percussion beginning that has a very timed beat, as if it were a poem. As the song moves along tambourines fill the space and spacey vocals take over…that is until the percussions become once again the prominent feature. It’ll sort of make you want to dance around a circle of fire. It can seriously take you to another level if you have some help (wink, wink).

“Monster” is the climax of Return to the Ugly Side. So it starts slow, with vocals reiterating not wanting to “be the monster” before it goes into this sporadic, spazzed-out beat over white noise synths. Then there’s this classical string arrangement in the midst of it all, making you wonder what’s going to happen next. It sort of reminded me of the musical equivalent to a strobe light effect when you’re drunk. Honestly, it would be perfect for a scary movie.

I like “How You Write” because it deals with writing (duh, I’m a writer if you didn’t catch the connection). But besides the topic and title of the tune, it’s also a very soulful track that mashes up jazz, soul and blues of a different era circa 1970. The whistling at the end is pretty cool, too.

The entire album ends with “HyberNation,” another eclectic track that fuses musical genres that can’t even be described. A mixture of tribal-like beats, plucked guitar riffs and acid rock makes it pretty unique. Not to mention the thrown in hip-hop bass that’s literally fused in the middle of the track and dominates practically everything else you hear, including the trippy vocals.

When I finished listening, I totally stopped trying to categorize Malachai’s sound because it literally can’t be done. But that’s the good thing about this crazy ass album. In an age where everybody tries to classify everything, Malachai sends a big middle finger to those peeps with the Return to the Ugly Side—something we all would love to do, too!

Words: Kristie Bertuci

Artist: Malachai
Album: Return To The Ugly Side
Label: Domino Records
Release Date: Feb. 22, 2011

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