There's something eerily familiar about Benin City's debut album for label Audio Donuts. Taking their name from the capital of Nigeria, Benin City's sound is a reflection of the cultural melting pot that is London - there are elements of UK hip-hop and bass music in here, together with experimental spoken word moments. It also feels drenched in references to the artists that inspired vocalist Joshua Idehen and his band.
There are moments where Fires In The Park sounds like the Pixies meets Bloc Party, as on single 'Faithless', with its low-slung Kim Deal bass line and building synths. But just as often they sound like TV On The Radio, particularly when the horns are busted out by Tom Leaper, who also handles synths and samples. 'Baby' is a good example - a track torn between balladry and angst heavy trip-hop that is to relationships what a tailspin is to planes. On 'D.A.M.' we get Idehen with his vocals at their thickest and heaviest - there's a hint of Roots Manuva to the flow.
The album succeeds despite these components, not because of them. Where some bands are enjoyable in the way they sound like others, Benin City are unique and never feel even close to a one trick pony. Theo Buckingham's drumming and percussion work flows, loose and full of feeling, and the stripped back combination of sounds the band makes feels raw yet strangely polished. The experience of sounds feels extreme - brass is even more metallic, the bass usually rests much lower than everything else in the mix and a lot of the drumming is crisp, full of treble and mechanically staccato.
Fire In The Park is best and Benin City's vision most fully realised on the glorious 'This Is London PT2’ ( strangely there is no part one). A female spoken word vocal opens the track with a tribute to London's scruffy, messed up and contradictory beauty, declaring love before going on to declare London even more in love in return. It is a reciprocal attraction: London needs its people as much, or even more, than its people need it. For a band that both take much from but also give back to London's sounds it is a fittingly intimate and infatuated moment.