EP Review: Jockstrap - 'Wicked City'

Dubbed the future of electronic pop, avant garde duo Jockstrap cover a head-spinning amount of ground on their debut EP Wicked City, by no means an easy listen, but a jawdroppingly good debut offering. Louis Griffin offers a track-by-track breakdown of the release.

Jockstrap are the most exciting new act in Britain right now. There, I’ve said it. Now while it may be true that there are bands making bigger waves, and artists with more critical acclaim, the duo hold a crown that is far more elusive and far more impressive than either of those other feats: they sound like no one else. On a listen through Wicked City, their debut EP, they cover a head-spinning amount of ground, and do it all justice. It is a breathtaking listen.

I first came across Jockstrap earlier this year, with Acid, the first single from the yet-to-be-announced EP. They’d been signed to Warp Records, which always makes me sit up and pay attention, and the track is Jockstrap’s sound encapsulated. Vintage-sounding vocals, straight from an old crooner compilation, and utterly bizarre electro production, twisting and warping gorgeous string sections into something entirely alien. Jockstrap are a duo: Georgia Ellery (vocalist and violinist, and also a member of band of the moment Black Country, New Road) and Taylor Skye (responsible for the utterly bonkers production here). They met at Guildhall conservatoire, and immediately set about recording demos together, resulting in the heady concoction of influences that is Jockstrap.

Photo credit: Maxwell Granger

The EP itself is a disorientating, and by no means easy, listen. The first track is one of the most challenging – and, if I’m honest, one of my least favourite. Robert features Injury Reserve, and is three minutes of utterly discombobulating trap, reminiscent of 100 gecs. It proves a step too far, the structure drifting just slightly too much for there to be anything to latch on to. But, it’s the only track out of five that overdoes it. Track two, the aforementioned Acid, is a glistening pop confection. A wonderfully warped orchestral accompaniment compliments Ellery’s silky vocals, creating a kind of dream pop.

'It’s by no means an easy listen, but if you hold on for dear life, you’ll come out the other end utterly converted.'

It’s followed by Yellow In Green, the two easiest tracks on the EP to digest sitting together nicely. This one is nearly untouched by the gonzo production found elsewhere, and instead feels like a Debussy number coupled with a Bat For Lashes vocal. It’s indebted to the Japanese classical synthesizer movement; I’m reminded of Isao Tomita’s Snowflakes Are Dancing. Ellery feels most bare on the central three tracks; there’s a real feeling of vulnerability, and not just in her wavering, delicate delivery. “Just three nights, and my arm on your thigh”.

Penultimate track, The City, begins in the same way; Ellery and a sparse piano – “And I ran outside in the mustard air / my arm outstretched to feel it”. But just when you least expect it, Skye steps in and Ellery’s vocal begins to loop and fold in on itself, and the track graduates via a Squarepusher synth lead into a full-blown dubstep breakdown. The track is an outstanding volte face, and probably the most Jockstrap moment on the entire EP. Then, there’s closer City Hell. This one plays out like a late Bon Iver concoction; some of the most beautifully handled vocal treatments and autotune usage since Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak. The track becomes very much the grand statement of the EP, with a huge finish, Ellery’s voice, glam guitars and a world-beating synth pad melding into something truly transcendent. Finally, of course, there’s a fake ending with a false fade-out – because, Jockstrap.

'On a listen through Wicked City, their debut EP, they cover a head-spinning amount of ground, and do it all justice.'

If you want to be challenged, if you want to hear the future of electronic pop, try Jockstrap. It’s by no means an easy listen, but if you hold on for dear life, you’ll come out the other end utterly converted. Jawdroppingly good.