Review Summary: Exploring and stretching the confines of 100-110 BPM.
Glitch hop is one of those genres which seems to succeed far more than other genres of electronic music. There's something alluring about that 100-110 BPM tempo that draws electronic music listeners in like moths to a flame. Maybe it's the power that the standard glitch hop beat has, since funky, danceable, catchy, and fun drums can usually anchor down a piece and make it good even if the instrumentals leave something to be desired. Maybe it's because there's so much that can be done with the tempo range - there's the standard triplet-based glitch hop feel, the syncopated 110 BPM tunes with a deceptively flat beat, the 108 BPM electro house that's been so popular recently with producers like Kill The Noise and Knife Party, and even the ridiculously energetic moombah beat which many artists, most famously Munchi, have ridden to huge success. And maybe it's just that glitch hop has seen a massive rise in popularity recently without the extra baggage of a major controversy between people who favor a more traditional sound and people who would rather party at a club to more aggressive music. Whatever it is, it's clear that Simplify Recordings has played into the hype of the genre very well. With a back catalogue of almost entirely glitch hop, they've gained respect in the electronic world for the way that their artists play with the seemingly small tempo range, and Simplify producers like Kezwik, Kairo Kingdom, and Blunt Instrument have seen some major attention come their way. And with more and more artists jumping on the glitch hop bandwagon (see Mord Fustang's recent single "Champloo"), it will be fascinating to see how much more Simplify Recordings can grow.
Simplify's latest full-length comes in the form of label mainstays Love & Light's Level Up
, and the duo spend the 14-track album playing with the 100-110 BPM range that's become so successful. Although the idea of a full 14 songs devoted to exploring seemingly constricted tempos sounds like it would lead to a boring album, one of the most striking things about Level Up
is that the songs manage to stay fresh through an entire listen. Love & Light have done an excellent job stretching the confines of a genre that can feel cramped at times, and for the most part there's enough that makes each song different to make for an interesting release. What helps the release's variety the most is the assortment of different beats Love & Light throw into their music. For example, "All That's Left" sees an almost straight electro beat through the first part of the song backed by a classic glitch hop stuttered and syncopated vocal sample. What makes the piece so interesting, though, is the way that the duo casually throw in a moombahton beat without breaking stride, and the fact that the crunchy synth and bass are essentially the same no matter which beat Love & Light are using really speaks to how well they can transition between beats. Also of note is "Sox Ur Rock Off," whose melodic intro builds into Love & Light switching between a duplet and triplet feel with crunchy bass in the background. The thing that makes the song most enjoyable, though, is the transition into a drum & bass-like double-time section at the end of the song in which the drums are syncopated extremely well and satisfyingly.
Another thing that Love & Light do well is making the wise decision to stay away from often-used electro wobbles for most of the album. Alternating between a compressed chiptune (the album is called Level Up
, after all) and a crunchy, distorted synth lead, the producers manage to avoid many of the pitfalls prevalent in a lot of "bro" releases nowadays. Album opener "Cosmic Flutter" displays the synth sounds well, as a rusted chip-like synth builds up under a triplet-based glitch hop beat and a dinging that sounds straight out of a SNES-era game until Love and Light decide to chop up the synths and the beats after the buildup for a bona fide glitch hop banger. A lot of things are present in the song, from the standard beat to the distorted synths to a melodic chip line later on, and they all add up to a very well-crafted tune. "No Bull Night" takes atmospheric synth pads that sound like they could be straight out of a Super Mario Galaxy
soundtrack to let the track slowly grow until it deconstructs itself with some distorted leads and a funky beat. Again, it's a testament to the duo that they can create such an original sound even through so many tracks on a full-length release.
There are really only two major downsides to Level Up
. First, it feels like the tracks are on the whole too short. Maybe I'm just spoiled by 4.5-minute-and-up electronic songs that have become the standard nowadays, but Love & Light's work here ends or begins a little too abruptly. On "Stellar Activation Cycle," the whole thing feels a bit too much like a sample of what's to come rather than a fully fleshed-out track, and it would have been nice to see what Love & Light could have done with a 4-minute frame rather than a 2-and-a-half-minute one. Simplify makes a point of saying that this album was recorded in only 10 months, but the album could have felt more full had the producers spent more time in the studio creating beats and loops. Second, there isn't quite enough chord variation in the songs. The best example of this is "Lots Of Love," where almost the entire song is spent on the first step of the scale instead of even following a simple chord pattern. These downsides aren't enough to weigh down the album as a whole, though. It's a really nice release, packed with enough glitch hop to satisfy almost all fans of the genre. Simplify Recordings have released yet another solid package in the form of this full-length, and Love & Light deserve whatever recognition they get for Level Up