Unicorn Kid and Young Fathers
The man with the horn
This article is from 2009.
He may wear a lion hat and be named after a fantasy creature, but with the Pet Shop Boys, Calvin Harris and a belting set at T on his side, Unicorn Kid is set to make myth a reality.
The Lion and the Unicorn have long been heralded as hostile beasts. They mythically jostle in the animal kingdom. They symbolically tussle in the solar system. They brawl for territory on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms. When the legendary quadrupeds harmonise, however, their enduring union of opposites is awesome. Recently, said winning bestial alliance has been courted by an interstellar teenager from Leith.
He is, of course, the Unicorn Kid – alais techno-pop anthropomorphist Oli Sabin – whose berserk electro symphonies have slain admirers from the Pet Shop Boys to the Scissor Sisters. Bounding amidst a chip-tune fervour of Clubland albums, Calvin Harris, and the miscreant stable of Adaadat, (Germlin, Ommm, DJ Scotch Egg), Sabin’s iridescent 8-bit anthems insinuate bagpipe jigs, euphoric prog and breakneck melodies. Notably, his rapidly-ascending profile is crowned with a lion’s head.
Sabin claims mammalian concord was ordained by fate – leonine intervention, if you will. ‘To be honest I searched hard for a unicorn hat,’ he says, from a rush-hour carriage on the London-Edinburgh train. ‘But when I realised that wasn’t going to happen I opted for the next best thing – a lion. I didn’t mean for it to catch on but I’m glad it has: every musician needs a gimmick.’
Unicorn Kid’s imminent day-glo rammy at Cabaret Voltaire – in tandem with pop-toting rap stars Young Fathers – will raise the roof. Here, by way of illustration, are two scenes from this year’s T in the Park.
Saturday afternoon: Unicorn Kid bucks the ritual of motionless electro showmanship by going, you know: bonkers. He frantically dances, congenially waves and waggles his trademark wildcat chapeau while his ADD-addled pop contortions immortalise various creatures and monsters. Girls in the crowd drain bottles of wine; students parody the Highland fling; dudes body-pop in pink latex leotards; party kids brandish super-size acid flags. Red Bull rains from the heavens onto hairless, bare-chested boys in bear hats. It’s some distance from Sabin’s live debut, age 15, to 10 pals and his mum and dad. ‘It’s nice to compare nights like that to T in the Park,’ he reflects. ‘Just to think about how much things have come on.’
Saturday teatime at TiTP: enter hip-hop romeos Young Fathers, who trump Sabin’s jungle millinery by having an actual lion in the audience. (Well, a man-lion. Like a man. With a mane). The beaming Edinburgh trio are invincible: their luminous R&B, chromo-funk and booty-bass spans dance routines; falsetto serenades; sartorial tributes to Michael Jackson. They stir up Outkast, De La Soul, Spank Rock. ‘Young Fathers are great,’ raves Sabin. ‘And they’re brilliant live.’
They may be fun-loving but don’t be misled: Young Fathers and Unicorn Kid are re-animating our Scottish pop heraldry.
Unicorn Kid and Young Fathers play Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Sat 15 Aug as part of The Edge.