Over the past half of Warp’s robust 20-year run, the label’s enduring legacy as a vanguard force in electronic music has drifted as its tastes have gone positively eclectic. The mixed-media future folk of Bibio, the experimental soul of Jamie Lidell, the polished post-punk nuts of Maximo Park — these are the sounds that have elevated Warp from the Squarepusher pushing that first made its name. If there’s one commonality that continues to bind these varied acts into a family, it’s a prevailing clarity of vision. Bibio’s Ambivalence Avenue, Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House, Lidell’s Multiply — these were statement albums by artists prepared to make them.
Now, Toronto trio Born Ruffians may have their turn with their sophomore effort. Fans of the high organization and tempered pop textures of Field Music will adore “Higher and Higher,” which twists its minimal quirks tightly around its spartan rhythm as Luke LaLonde’s strained vocal stretches like a sail connecting David Byrne, Tom Verlaine, and Hamilton Leithauser. “What To Say” enjoys the subdued soul of a Young Marble Giants track and the jangly simplicity of classic Unrest — but its fresh change of clothes could be on loan from Vampire Weekend (however that may strike you).
As confidently current as Say It comes off, it doesn’t sound susceptible to fashion. Given enough attentive ears, the Ruffians may have made a statement that will last a long time — or at least assembled enough ears for the next one.