Like many other artists in the EDM world, bassDrumsnareDrum didn’t start out making electronic music. He started out studying Music at Southampton University, then proceeded to tour the northwest of Europe as a drummer for a pop group. He spent many years working under Warner Music, and even composed mash-ups for Activision’s DJ hero games. But within the last two years, it seems the artist has become more concerned with his own music. He began collaborating with rapper Phreeda Sharp earlier this year, while his newest release, “Pause Rewind” EP, is a result of a 2011 collaboration with singer songwriter Betty Steeles. I had an opportunity to listen to this album and found that it demonstrates a strong chemistry between the artists, and conveys a simple but consistent mood accessible to all listeners.
The opening track, ”Honey,” slowly immerses listeners in an atmosphere dominated by a heavy bass drum and thick, blurry synth chords. At 40 seconds, the melodic synth line, a shower of descending triplets, makes the atmosphere more frenetic and celebratory, setting the stage for Steele’s entrance at 1:30. “You called me honey, honey, honey,” she sings in a voice both childish and inviting. At 3:45 the song explodes into raucous synth chorus with interlocking melodies fighting for attention, then drops suddenly into a reflective ambience. Steele’s vocals float dreamily above the music while the synth is slowly consumed by white noise, brining the track to a close.
This track strikes a good balance between joyous and despondent. And while much of this mood is dependant on the heavy bass beat and overlapping melodies, the real soul of the track lies in Steele’s vocals, powerful but not overwhelming. Perhaps more importantly, there’s a genuine quality to this music in its emotional simplicity. That is, it isn’t delving into the misfortunes of the human soul, but is tapping into an innocent sadness, maybe over a breakup, or a missed connection.
The following track, “Human,” really focuses its attention on Steele. The lyrics are a bit overdramatic, “I pretend to be, a human perfectly, I blink my eyes, compromise,” and so on. The opening synth ambience and nervous melodic line sound like they’re off the Robocop soundtrack, which, coming from me, is not a terribly high compliment. The ghostly synth glissandos that fade in and out of the track, however, do add a nice touch of eerie atmosphere, making this track passable, but not necessarily satisfying.
On the other hand, although this music cant be taken too seriously, its not over the top and is sincere in its execution. Where this music stands out is the fact that, although it’s not a terribly challenging album, it still manages to make listeners feel…well, a little sad, and that’s something not all artists can do well.
The third track, “I Can’t Keep Faling” starts as a simple, four chord ballad. Steeles vocals are, again, center stage, and the lyrics aren’t half bad either, “An angel came to me, when I was down, open up the window, push demons out.” At one minute, the mood shifts dramatically to bouncy and playful, driven by a poppy synth tune. But when the bass and drums kick in, the tune transforms in to a slow mosher, a lighter in the sky kind of song, a falling over your friends drunk slurring, “I love you man!” kind of song. And while the chorus is a bit cliché, “I can’t keep falling, on and on, something’s gonna make you change, and change is gonna make you happy,” it works well within the context of the song.
Perhaps the strongest element of this track is its ability change its shape and structure while still appearing as a unified whole. A whole slew of genres can be heard operating within the music, everything from dubstep to chillout to deep house, and the end result is a track with well-defined energy arcs, shifts in beat and tempo, and even a few mood alterations as well.
The beginning of the final track, “Pause Rewind,” sounds like the beginning of a Coldplay tune, with heavy grand piano drenched in reverb. The entrance of the drums and bass make the soundscape much grittier; the drums sound heavy and metallic, while the bass line is cool and sexy. Surrounding the music are a disorienting amount of noises, machine groans and buzzes, a synth xylophone texturing the fringe of the stereo field, all making this track quietly complex. Steele’s vocals are centered again, but I found myself drawn more to the makeup of the music this time around. One more of the downsides of the track is that there’s virtually no energy curve, but this static energy is, in a way, a quiet and respectful way to close out the album.
Overall, “Pause Rewind” by bassDrumsnareDrum is a simple, but well produced collection of music. The mood struck is almost consistently somber, a good album for walking the streets alone on a rainy day, or dealing with a breakup, etc. This album delivers a very common, everyday sadness, but I liked it for its innocence, that it wasn’t overdone, that it wasn’t too long, and that it wasn’t totally in your face. This album was pleasant and unassuming, and I’d gladly listen to it again.