On Record – Young Fathers: Heavy Heavy (Ninja Tune)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is the fourth album from Edinburgh-based trio Young Fathers, and their first since 2018. It fulfils their pledge to go back to first principles, to make music in their basement studio with just equipment and microphones.

The back to basics approach extends to the music, with ten tracks despatched with very little fuss. As the band say, “The weigh that we’ve been carrying is now yours. Do what you want with it.”

What’s the music like?

There is something very elemental and primal about the Young Fathers these days. Part of that would seem to be down to the African percussion that comes to the fore in a lot of the tracks on this album, but the vocals also communicate with remarkable strength.

The 1-2 punch of opening duo Rice and I Saw make a striking impact, establishing the tone of an album that feels on one hand a celebration of the human spirit, and on the other a protest against the ways of the world.

Tracks such as Ululation strip everything back to basics, with extraordinary vocals that hit the heights against an undulating backing track. Here the music feels new, bringing together influences as diverse as Leftfield, Animal Collective, Mos Def and Afrobeat. The latter influence takes thrilling command of both this song and Sink Or Swim, the band operating with an urgency rarely heard in new music.

Does it all work?

Very much so. This is a lean album, its ten tracks lasting just over half an hour – and there is no sign at all of any padding. Its emotions feel wholly authentic, running from triumph to sorrow and back often in the space of just one song.

Is it recommended?

It is. Young Fathers’ first two albums were compelling, but this chapter contains their deepest revelations yet – along with the feeling there is much more to come with their development as a band.



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