EP Review: Sam Akpro – ‘Arrive’ — When The Horn Blows

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Sam Akpro’s latest EP delivers a smashing sound that deconstructs post-pandemic city life.

Hailing from Peckham in South London, Sam Akpro’s sound has caught the attention of many in the capital, including Wu Lu, Shame and 404 Guild. Performing alongside these artists has given their pandemic music a chance to showcase Sam’s gloriously explosive music to a wider audience. In particular, the opening track ‘Trace’ has garnered significant attention since its release in early February of this year. Lockdown was a strange time for many, when the world didn’t feel real and was more like a dream. In ‘Trace’, Akpro depicts these sentiments by detailing a distorted view of his hometown, unknown to the one in which he grew up. Sonically, these themes are backed by an impressive bass beat that weaves through the song, but is juxtaposed with seemingly random noise samples, a sign of things to come. This is truly a must-listen track, full of creative but also pithy ideas that, while certainly psychedelic, are not tied to a specific genre.

It’s certainly hard to explain exactly what kind of music Sam Akpro creates; as mentioned, it’s essentially genreless, and the EP’s title track ‘Arrival’ is no exception to this. The driving bass opening of the previous tune is back, but this is quickly followed by a smashing sound reminiscent of the current post-punk bands that rule today’s British alternative scene. The vocals increase in intensity and volume along with the instrumental. While not entirely dissimilar to ‘Trace’, the intricate and fancy drum patterns on display there are replaced with much more aggressive and chaotic noise. While you could easily dance to ‘Trace’, ‘Arrival’ is clearly meant for headbanging and moshing.

With the restlessness of the first track already erupting in the second, Akpro has already led us through several sensations, and the third does not slow down. Initially it seemed to be heading in a much darker direction, after 45 seconds the track comes alive with an even more devastating array of sounds. Pounding drums and cacophonous sound effects, Sam’s voice turns into an intense chant complete with high-pitched screams. On ‘Leaving Please’, Akpro generates rage comparable to slowthai’s at their most unhinged points, an enormously favorable comparison when looking at who currently receives the most critical acclaim in the UK music scene. The Peckham native rings out with riotous guitar slams followed by disparate white noise, finally giving our ears a break before the final track.

‘New blocks’ brings together a chimera of different styles, there is a clear jazz influence, but it rolls along with the hardcore and post-punk sounds of the previous songs. Perhaps this tune contains the most obvious debt to industrial music yet, with samples of sirens and other sounds of urban landscapes scattered throughout. The hazy world that was built on the first track and then destroyed in subsequent waves of noise seems to be placed back here, though there’s a sense that something isn’t quite right yet. This could be a reflection of how things will never be the same again in the post-pandemic world, or perhaps Akpro has let his confusion boil over into anger that is still simmering. Either way, Sam Akpro certainly takes you on a wild ride on this new EP. ‘Trace’ will invariably suck you in before the latest songs hit you with a wave of strong emotions. Achieving this on a 4 track EP is something special and makes Akpro a definite artist to watch for years to come.

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