That quote about understanding the rules well in order to break them has been attributed to an infinite list of visionaries since Pablo Picasso first proposed the notion. Rarely, though, does an artist personify the sentiment quite like Jockstrap.
The duo, consisting of Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye, first met whilst studying at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2016 – a learning experience which manifests itself in the most peculiar ways throughout Jockstrap’s output. singular verses of orchestral pop are often hijacked by jagged Dubstep, courtesy of Skye’s background in production; creating something that is altogether more interesting than any of its singular components.
Having signed to Warp Records alongside the likes of Squid earlier this year, Wicked City is Jockstrap’s first musical offering with their new label and their sophomore full release to date, following 2018’s Love Is the Key to the City.
From the EPs opening track, ‘Robert’, Ellery & Skye juxtapose between surreal imagery and brief flashes of chart-ready sampled rap. “Holding hands with God,” Ellery sings through heavy distortion, “and he concedes to the art you make; ‘I am really impressed.”
Throughout the 5 tracks, the duo deliver naive, almost infantile melodies alongside something more jarring and surprising. this ever-contested battle of textures run concurrently to a multitude of other discords throughout; with Ellery’s vintage female ballads clawing at the walls, as Skye’s production drag them into hellish rabbit holes and k-holes alike.
This contrast in style plays out perfectly in previously released single ‘The City’. The track flows harmoniously as a piano-led ballad, before glitching and morphing into something more monstrous. Discordant by design; Ellery channels the persona of avant-garde 60s vocalist Nico, albeit a Nico that has been jaded and weighted by meme culture and sweaty DJ sets.
“There are multiple narratives to Wicked City,” the vocalist says of the EP. “Sanity to madness; realism to surrealism and innocence to experience. But when it comes down to it, it’s a breakup/breakdown record that presents how I dealt with losing what I had when I wrote Love is the key.”
Accessible hooks and flow is there in abundance, but it does have to be searched for in the quagmire of sound and – like all of Jockstrap’s output – this is an intense listen. If you persevere with Wicked City, however, the payoffs are great. Having worked alongside Damon Albarn and collected a host of other accolades, including a role in a BAFTA-winning film, both of Jockstrap’s members are true artistic polymaths, with a fearless ambition far beyond their age.
Very rarely does an outfit come along which is simultaneously so attractive to press and fiercely inventive in their output; perhaps a little more Pollock and a little less Picasso.
Jockstrap’s Wicked City EP is released this Friday, for more info head over here.