With American audiences, post-dubstep remains a relatively new concept, one requiring the listener to shift the pace and sonic density from Skrillex and Rusko to minimal percussion and sparse synths formulating an unstable rhythm. Not only does Atlantic Connection do this with The Limit, an EP that follows last year’s Love Architect, but he gives it a strong American influence under the guise of “future soul.” Will listeners over here catch on?
Just signing onto SMOG Records last year, producer Atlantic Connection’s sound has been described as an amalgamation of soul, R&B, dubstep, and bass. The Limit starts with this foundation and infuses it with tight strains of liquid jazz, a bit of hip-hop, and R&B vocals that would be apt for top 40 radio if it weren’t for the distortion.
An undercurrent of light percussion unifies all four tracks. 808 snares pepper and punctuate the rhythm, while a barebones dubstep beat pulses throughout. It’s a rather understated wub-wub-wub, as if a single drum were tapping out the rhythm at a distance.
“Push it to the Limit” opens the EP with minimal glitchiness that segues into an uneven blend of synthpop and dubstep elements. It’s like the paired down side of New Order – think “586” off Power, Corruption and Lies — slowed down over a dubstep beat.
But what could’ve become another David Guetta track utilizes the voice as an instrument. A staccato refrain gets chopped up and distorted, placed toward the back of the mix as the equally-sharp percussion emerges on a higher level. Although the vocals do hint at mainstream radio fare, it’s as if Atlantic Connection took a sample, spliced it up to the point it sounds robotic, and added a filter.
Similar elements extend into subsequent track “Perfect (She From the Hood),” with fuzzy synths rising through the paired down glitchy, minimal texture. The vocals, rather, switch off into hip-hop territory, with a bit of jazz instrumentation added. At times, “Perfect,” with its undercurrent of synthpop and dubstep paired with more overt hip-hop elements, sounds like it could belong on Major Lazer’s Lazerproof mix tape.
By third track “Catalyst,” on the other hand, the vocals grow in presence, but rather turn modern R&B into another texture, Atlantic Connection settles for the balance of an Inner City track – equal parts detailed instrumentation and Paris Grey-like singing. Unlike the house tracks of two decades ago, however, the synths of “Catalyst” have a restrained presence, plucked out of slow-burning euphoria as descending arpeggio lines.
Final track “Soundkilla” introduces a different rhythm, of cymbals and a percussive 16th note beat. Even with the faster feel and a denser texture of synth chords and liquid elements, a breakdown dissipates the buildup roughly halfway through, leading eventually for the sound to taper off.
There’s a certain EDM fan – and perhaps a growing group – that’s getting tired of the buildup-drop-big synths texture of mainstream electronic music regardless of subgenre. If you’re looking for subtlety without repetition, restrained yet innovative textures in which every element can be precisely discerned, The Limit is worth a listen.