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BOTW Album Review: Stubborn Heart – Stubborn Heart

It’s hard to imagine an album like Stubborn Heart – an eponymous debut full-length from the electronic duo – coming from anywhere other than London. The soul-infused, post-dubstep terrain traversed by the record’s ten tracks feels symbiotically linked to the city that birthed it; clearly informed by contemporaries such as James Blake, SBTRKT and Hot Chip, but simultaneously skewing its genealogy into new shapes, presenting a fresh take on a sound that – for better or worse – is everywhere these days. Especially in London.

Following on from two highly lauded earlier releases – an anonymous white label 12” and the Need Someone EP, both of which caused a stir on dropping – Stubborn Heart is the sound of an emerging act finding their feet and pushing into new territory with the degree of experimentation that only an album allows. Its 10 tracks – while intrinsically linked by thematic and sonic similarities – absorb numerous musical touching points, from ’70s soul through to turn-of-the-century garage, and on into the post-dubstep ambiguity that’s currently all the rage.

Opener ‘Penetrate’ announces itself with a brief chiming melody – it’s not unlike the sound of a lift arriving at its destined floor. This passing moment of clarity though is quickly overtaken by the scattered beats and moody bass lines of the track, announcing that the elevator you’ve just stepped into is merely your ride down on to the dark, inner-city streets explored by Stubborn Heart.

It quickly becomes clear you’ll find little for comfort or company as you delve into the urban expanses covered here; that is, save for the mourning, wounded vocals of singer Luca Santucci. He, though, is as frequently brooding and confrontational as he is soulful and contemplative. ‘Two Times a Maybe’, for example, oozes menace with its slowly mutating low-end pulsating throughout. On it, Santucci recalls past and present provocations, forcefully pleading “Please don’t start a fight, I do this all the time,” sounding halfway between rashness and regret in the process.

‘Interpol’, meanwhile, with its lurching blasts of bass-heavy synths rebounding across stumbling beats, capably recalls the unease of wandering deserted streets by nights – situations in which you’d probably appreciate the presence of the track’s titular police. This, though, is the world in which Santucci and his accomplice Ben Fitzgerald choose to walk, and they know how to capture it perfectly – you can almost hear the sound of steam rising from roadside vents as small bursts of white noise erupt unexpectedly on ‘Interpol’.

This is by no means to say Stubborn Heart is all about darkness. The serene, amorphous ‘Blow’ transcends the dimly lit environs the duo have been so competently chartering. Its piercing high-end shooting through the bleakness of much of what has transpired up to this moment, acting like the musical equivalent of rising up with the angels and looking down on the murky back alleys below. Suffice to say, it certainly has a cinematic aspect to it.

Which is where the album’s accompanying audiovisual stream comes into play. A series of visual pieces that perfectly complement the music they soundtrack – each clip moves in sync with the pulses and modulations of their respective track, providing a counterpoint to each song that’s well worth exploring. The videos almost take on a sense of the kaleidoscopic as prints of leaves and arteries gently gyrate while smoke erupts and seeps in at climatic moments and slices of errant tape dance across the screen. While they’re not fundamental to enjoying the music, they do add to the moods evoked across the course of Stubborn Heart.

Taking the record’s ten tracks – and the AV stream – as a cohesive whole, Stubborn Heart feels like a well-rounded package, and one that feels ripe for further discovery. It’s certainly a brooding, and often bleak, suite of songs, but Santucci and Fitzgerald imbue Stubborn Heart with enough of a sense of soul and pop sensibilities that it rarely bores. Instead, it intrigues and leaves you wanting more, resulting in a characterful and dexterous album marked by wisdom and songwriting finesse far beyond the duo’s minimal years.

- Alex Cull

2 Comments on “BOTW Album Review: Stubborn Heart – Stubborn Heart”

  • bard December 5th, 2012 5:27 pm

    sounds like a very poor take on John Frusciante.
    So i can see why some will like it.
    good luck.

  • news feed February 7th, 2013 10:33 am

    Some genuinely good info , Gladiolus I noticed this. “Things we not hope for often come to pass than things we wish.” by Titus Maccius Plautus.

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