Bullion started life as a hip hop producer, making densely layered beats as a pupil in the school of Madlib and J Dilla. It wouldn’t be illogical to think that he’d pursue this direction and become a full-time beatmaker, in the same way that a contemporary like Paul White has, but Bullion of recent has gone in a direction that is far more his own, deciding to pursue the direction of artist proper rather than simply being a producer, releasing records for R&S and, most recently, Deek, Nautic.
Nautic are the collaborative band of Bullion (who acts as the group’s producer), main vocalist Laura Groves (who also performs as Blue Roses) and Tic, one-time A&R man for XL who ended up signed to their Young Turks subsidiary as an artist in his own right. Their new single, Fresh Eyes, is a downtempo synth pop jam with a wandering sax running through it, but the real draw is Fixxx.
Fixxx is a pop song that Fleetwood Mac could have written, but it’s got so much originality, identity and wit injected into it that it feels completely their own. Nautic’s approach is bold and experimental, but executed within the paradigms of broad, accessible pop music, with Fixxx sounding both timeless and relevant, Bullion’s crystal clear production presenting it in pristine fidelity. And it’s marvellous, in the same way that The Replacements and Scritti Polliti made pop music that was marvellous but, importantly, never cautious.
One major quality of it, though, is that it sounds very British, in a way that bands such as Hot Chip and Metronomy do. This isn’t Britishness that comes from any musical heritage, but a British outlook, a fondness for the more rubbish and naff aspects of life in the UK. Fixxx plays like a coastal jam, but it’s more Scarborough coast than Best Coast. Laura Groves’ vocal accent feels like it could have come from any of Britain’s outlying towns, as non-urban and non-metropolitan as you can get, and a variety show violin solo plays the song out at the end. It feels like a seaside town – lonely, trapped in time, but with a yearning to break free. When we talked about the song in brief earlier this week, we described it as “a seaside town once the tourists are gone, when the wind is sharper, when the days are shorter and when the bored locals have been left behind.”
And yet, I still can’t say why I love it. I can’t say why such traditional, well-written and soft music is so right, but it is. It might be a classic and timeworn approach to pop, but there’s a reason we return to this paradigm time and time again; try as I might, Fixxx is just so utterly fantastic that I can’t help myself.