Léks River Forges Through ‘Badlands’ On His Debut EP

Our little wet and windy island (I can call it that now since we’re not a part of the EU) has churned out terabytes of quality music this year – a great deal of which has been resonating with the rest of the planet. As 2016 draws to a close, however, a new ambassador for the UK music scene has popped up: Léks Rivers. Léks’ compositions exist exclusively on his terms, and sound incredibly refined given that he’s only just getting started.

Following the release of ‘Soho Knights’ and ‘No Rest For The Wicked’, Rivers is back to bless us with the rest of the ‘Badlands’ EP. ‘Badlands’ is perhaps R&B at its core, but just about everything else in spirit, yet, even that analysis might be too reductive, in which case we shall stick with Léks’ label: future soul.

The aforementioned singles open and close the project respectively, and it’s not hard to see why. Everything about these tracks is huge. The drums are drenched in reverb and kick like a mule, while the frenzied layers of instrumentation deliver up an energy begging to be replicated in concert. Luckily, though, Rivers has the vocals to match. In fact, his is the only voice I can think of that could wrestle with these leviathanic noisegasms and come out unscathed; his powerful vocals cut through with ease, forcing any remaining musical elements to bend to his will.

These singles, then, sandwich the remaining two tracks of the EP – both of which take no prisoners. On ‘Risky Business’, an ode to hazy party endeavours, Rivers’ vocal lines are piercing and anthemic; he enunciates each word with such urgency that it’s often difficult to distinguish between hook and verse – or even to know whether such a distinction should be made, for that matter. This is not so dissimilar from his closest vocal relative, The Weeknd. Their delivery however, differs markedly: Abel croons in a manner that suggests his gaze is positioned beyond the listener; there is – attributing nothing positive nor negative to the following statement – a certain emptiness to it. Léks, on the other hand – sings like he’s staring right fucking at you. ‘You’re leaving with me / As soon as it’s three / It’s all gonna go down go down’, he growls.

Rivers’ truly finesses this oral formula on the EP’s standout track, ‘You’re My X Here’s Y’. Like a fucking angry, musical Chimera – the production lands somewhere between breakbeat, house, rock and R&B. With this in place, Rivers’ channels his ardent vocals and psychotic inflection towards a particular female: ‘I’m just sick of all the fucking lying why you trying it / You must think I’m like them other niggas I won’t stand for it!’. I’m not sure if I want to hear this at a rave – or just play it down the phone to my ex while I smash my room up. Maybe both. Fuck knows.

The take-home point is this: Léks Rivers has brought something brand new to the table. Yeah, over the past few years, UK artists have got back in touch with a sound that is distinctly British, eschewing help from their transatlantic counterparts (I needn’t remind you of the following bars: ‘The UK run out of ideas / Everybody’s doing covers of American beats’.

It takes a different kind of artist, however, to forge a sound that is entirely their own. Thank you Léks Rivers.

‘Badlands’ is available to stream now on Spotify and Apple Music