Sunday July 21st, 2024
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$$$TAG$$$: Greater Than The Future

A five-track concept album conceived nearly three years ago, the Vent and KIK co-founder's unique sound comes to fruition in his debut EP. We take a first listen...

Staff Writer

$$$TAG$$$: Greater Than The Future

Greater Than The Future is not the kind of EP conducive to its maker's moniker having the suffix, and prefix for that matter of dollar signs, let alone six of them; this is an EP about heart-breaking, not money-making. The first release on new Cairo based record label KULTKAIRO, this is also Asem Tag's AKA $$$TAG$$$ (pronounced Tag Money), debut release and it's been a long time coming. The past couple of years have seen Tag sweep up dance-floors across Egypt and across Europe with the KIK Kollective, as well as using Vent, the club he is co-founder of, as a precedent for the kind of hard-hitting, no holds barred Techno he'd pay to see himself. But this is no dance record either. Greater Than The Future reaches back into the past; a five track experimental concept album written in 2012, 'addressing themes of lost love, regret and redemption,' made from muffled kicks, torrential high-hats, Tag's own washed out R&B vocals and a lot of down-tempo, emotional remembrance.

A rattling bug in the ear, emphatic ebbing bass, over-processed vocals and a solid Hip Hop-esque instrumental beat set the tone for the EP in Strange Feelings. Heads will tilt, then begin to nod, arms will begin to sway and as Tag's voice becomes ever more frantic and roughed up and the metallic melody builds up momentum, you'll be swept up in Tag's time-machine and through to a simple break-beat, once again drenched in distorted vocals in the next track, Friction, co-produced by Zuli. Friction takes the listener stammering through verses and memories, rolling into each other. A constant and varying use of panning leaves you feeling like you're chasing the song, without being able to quite put your finger on it or where it's going. There's early 00s Rock vocal sounds, break-beat, spattering, driving synths... it's a clash, it shouldn't really work... but it kind of does.

The highlight of the EP is You Are The Death of Me, a beautiful and subtly haunting track. With a bed made from piercing organs and guts-out atmospheric wonder, we hear Tag putting his vocals under the mattress for the first time, moving from misty reverberated chanting to a muffled whispering directly in one ear, really giving you a sense of how personal the record is. Tag's knack as a producer for ear-catching, simple, unique beats makes its way into this track too before its dream-like conclusion. 

It has to be noted Tag's singing range is often stretched - he's not going to be selling out Cairo Opera House any time soon - but where many a bedroom producer would play it safe relying on instrumentals and vocal sampling, Greater Than The Future is a story that had to be told with Tag's voice, no matter how many effects and distortions or offbeat inflections were needed to mould and metamorphosise verses into this monstrously original EP.

Suddenly, Parting Song sees Tag do his best Marilyn Manson through the first half of the song, until an epic, stoic industrial militia-like beat comes in on 2:07, amplified and intensified by monk chanting, before another verse of Gothic, voice-through-a-telephone-box poetry comes in. 

Finally, the title track Greater Than The Future, arrives last with the best groove and most sing-a-long vocals of the lot. Produced by Zuli it kicks in with another addictive scattershot beat, and Tag's heartbreak verse intertwined brilliant with dance vocal samples before quickly cutting out again to bring you back to break-up melancholy.
The track builds up, up and up, with ethereal background screams that drag his rolling verse closer to a defiant, atmospheric ending, to be put definitely in the dissonant past.
Greater Than The Future is sonically fearless and refreshing, especially for an album written more than three years ago. It's highly personal, emotionally charged and at times almost too close for comfort... an edge of the seat listen.
KULTKAIRO will be hosting $$$TAG$$$'s Greater Than The Future album launch at Vent on Tuesday 9th June.