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Tuesday 12 May 2020

Check Masses Surf A Psychedelic Nocturnal Fever Dream On New Album Nightlife

Check Masses forthcoming album Nightlife flits between the shadows, smudging the lines between cinematic hip-hop collages, expansive dub, wiry electronics, psychedelia and Lynchian unease. This Nightlife isn't chrome-finished bars and a taxi home by 1am, but a collection of stories tossing and turning in a nocturnal fever dream, offset by moments of sublime escapism.
Credit Laura Meek

Singer 'Philly' Angelo Collins, multi-instrumentalist Vic Galloway and producer Saleem Andrew McGroarty each railed against the "crassness of the mainstream disco pop culture" as teenagers in Edinburgh. 

Vic was in garage-punk bands with a love of underground rock'n'roll, soul, ska and reggae, while separately old pals Philly and Andy were into a "more cultivated music scene that revolved around black music." 

Philly recalls being 'othered' by the mainstream crowds: "Us being the freaks and them in their Burton suits and stilettos, dancing round handbags."

So when Check Masses explore the nightlife history of their home city on the album title track, they veer away from any rose-tinted revisionism. 

It's "relationships, temptation, paranoia and the fall-out from them all, both good and bad", says Galloway.

 And even though it's "the most overtly 'funky' song on the album", with a "stripped-back P-funk kinda vibe", that comedown, outsider feeling still permeates. 


From kicking out time in Edinburgh to an early-hours wander through North African streets, Moroccan Skies "recounts a dark night of the soul." 

It's Philly's account of crash-landing after the Gnawa festival in Essaouira, with the singer recalling the euphoria of feeling a "oneness being surrounded by black people and African culture", "but when everybody started to go home, the dogs started to come out and the grittiness of the streets and the 'darkness' of the night came down upon them." 


The tension weaves through a groggy, twangy hip-hop beat, which Andy nails down as "Dr Dre meets David Lynch."

A pioneer of the Edinburgh's hip-hop scene, after launching the city's very first hip-hop club The Big Payback, Andy's head and hard drive is crammed with beats and samples waiting for their moment. 

"Moroccan Skies was an instrumental that had been sitting around for years. 

"I had given it to a few rappers but none of them ever came back to me… I stuck it in the pot and it was one of the tunes we were really stoked with straight away."

More often, though, Nightlife, which is released on 1st July 2020,  is teeming with skewed thoughts and stories that only come out when the sun goes down — whether that's faded club stamps, neon-lit explorations, insomniac reruns of past lives or simply gazing at the moon.

by: Mike Cobley



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