The story of Miss Tiny is a curious one, with its two members sharing a longstanding commitment to the UK’s prodigious DIY scene. On the one hand, stands Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft, twin brother of Miles Romans-Hopcraft, aka Wu-Lu, and the son of Robin Hopcraft, the founding member of afrobeat and reggae-influence band Soothsayers. Imbibed with a musical hankering of his own, Miles went on start the bands Childhood and Insecure Men and, more recently, has assumed the moniker Mr. Salt Fingers Lovecraft in the colourful post-punk band and Bella Union signees Warmduscher.
On the other, is someone who’s played a seismic role in some of this country’s most compelling works in recent times – a fact that shouldn’t be said nor taken lightly. Black Midi, Squid, Fontaines D.C., Wet Leg, Kae Tempest. Through his Speedy Wunderground label, which marks its tenth anniversary this year, Dan Carey has crafted a dizzying assortment of records. The fact Fontaines D.C. and Wet Leg both achieved Number 1 in the UK, without following any commercially-oriented formula, is a remarkable feat of artistic integrity and is now, thankfully, affording even great attention to the venerable producer.
Romans-Hopcraft and Carey have known each other for years and spent many a jam session together, with Carey even having produced Childhood’s woozy debut Lacuna back in 2014. But in more recent times especially, the pair have solidified a certain philosophical attitude to music. They call it: anti-recording.
It’s a style, Carey has explained, that consists of “only doing it for the pleasure of doing it”; musically, this entails not languishing around trying to perfect each sequence. If something sounds good, keep it; if it doesn’t, get rid. In many ways this approach is the essence of Speedy Wunderground’s ethos. The label turns its projects around fast (speedy, if you will): recordings are done in a day in a bid to truly capture a session, imperfections and all.
Having initially flexed their musical venture at Brixton’s underground bastion The Windmill in 2022, under the name What It’s Like To Be A Bat (inspired by an essay from American philosopher Thomas Nagel), they would change their name to something a little less ghoulish. When Miles’ grandmother passed away during the recording process, the pair would opt for the nickname that had been given to her, and thereby Miss Tiny was born.
So, with a champion musician of the underground scene and a top-tier producer in tow, what does their debut EP DEN7 actually sound like? Pretty fucking good, in short. Murky, multi-layered and moody, I’d wrongly assumed from its lead single ‘The Beggar’ that the whole project would be a grunge-filled bundle of angst, but there are some moments of real bliss, making for a well-balanced five-track project.
Opener ‘River Hands’ starts off downtrodden enough, mind. “This love it won’t last, this love it won’t last,” Romans-Hopcraft bemoans over a spluttering of grubby, Nirvana-like riffs and a steady beat. The track builds, only making space at one point for some electric guitar siren calls, until the vocals are delivered in a way that typifies the happy-sad feel of the project as a whole, “See those rivers, they flow from my hands / But you still hold as tight as you can.”
Subsequent ‘Sailing’ is aptly-titled, with the laidback freefall of guitar work delivered at the pace of someone drifting downstream. Romans-Hopcraft’s refrain “I go sailing, I don’t want to find out why / ‘Cause when I get there, I’m just another black man in the wild” is the standout line here, memorable for having a lot to unpack, but being delivered in a stark manner; in other words, it’s not clear if the lyric is designed to be intense revelation on the Black experience or a mere matter-of-fact, with this unknown pricking up the ears. Likewise, the line “Yes, I’m going to struggle for a while” is a weighty one, but delivered in a tone of hushed acceptance.
Both ‘Sailing’ and EP closer ‘Grit’ share a faint degree of hope, the kind of mood music to satiate the nihilists, or at least the existentialists, among us, in a manner akin to Elliott Smith. ‘Grit’ makes for the sort of pensive tune you’d be wary not to listen to on repeat, provided you want to avoid a pit of despair – but is instead worth hearing it wearily tie up the album. Thankfully, these two tunes sandwich DEN7’s more livelier offerings, both of which were released prior to the full project: ‘The Beggar’ and ‘The Sound’.
With its wild west calls of “Hey” and discordant whirring, ‘The Beggar’ sounds most akin to material from Romans-Hopcraft’s Warmduscher outfit, as though it’s been pieced together more through an improvised jam session than any of the EP’s other tracks. ‘The Sound’, meanwhile, made for a slightly monochromatic single, plugging away ruggedly like the tube ride depicted in its accompanying video. When incorporated in the EP as a whole, its purpose is better-defined as a sulky counterbalance to some of the sorrow on ‘Sailing’ and ‘Grit’.
Ultimately, given the skill and musicianship Miss Tiny have to hand, underpinned by a philosophy that embraces a sense of having nothing to lose, DEN7 sounds as good as it was always likely to. Its only real fault is that you wish there was more of it; here’s hoping this EP is just the start.