[REVIEW] Swarms – Low Sun AKA Why the Term “Dubstep” Means Nothing by Geogaddi
May 20, 2012, 4:48 am
Filed under: Ambient, Electronic

Remember the frenzy over metalcore around 2005? It was so bad, the word now has an aftertaste that the most die-hard Red Chord and Converge fans will avoid.

Those of us who consider ourselves eclectic music fans aren’t normally blinded by spontaneous fanaticism for whatever the new flavor is. Humans just have a tendency to flock to newer and more palatable forms in droves, which results in a crop of artists (and labels willing to sign them) inspired by both the sounds of their influences and the potential for quick and easy fans (). Though there are usually a handful of artifacts to be found in this first crop, you’re better off waiting until the novelty wears off and the public moves on. There is always a second wave, and while it’s much smaller, the artists who truly believe they have a statement beyond “GIVE ME MONEY” remain. The artists worth your attention won’t be bothered by the connotations given to their genre by other bands.

Today’s dirty word is dubstep, and it’s a word that has listeners divided like nothing else. It has a following that has all but completely swallowed the entire dance music scene whole, dwarfing that of much older genres like techno or house, yet the backlash against it is well-documented and has spawned memes across the internet. Chances are, you’ve not only heard some dubstep yourself, but you’ve got a pretty strong opinion on it.

The culture surrounding mainstream dubstep may be ubiquitous and unbearable, but as with any of the countless trends of decades past, it simply won’t last. As people get their fill and move on with their lives, it will become less and less marketable until it won’t be noticed by anyone who doesn’t look for it. Only real artists, people who approached the scene with a desire to create something unique and enduring, will remain.

Artists like Bristol’s Swarms prove that we’re closer to this point than it seems. Even when paying close attention to their brand of dubstep next to its boisterous and largely American cousin, it’s difficult if not impossible to find even a vague similarity. Swarms’ roots run deep in the same river that London’s more famous Burial drinks from, focusing much more on a warm sub bass sound that carries each drum pattern from one phrase to the next instead of drowning it out in predictable bursts of screeching and grinding. The dub chords and distant vocals of their new EP Low Sun create a distinct sense of physical space, echoing and softly fading away together in divine harmony. This core sound has remained the same since their early days, however the tempos have become slower and their drums deeper even since last year’s critically acclaimed debut full-length Old Raves End. Fragmented phrases of grief and isolation weave in and out of the hand claps and subtle bass thumps, coming together to sound much more like angels crying than Transformers fucking. You get the point. The hybrid of ambient, soul, dub, and house at play here is a far cry from its explosive counterpart, attesting not only to Swarms’ originality, but a deeper and more problematic discrepancy: that the ambiguity of the term dubstep has rendered it almost completely meaningless.

Folks like myself feel trapped in the middle of a rift, simultaneously being called haters for lashing out against a type of music we’re forced to endure (“brostep”) and apologists for insisting not only that it’s not all bad, but that some of it, like the four songs on Low Sun, is downright inspiring.

Bubblegum Octopus – Possible Party by orlandooom407

This release isn’t very new, mid-2010 to be exact, but it sets a new standard for multiple personality electronic music. I learned that Bubblegum Octopus is the moniker of solo musician Matthew “m@ the c@” Morden from the great state of New Jersey. My inner nerd contorts with elation in response to this thirty-eight track collage of electronic mayhem. Normally I’m not one for chip tunes but the eight legged frequencies brandish much more than fevered high frequency tangents and molar grinding repetitions. There are brutal deathgrind vocals in the vein of Cephalic Carnage along with silly strings of short observations covering topics like snakes in a school to eating noodles with eggs. Percussion diverts from chippy, to trippy, to glitchy depending on which chapter of the collection you’re listening to. Matthew probably drinks a heft amount of liquid stimulants prior to composing these short excerpts that recount his madness, and you should to. I’ll close by saying this album cover makes me cross eyed, but it burns so damn good. If you like Genghis Tron, Love Through Cannibalism or even high flying Guilty Gear OST style guitar solos this freebie is worth trying out.

Like Bubblegum Octopus on Facebook.

– Jared Oates

taperecorder – Philadelphia Collins EP by orlandooom407

“Three tracks for three burgers that’s my final offer Randy”

What’s this about Jimmy and the liquor now? I’ll admit I’m still a newbie in regard to electronic compositions. Right now my limited justification for musicians and groups I enjoy relies strictly on impulsive snagging. These impulses brought me to Marc Francis, known by the moniker taperecorder (Galactique Recordings). To ease with context his label has this to say about this gluttonous EP:

“Philadelphia Collins was born from a few remix efforts that went a little too far. Being the musical tinker that he is, Taperecorder deconstructed and rebuilt the source material to the point where the results had transcended the context of “remix”. Indeed, each track on this EP is its own animal; entirely new songs informed, but not defined, by their original identities.”

The first track, Lushabye, bumps a minimal beat tethered to a synthesizer powered by a meager bit rate. It’s joined by chopped up female vocal harmonies by who I presume to be Drunkwife. Track 2 features vocals from Zebra Katz constantly reassuring that he’s going to school that bitch; presumably for a college education. This song carries more of a disco feel relying less on spreading out little snippets and more so on a hefty bass line. Closing out this ballgame features vocals from Fair Lion. At the risk of sounding ignorant I’ll admit her inflection and range sound similar to Oceanlab vocalist Justine Suissa. This one had no problem keeping my attention further diversifying this dirty burger homage with an undeniable late 80’s flavor. Say no to Friday and snag this freebie.

Like taperecorder on Facebook.

Like Galactique Recordings on Facebook.

– Jared Oates

[SoundCloud Soundscapes] Beat Culture – Shelter Remix by orlandooom407
March 14, 2012, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Electronic | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Anyone remember when I did an Unheavy Herring segment on the young man behind Beat Culture? Sound Cloud has made it easy to keep up with his remixes, and coincidentally he released a new one over the weekend. I’m not trying to claim cool points with this because I actually have no idea who the original artist, which I assume is The Xx, is, but Sunik delivered a undeniably catchy rendition of Shelter. I’m going to go listen to this Xx business now, but you should hear the Beat Culture remix below.

– Jarad Oates Haggard

Unheavy Herring – Beat Culture Tokyo Dreamer LP by orlandooom407

At first glance, I thought this was a release by HEALTH after reading the identical font. An intended homage would be appropriate in this situation seeing as Beat Culture, solo project of seventeen year old Sunik Kim, shares a distinct commonality with HEALTH: ingenuity. As I write this review I know that this will find a place in my regular listening schedule indefinitely. Those looking for wobbles, bass drops, zip zoomers, bridges or any moment where you’re telling your friends huddled around a speaker to “wait for it bro” should close your browser now.

Before I proceed I’d like to add that Sunik took it upon himself to categorize BC as “Pre-Racism-Dopewave” and “RAVETRONICA” among other personally unfamiliar tag words. Was the pre-racist dopewave movement an undetermined epoch when people would habitually inject heroin while discussing how tolerant everyone is before falling victim to another dope coma? Listen to Tokyo Dreamer backwards and you’ll discover your answer.

Tokyo Dreamer welcomes the listener with a stream of synthesized pitch shifted peaks and plummets. BC even foreshadows itself (or, himself? whatever) with titles, something regretfully rare in music today, and superbly exemplifies this in the first track, entitled “Shoreline”. Shoreline does just what it sounds like: simulate shore sounds. The catch though is that this particular ocean exists in the future filled with glorious space water and it’s only for robots. Devices implemented throughout the composition tend to stack on top of one another. For example, after the initial synth sample plays out for a few measures it’s joined by some subtle snare sampling and a verbed out loop of a woman singing what sounds like “ooooooo”. All of these sounds are pureéd into a enormous construct that alternates leading instrumentation periodically during each track. This tactic works to highlight changes between portions when consistent sounds are shared with other proceeding songs.

Piano sample selection claims my ears much more frequently than some of the synthesized scaling. Most electronic instrumentation is unfamiliar to me so I don’t know if I’m easily impressed, but BC’s elegant timing when introducing a piano solo or dual piano/vocal sample hypnosis was insatiably luring. Totalizing refrains monopolize every other sound to my ears, and I hope these piano portions are original. Even if they aren’t the presentation culminates a calming smile on this dude’s lips.

Rhythmically this release reminds me a lot of Burial, but definitely adorns it’s own unique charm. Electronic percussion enhanced by exquisite piano centered counter and congruent syncopation. The range of timing spans over chalky hurried DnB beats and meticulously glitched trips that yield sincerely seriously psychedelic assortments. No soggy4/4 build up drop shit here, just post modern progressive vibes. See? I can make up my own buzz language too Sunik! I kid, I kid.

Enjoy this record in the evening with a glass/helping of your drink/drug of choice. Sensory overload by lighting sage might unlock other epiphanies too. Can’t wait to keep jamming Tokyo Dreamer.

Summative Sentence: Torrential walls of breathtaking electronic vocal samples, eclectic arrays of synth, and liberating free-form composition.

Favorite Track: Coastal Sentiment

Click here to download Tokyo Dreamer by Beat Culture for FREE on his Bandcamp page.

Click here to check out Beat Culture on Facebook.

– Jared Oates Haggard