God damn it must be fun being Annie Mac. The venerable BBC Radio 1 DJ pretty much rattles the keys to the electronic music every week, as she premieres tracks that are perhaps even hotter than her compatriot Zane Lowe’s ‘Hottest Track In The World’- which means sizzling. For as long as I’ve known that Soundcloud has existed – and probably before that, too – Annie has been . Words cannot describe how indispensable a resource this is for the rest of us, who get all sorts of submissions from across the globe, but usually not those the calibre of Bondax, Dorian Concept or their contemporaries. To her credit, Mac spends a lot of her time actively searching for these guys, bringing them in and exposing them to a wider audience. One such case is 19 year old vocalist and producer Shift K3y, straight out of London. In a rare change for the Internet, he’s actually managed to keep his name secret, as with fellow Londoner fyfe (up until recently.) But never mind, because you don’t need a form of legitimate ID to enjoy this music. It’s got nothing to do with your eyes and absolutely everything to do with your ears.
Sonically, Shift K3y sits at a strange intersection. On the one hand, you’ve got that undeniably bass-heavy, deep house meets post-dubstep groove of SBTRKT, Julio Bashmore and friends. On the other, there’s a smooth, R&B sort of vocal that seems like it doesn’t belong in Britain at all. In fact, with shades of classic soul more likely to come from Stevie Wonder than Ben Drew. The kid throws tricks in there, particularly the balancing of new-school production and Motown level chord arrangements. The progression of his melody which starts of innocently enough before sliding into full-blown, multi-tracked blues harmony (around the ‘kind, of, lo-ooove’ bit) is completely and utterly unexpected. It almost makes up for him joining the new guard of geeks with computer names that ruin our chances at creating URLs which make sense (we’re looking at you, Alt-J).
Shift K3y is in the same age bracket as the brother from Bondax and Disclosure, and all of them are killing it right now. It’s like that gestation period that artists typically need to formulate their sound and unleash it upon the world – which used to happen in the mid-twenties – has been spun back ten years as these guys swallow up and spit out globules of pop gold underpinned by club bass figures as fast as they possibly can. By the time I discovered Shift K3y, he’d already been name-dropped by Benga, Diplo and Toddla T. It may all seem a bit mad, but then you listen to ‘What We Had’, consider that it was created from scratch using nothing but this guy’s two hands and voice and it starts to become clear why he and many of his contemporaries are in high demand. It’s one challenge to write great melodies because you have to, but another entirely to just spit them out because you feel them inside. There’s only two layers of accompinament (an upper and lower synth lead line), some drums and a vocal on this track, but it sounds huge. The way this kid manipulatyes empty space into atmosphere, filling your earbuds with his crooning and turning one simple trick into a song you can’t get enough of is worthy of our words, in my opinion.
Now, back to Garageband…
Shift K3y – ‘What We Had’