Ed Scissor & Lamplighter – Tell Them It’s Winter (High Focus)

Setting a new benchmark for UK hip-hop, the new collaboration by Lamplighter and Ed Scissor is an Album of the Year contender

Released Jul 15th, 2016 via High Focus / By Norman Miller
Ed Scissor & Lamplighter – Tell Them It’s Winter (High Focus) London word spinner Ed Scissor (aka Edward Scissortongue) continues his long-term collaboration with Glasgow-based producer Lamplighter on this majestic hour-long album - following 2012's debut Better.Luck.Next.Life, 2014's Theremin and last year's Chavassian Striking Distance EP.

The sense of space and musical detailing Lamplighter brings is matched by Scissor's layered metaphorical storytelling. These are more word poems than 'hip hop', like a much heavier cousin of Kate Tempest's Brand New Ancients you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.

The musical settings are brilliantly complex, while the sweeping lyrical spread stretches from East End streets to ocean floors, burning hearts to galactic cores. “I write these songs that wind off down this strange narrative path,” Scissor has said, and he does it with unique panache.

Though he name checks real-life (mainly London) settings, Scissor's worlds on each track ooze the air of bleak dystopias or living nightmares – the vibe closer to Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed novel The Road than your local High Street. As Scissor said in a recent interview: “When I wrote the lyrics I would always find myself somewhere super desolate and lost and lacking in life.”

If that sounds depressing, the sheer brilliance of all ten tracks in this hour-long tour de force counteracts any gloom. There's deep musical sophistication here – violins, flutes and orchestral strings are woven into the electronics, while genre divisions dissolve into a wash where trip-hop merges seamlessly with downbeat Americana and jazz.

Take a towering track like The Dust Don't Lay. There's gorgeous acoustic folk guitar, mournful violins, dark electronic hums, and what sounds like an oboe - all working perfectly to counterpoint a searing lyrical progression through “deadly sins of night”, lit up by an eerie growled refrain - “I went down last night/I got drunk as hell” - that prefigures a series of dives into the dark side.

Echoes of other acts do appear amid the musical and lyrical miscellany. The brilliant Any Infrastructure and Week nod to The Books, AFK has hints of Dustin O'Halloran. Sprightlier musical moments on tracks like Light Round Here could be Ms. John Soda.

In the end, though, this is an utterly distinctive wonder. It's churlish to pick out specific tracks because the bar is high for all of them. But if they all merit straight As, then maybe A* goes to The Dust Don't Lay, the jagged mid-tempo electronic marvel of the title track, and the 10-minute epic Detours with its brilliant “he said she said” lyrical device, electronic trills and orchestral strings.

This is an album of the year contender for sure, pushing British hip-hop into bold new territory.