Track Review: Operation Lightfoot feat. Sophia Ben-Yousef- Chains



Operation Lightfoot feat. Sophia Ben-Yousef







Chains is available at:

RELEASED: September, 2015

GENRES: Soul; Alternative


Liverpool, U.K.


WHEN it comes to today’s assessment I am going to be looking…

at collaborations and the solo market.  The music industry has a bad case of compartmentalisation and keeping to one’s self.  When it comes solo artists there are few that actually take the opportunity to collaborate with others.  One of the greatest joys and effects music can offer is when two (perhaps disparate) artists come together and form something new and unexpected.  If you look through history, it is littered with stunning collaboration and offerings.  Whether it is a simple duet or a full-on assault, it can yield some phenomenal results.  Acts such as Gorrilaz and Massive Attack bring in vocalists to their unique blends and produce stunning efforts.  Sometimes taking a very original and particular voice and adding it to your sonic blends- whether it is electronic and Hip-Hop or Trip-Hop- it can really get inside your head.   I do love the solo market but feel there needs to be more connection and reaching out.  With social media the unstoppable juggernaut it is, few people actually take time to really connect with others.  I am not sure if there is a music website out there that hooks musicians up, but there should be.  Somewhere where an artist can search for composers and collaborators and work together online- or at the very least converse and discuss ideas.  It seems like a no-brainer really as there are so many great acts out there who could benefit from a collaborative fusion.  It is not just beneficial to solo acts as duos and bands would see some great results.  It essentially opens and broadens someone’s sound and means they get to step away from their comfort zone.  If anything you get to meet another artist and perhaps begin a great and prosperous working relationship.  I mention this because my featured track joins together Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef.  The former is a Luke Moore’s brainchild.  He is a composer who writes for T.V. and film and works with a wide range of musicians and artists.  Like The Cinematic Orchestra, Moore creates a range of beautiful and atmospheric compositions; bringing different singers into the fold to create songs filled with wonder and passion.  Sophia Ben-Yousef is an artist I am familiar with.  The gorgeous Liverpool songwriter is one of the country’s most impressive young songwriters and has a superb reputation already.  One of the most impressive and agile songwriters I have met, she boasts a truly captivating voice that makes everything she touches sound completely essential and seductive.  I am not sure how Moore and Ben-Yousef came to work together but I am glad they did.  Reviewers are noting the natural chemistry between them and I hope their debut collaboration leads to many more joint efforts.  The duo may seem quite different on paper, yet when joined in song, they seem completely intuitive and perfect.  Moore’s cinematic and skillful arrangement/production is a perfect mate for Ben-Yousef’s soulful and adaptable vocals.  Before I continue on my point, let me introduce the two artists:

Collaboration is perhaps the best way to learn, develop and produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is central to Operation Lightfoot, which features some of the most outstanding musical talent from across the UK, each co-writing and recording a track and working on a video that will feature on a finished album of music and short films. 

Sophia Ben-Yousef is fast becoming a crown jewel on the Merseyside gigging circuit and her latest offering ‘I’m Yours’ showcases the songstress at her finest.

Sophia Ben-Yousef has firmly established herself as one of the North West’s breakthrough artists and has already been hotly tipped by critics and industry figures alike. Performing with many established artists, such as KOF, JP Cooper, Matthew Perryman Jones, Bill Ryder Jones and MOBO award winners Esco Williams and Jahaziel. This summer she performed on the ‘its liverpool’ stage at Liverpool International Music Festival and is just back from her London performance at Kensington Roof Gardens and Proud Camden. Sophia has regular airplay and live sessions on BBC Introducing Merseyside and BBC Radio Lancashire, and a variety of radio stations in Europe and the US.

Sophia’s song ‘ I’m Yours’ listed in the Top 30 Tracks in Merseyside 2014.

The solo market is seeing a lot of promising artists come through and it is a pretty saturated sector.  When choosing great new acts and those to pay attention to, you have to look to those who are willing to push their sound and expand.  Ben-Yousef is a young artist who has already established herself as one of our most special talents.  She is showing how willing she is to collaborate with other acts and add new dimensions to her rich and stunning voice.  I am impressed with solo artists that do not sit still and are very mobile.  Ben-Yousef is hungry with regards music and determined to work with a range of people and ensure she keeps busy and focused.  Operation Lightfoot is a fantastic outfit that has produced some incredible evocative and wonderful music.  Being a fan of the likes of The Cinematic Orchestra and artists that draw in multiple voices and musicians, I hope Chains motivates more similar collaborations and projects.  With the solo market getting full and highly competitive those who stand out are going to obtain the biggest rewards and respect.  Garnering a heady steam and some very effusive reviews, Chains is a song that boasts Ben-Yousef’s incredible vocals and songwriting talent with Moore’s songwriting and compositional skills.  For those unfamiliar with either artist, I would advise you to start here and work outwards.  I know there is a lot of demand for the two to work together once more; let’s hope this happens as Chains suggests two artists who have a natural bond and understand one another wholly.

When looking at Chains I guess we have to see how it fits in with Moore and Ben-Yousef’s previous work.  Operation Lightfoot is a project that is drawing in a wide array of artists into a to-be-released album.  Whether featuring on film or T.V., Operation Lightfoot looks to create a wide array of different musical experiences.  In that sense there is consistency to be found in Chains.  The song boasts a typically confident and impressive composition from Moore.  Differing from some of his other joint ventures, Chains stands as one of the most impressive hook-ups.  The production values are exceptional and the composition is varied and highly atmospheric.  This allows Ben-Yousef to let her voice soar and do its work.

In that regard Chains has common ground with previous work from the young Liverpool star.  A couple of months ago she released the track Heartbeat.  Soulful and pulsating, the track looks at our heroine losing her mind and control.  A certain song plays and the light goes down as a hero is making her heart beat strong.  In the grips of an urgent and insistent passion, there are racing piano notes and a great static beat.  It is an unpredictable composition that moves and twists to create a great weight of drama and nuance.  Filled with energy and lust, it is a song that boasts an addictive chorus and wonderful central turn.

  All I Need was released last year and was one of Ben-Yousef’s most emotive and tender tracks.  Beginning with a delicate and serene piano coda; it is a breathy and romantic song.  A soulful and beautiful track, it sees our heroine repeat the song’s title as a dizzying mantra to love.  In the midst of an intoxicating love, it is another track that sees our heroine buckle under the weight of desire.  So much beauty is instilled in the vocals it means the lyrics and sentiments stand out and are hugely meaningful.

    Chains represents a step forward for both acts.  In terms of Moore’s work he seems to have found a natural channel for his terrific work.  The most natural and stunning collaboration he has created, you cannot deny how wonderfully suited the two are.  For Ben-Yousef, she sounds as confident and meaningful as ever.  Heartbeat was a definite step forward and showed the young star filled with passion and panache.  Backed by a wonderful production and some terrific lyrics, her voice was at its peak and power.  On Chains she sounds completely in awe and entranced in the music and has produced one of her finest vocal performances.  Growing in confidence and quality with each release it not only shows a great evolution but means any future E.P.s or albums will be terrific.  I am not sure whether an E.P. is in the pipeline but I am impressed by Ben-Yousef’s progression and growth this last year.  Coming into her own as a singer and writer, you can really hear how much music means to her and how much she wants to inspire and touch people.  Chains is a terrific one-off that should not be left there: Let’s hope Moore and Ben-Yousef work together again and create something else.  The two are bedfellows who make one another’s music that much better.

Our heroine arrives to the microphone with one of her most sensual and smoky vocals.  Whereas previous outings have seen Ben-Yousef upbeat and filled with youthful energy and vitality; here we get something both mature and hugely evocative.  A strangely sexual and alluring husk to her voice, Chains is given a majestic and chocolate-rich beginning.  You start to tease images as our heroine looks at beginning souls and the need for emancipation.  “The way they hold themselves” and “bound by your chains” are early lyrics that could refer to a direct slavery and entrapment or an emotional prison that (the song’s subjects) find themselves in.  With Ben-Yousef entranced in the song, we hear the “old and young” are equal in their enslavement and capture.  Unable to shake that sense of foreboding and drama, you notice the supportive and evocative acoustic guitar play in the background.  Allowing our heroine’s voice to stand firm and buckle the listener, it is a perfect supportive sound that adds weight and tension to the track.  Sparse and haunting, you get caught in that smoky and inviting voice.  Imagining our heroine with her eyes closed in a dimly-lit room; I imagine her lost in dreams and the imagery of the song.  Some softly-spoken “twisted words” are sentiments that get the imagination working and conspiring.  As soon as you think the song will become softer and more whispered, it suddenly sparks into life.  There is an acoustic guitar slam that leads to impassioned strings as Ben-Yousef lets her voice rise and swell.  After the taunt and cruelty of the previous lines, there is a redemptiveness and hope.  Our heroine implores her subject to break the chains and escape their confines.  Whether she is looking at someone caught in an unpleasant situation and suffering heartache, there is that determination to set them free.  Advising to “break these chains/leave your game” it is both cryptic and fascinating.  You wonder what the chains refer to and what the game ascribed is.  Radiating with such a fire and ignition, that Flamenco-style acoustic guitar is a propulsive and energised heartbeat that gives the song such vitality and punch.  Our heroine’s voice is deliciously soulful and beautiful.  Such a rich and mature voice that says so much with very few words.  Few young singers have such a gorgeous and powerful voice that can make every word sound get inside your head.  As the song races and rushes, you keep imagining what is being referred to.  Maybe a harsh relationship is being told and the metaphorical chains that can result.  Perhaps the female party is unhappy and unwilling to run; in need of divorce and separation, you can hear that tension in the song.  Perhaps our heroine is speaking of herself and the need to get away from something making her unhappy and scared.  Our heroine claims that open cells wait as fate has blended with hurt and pain.  Imploring her subject to “hold strong your heart” it becomes clearer as to what is behind Chains’ mystery.  There is a definite personal struggle occurring and a situation that is creating heartache and tears.  As the song’s story progresses, so too does the composition.  After the initial acoustic guitars- that unite Flamenco and Arabic sounds together- yearning and orchestral strings come in.  Creating grandeur and building atmosphere, Operation Lightfoot ensures the backing perfectly support’s Ben-Yousef’s intoxicating and near-whispered voice.  Whilst the strings swoon and rhapsodise in the background, our heroine continues her inspirational plight.  Like a warrior princess leading her troops into battle there is a wisdom and maturity to the words.  There is that choice between light and dark; deciding what path you follow and how your situation unfolds.  Lyrics that seem personal yet can be a general inspirational message to those trapped and heartbroken; Chains grows and expands as the seconds progress.  By the time the chorus comes back around, you find yourself singing along and caught in the passionate performance.  As our heroine unleashes a wordless vocal of beauty and head-swimming confusion (there is deliriousness to the sound) the composure mixes in Electronic music elements to the Classical-cum-Soul sound.  Mutating and always working, the colour, contours and detail in the composition is hugely impressive.  The emotion and drama never relents and Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef ensure their writing and composition never relents or is anything less than exceptional.  Aching and heavenly, Ben-Yousef’s vocals and entwined and multi-tracked to create something hypnotising and evocative.  Augmenting that sense of drama and tension, that vocal beauty is multiplied here.  After a sojourn of vocal layers our heroine’s voice becomes more echoed and ghosted.  At its most pin-point and haunting, that instant switch catches you by surprise.  Hooked into the stillness and reimagined chorus, our heroine is at her most direct and stunning.  Hugely sensual and gorgeous, the vocal contains fortitude and urgent meaning.  The casual listener may notice the vocal itself but those who listen will note the subtle compositional touches that proceed this moment.  Such consideration and attention to detail is paid to ensure Chains is always compelling and unpredictable.  Towards the final moments, that acoustic guitar comes back in as the chorus showcases multi-tracked vocals and huge drama.  Not resting on its laurels that compositional mobility and agility continues in the final seconds.  Following the dizzying strings and beats we get a piano coda that is imbued with delicate passion and a sensitive heart.  A fittingly stunning end to the track and you have a triumphant moment in music.

It is worth congratulating each party who very much sound perfect together.  A natural musical relationship, on paper you would not imagine Luke Moore and Sophia Ben-Yousef to come together.  Although residents of Liverpool they have different background and careers, so their commingling is impressive indeed.  I am not sure why I am skeptical as the musical results speak for themselves.  Operation Lightfoot is that unstoppable force that brings the best out of singers and musicians.  Showcasing one of the most interchangeable and stunning compositions I have heard this year, Chains is always moving and dramatic.  Reviewers have noted that ‘atmosphere’ that comes through and it is the most apt word.  Befitting of a song that deals with emotional struggles and torment, the composition would need to be sincere and prescriptive.  Neither autonomous not too reliant on the vocal strength we get a sound that could stand on its own feet.  I know Moore composes for film and T.V. and you can hear that here.  The notes and drama of the score could easily back a dramatic film moment or a tense T.V. drama.  Showcasing himself as one of our brightest and most multi-talented composers and writers, that compositions helps make Chains such a wondrous and brilliant track.  Knowing how strong a writer and singer Ben-Yousef is, I was not expecting such a gem from her.  Not in a short-sighted way but she seems at home and in her element here.  Songs like Heartbeat seem very personal to her and that passion and lustful vocal is matched by energised and effusive compositional sounds.  Here she sounds like a different woman and completely reinvented.  Such a maturity and sexual vibe comes through in the vocal it is hard not to be seduced by the breathy and smoky tones.  The lyrics leave you wondering and have obliqueness to them.  They could be personal and particular or could be words of support to a friend.  We can all relate to that sense of confinement and struggle and Chains is a song for those in need of freedom and escape.  When combined in song, the individual talents of Ben-Yousef and Moore sound even more startling and purposeful than they do isolated.  I know Ben-Yousef will pursue her solo career whilst Moore will be finding nee paragons with which to buddy-up with.  I hope our duo come together again next year and create another beauty like this.  Such songwriting quality and strength should not be left to the archives and stand as a do-you-remember-when-you-heard-Chains recollection.  I hope the two mega-talented stars have a chat and make a date for 2016…

When music becomes stale and predictable- which it often can these days- it is always refreshing to come across a fantastic moment that makes you rethink and reevaluate the craft.  I have followed the solo scene for a while and often have to pick-and-choose who I follow and who will keep producing fantastic songs.  A lot of solo acts seem to flounder down the line and produce one or two great moments- before disintegrating or giving diminished returns.  You cannot include Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef in that statement.  Operation Lightfoot is a militaristic charge that is recruiting some of our bravest and most stunning artists.  Whether an album is forthcoming it will be great to see how Chains features.  That said, we could see the song score a T.V. or film scene as it has such a filmic feel to it.  Both serene and gentle but coded with a clear drama and weight, it is a song that could very easily go where it damn well pleases.  Sophia Ben-Yousef is a hugely confident woman with a stunning voice.  One of our best new artists, I have always had high hopes for her.  Knowing her music pretty well- and the fact she is studying at the moment- it will be interesting to see what 2016 holds in store.  I could well see her collaborating with other artists (maybe Operation Lightfoot?) again and coming up with some more gems.  Her voice is so adaptable and wide-ranging she could lend her tones to a Hip-Hop beat or anthemic Dance workout.  Maybe a dizzying Pop foray or introspective Soul hook-up?  Who know, eh?  What I do know is the Liverpool native has many years ahead of her in music and will be bringing new material to our ears in time.  Few solo artists have that triple-threat we weaponry of compositions, lyrics and voice that means each element is considered carefully.  Ben-Yousef is a skilled musician who understands the importance of composition and making sure it packs as much emotion and resonance as possible.  A terrific singer and wonderful talent, she shows a mature pen and has a very open heart.  Making her words universal and simple there is an underlying complexity and intelligence to her words that make her songs nuanced and hugely compelling.  Operation Lightfoot’s Luke Moore is one of this country’s most unique talents and someone keen to bring as many musicians and voices together.  Make sure you keep your eyes trained his way as there will be more exciting collaborations anon.  I love what he is doing and his particular vision- getting an artist to sing and co-write a song- and it is something more musicians should be doing.  Chains is the ironic sound of two artists unimpeded and free.  It is a song that is soft and welcoming yet beats with a very exciting and urgent heart.  You find yourself revisiting the song and trying to get to grips with various details and elements.  The lyrics implore fond investigation and the composition is one of the most impressive I have heard for a while.  Riding in the foreground is that typically assured and beautiful vocal from Ben-Yousef which, tied to all the other ingredients, results in something truly wonderful.  I hope there is a music website that exists where musicians can join together and create songs.  If there is not I shall get on it, as I worry too few Operation Lightfoot-Sophia Ben-Yousef songs and partnerships are happening.  What has been proven here is just what can come from pushing your boundaries and reaching out to fellow musicians.  There is a worrying dip in quality when it comes to solo acts and I fear too many are becoming complacent and not understanding the need to provide variation and range in their music.  It is left for me to predict the future of Moore and Ben-Yousef.  I feel the former will be kept busy with his collaborations and I cannot wait to hear what comes from it.  If there is an album afoot, it is going to be one to add to the collection for sure!  It would be good to see an interactive and official website for Operation Lightfoot (apologies if there is one already) and it will attract many musicians and writers in.  One of our most varied and impressive composers and writers, he is one of the U.K.’s few truly all-inclusive and ambitious talents.  Ben-Yousef is balancing a busy university life with her musical ambitions and I hope she finds a happy medium.  I love hearing her songs and she seems to be at her productive best.  Whether in a relationship or heartbroken, she seems to be able to tap into a rich vein and really speak to listeners directly.  Always complete with a smile and a soulful infectiousness, the Liverpudlian is someone we should all be keeping our eyes on.  Stunning to the eye and even more mesmeric when letting her voice reign, Chains sees Ben-Yousef at her very peak.  I cannot wait to see what the next year has in store for her.  Make sure you check out this wonderful collaboration and two disparate musicians coming together to create something truly special.  In a time where there is unpredictable returns and an inconsistency, you can always be sure Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef will bring the good every time.  Sit back, relax and let Chains do its work.   A song that will motivate and compel both artists…

TO keep making wonderful music for years to come.

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