Tiger Shadow - The Rise of Tiger Shadow

Owain Paciuszko 07/08/2009

Rating: 4/5

Gentle strains of a harp being caressed, followed by melodic dew-drop twinkles soothe the ears before a instantly appealing, heavy beat explodes into the ears of lead track W'Happen. Leeds based Tiger Shadow began life as a home-based project for Jim Tycho (synths, acoustic guitar, bass) and vocalist Komia MC, before debuting live on the BBC Introducing stage at the Reading and Leeds festivals in 2008; adding guitarist Dave Pearson and drummer Karim Nashar to their line-up.

The most obvious touch-stone for their sound is Blowback-era Tricky, mixing a similarly light touch to their strong arrangments. This Is The Future is a really nice track, showcasing Komia MC's strong lyrical skills, which has an air of Rodney Smith's knack for splicing the absurd and the honest. It's a smart, lively track that earns them the right to bemoan; 'Hip-hop got rich and the public got tired.' It doesn't do anything particularly revolutionary in its sound, but that's what's really appealing about it.

This debut LP is laced with a variety of flavours, with each track managing to sound fresh and alive, filled with emotion, ideas, occasional polemic and a sense of humour - with Vernacular Spectacular referencing 'Reggae Reggae Sauce'. Escape balances Komia's lyrics against an arrangment akin to Hot Chip soundtracking a Sega Megadrive racing game, and it's brilliant. Narration is an excellent example of the group's talents in layering and transforming simple ideas, what begins as a laidback dub track gradually evolves with backing vocals and synths into both an uplifting and wry song.

Star Chaser has a musical background akin to Middle of Nowhere-era Orbital with Komia's lyrics again floating in and out, bulging with ideas and insight, playing around with modern and nursery rhyme conventions with skill; 'Pick-a pick-a pickled pepper/I picked myself up a pen and paper.'

Terracotta Blues is the group's calling card, laying out - in the plainest of terms - their stance on the state of modern hip-hop; 'I'm tired of hearing about guns and crack and bling and things.' It's one of those songs where I'd happily write out all the lyrics and stamp them 'I agree', and the balance of the song's message and it's music is powerful and inspiring and hopefully will get heard.

With other hip-hop acts seeking out catchy choruses that are ultimately meaningless and irritating, Tiger Shadow have taken things back to a style that is entirely more satisfying. Their songs are no less infectious than the latest Dizee Rascal chart-topper, but they are also lyrically interesting, intelligent, acerbic and performed excellently by a talented group of musicians. If they can keep this up with future records this is a band on the brink of big things.