Son Raw is on a peninsula

LV are underrated, but then again they haven’t made it easy for listeners to get a grip on their sound. Zig-zagging from Hyperdub to Keysound and vocals to instrumentals, they’re just as likely to be working on their grooves with South African Kwaito vocalists as they are to be cooperating with Japanese chiptune savant Quarta 330. It’s an approach that’s resulted in a wealth of great material that doesn’t quite sit comfortably in any scene and the production duo’s approach can sometimes resemble a band’s as much as a dance music act. Their best material so far however, has emerged from their collaborations with poet/MC Joshua Idehen, whose musings on life in London gave structure and significance to their debut album Routes. Islands, their latest collaboration, ups the levels once again, adding a narrative flair to the proceedings that just might be enough to earn them acclaim outside Keysound’s subterranean pirate audience.

While Routes mostly relegated Idehen’s vocals to chopped up fragments about his home town, Islands is a far more fleshed out record with full songs and stories that those of us living outside London can decipher. The hookier, catchier focus suits the group well as it allows LV to concentrate on the grooves while Idehen takes center stage. Case in point, lead single Imminent is a don’t-call-it-Grime anthem describing the death of a rudebwoy in menacing detail. Apparently based on true events, the song’s soca inflected rhythm and chorus offset the subject matter, positioning it as a modern answer to Skeng or Cypress Hill’s How I could just kill a man. It’s also a massive hit on boat parties.

While Imminent is undoutbedly the highlight, it’s far from the only winner and the team behind Islands have more in their sleeves than bangers. Mistakes tackles relationship difficulties over chugging African influenced production and here, Idehen’s breezy delivery lands closer to English Mos Def. On tracks like these, the vocals serve as a much-needed center, uniting the album’s disparate styles, while also imbuing the more groove focused moments like jungle throwback Double Decker Back Seat with an added energy.

One caveat: Island is alt-pop heavy on the alt. It’s wordy, introspective and moody, a challenge for those who like things obvious or at the very least need an FKA Twigs level visual identity to pay attention. The album’s opening line is “Here we are again, one MC and two white men” and that’s exactly what you get here. For people who want to dig a little deeper than the average daytime playlist however, it’s also sexy, smart and varied enough to keep you on your toes all the way through. It’s also a milestone for LV and Idehen who’ve delivered the most fully fleshed version of their sound yet.

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