Review Summary: tell your parents no
Throughout the history of popular music, there have existed gaps in the soundtrack to a certain culture, specific locale, or an era. This is how we can begin to explain many musical phenomena that have swept across nations, or even oceans, in the past. Obvious examples could be the rise of punk-rock in the 1960s as an act of direct rebellion against the status quo, or the creation of black metal in the 80s, as bands like Venom and Bathory began toying with how metal was previously meant
to sound. A more current and relevant example though, is the trend of mid-frequency “bass” driven electronic music that has completely taken over the airwaves in North America. Producers like Skrillex and Datsik took an early blueprint set by UK dubstep producers such as Rusko, and began to hit American college students with loud, catchy, aggressive interpretations of a genre that had previously gone largely unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic. In many ways, it still goes completely unnoticed in lieu of the increasingly predictable hits being produced by a handful people.
For every action, there is allegedly an equal and opposite reaction. Being true to those wise words, there is now a growing demand in North America for a return to the more intelligent or emotive side of electronic music: a style that is experimental, dynamic, and unique. As a culture, we are beginning to grow tired of the predictable drops and catchy-until-they’re-overused samples, and there is a real potential for young producers to fill this void with a fresh style of music that is largely new to local audiences. This is where Vancouver Island based producer iNTRiKeT, and his new LP The Woods
, comes into play. His debut EP, released in 2011, was a clear attempt to use the influence of American style dubstep and take the sound in a new direction. By using original instrumentation including guitar and piano, and focussing on atmosphere rather than aggressiveness, Songs for Sleepy
provided listeners with something fresh, even if its unclear identity hindered its overall effect at times. It is now a year later and the debut full-length has improved on its predecessor in every way possible, to the point that it is difficult to believe that they were produced by the same artist. iNTRiKeT’s sound has evolved and begun to incorporate a huge number of styles. The influence of American electronic music has almost completely disappeared, and the end result is closer to an organic sounding piece of UK style, minimal bass music.
The focal-point of this album, both sonically and conceptually, is the three song run comprised of Giant Sun
, and The Woods
. It is here, in the album’s closing half, that everything iNTRiKeT has worked so hard to achieve over the past two years comes together in a breathtaking manner. This section of the album focuses mostly on the deep, sub-bass groves, and ominous tones that have begun to gain popularity in the UK’s minimal bass scene. The grooves are deep and dynamic throughout each of these songs, switching up the mood or energy of the music accordingly, and the percussion is engaging and varied. The beats on this album are very rarely, if ever, recycled, and this shows that the producer has learned to be more inventive and original in all the important areas, including percussion.
However it would be wrong to categorize this as strictly a bass music album, even if the three most powerful tracks are all rooted in that sound. Most of The Woods
relies on other forms of instrumentation to carry the atmosphere or melody of the songs. iNTRiKeT is a multi-talented musician that is clearly not afraid to use anything at his disposal to achieve the sounds that he is aiming for. As such, trademarks of his work have already started to emerge early into his career; while this is almost entirely an electronic album, all of the tracks include live guitar or piano tracks or samples, in order to convey that same sense of surreal atmosphere that he has always strived to create. This can be explained by alluding to his earlier work, released under various names, which ranged from acoustic post-rock, to dreamy ambient soundscapes, to noisy shoegaze. While this artist and album are certainly planted firmly in the realm of electronic music, it is accurate to say that there are influences of a varied musical past to be found beneath the surface of iNTRiKet's sound. There is also a song featuring some gorgeous guest vocals by Rosie June, a Vancouver Island based singer-songwriter. Raindrops
, a liquid drum and bass song, is orchestrated beautifully around the soaring vocal sample - a definite highlight. It is all these varied approaches that keeps the album from ever sounding repetitive (a problem some electronic music struggles with, especially in LP form) -- each song fits into the overall sonic theme of the album, yet each has its own distinct sound.
Speaking of themes, though there is a strong sonic one, there is a more tangible one present: fear. Through clever use of hand-picked samples, ominous tones and bass groves, iNTRiKeT successfully conveys an overarching concept of fear: where it comes from, what it feels like (or sounds like) to confront it, and what it means to ultimately understand and overcome it. The most obvious way in which this concept is addressed is via bone-chilling samples: some are bits of dialogue taken from movies or TV shows, some are original field recordings, and some are neither. They all work together to speak to the theme of the album, which reveals itself to be very prominent and powerful upon repeated listens. This vision succeeds because it is married excellently with the overall sound of the album, its textures and moods. Furthermore, the album is bookended with what are explicitly titled as “Intro (Anxiety)
” and “Outro (Release)
”, and it should be no surprise that these two pieces help to tie the concept together. Both tracks craft a hazy, haunting atmosphere and rely more on melodies than driving percussion so as to ease the listener into, and out of, the conceptual focus of the album.
All of this combines to mark The Woods
with a brand of unique design that most other amateur producers could only dream of. At the end of the day, if we have to classify this LP (and I suppose we do), it falls under the "bass music" umbrella. But iNTRiKeT has tapped into something that similar artists such as Clubroot or Burial had previously discovered and capitalized on: the ability to mark their music with distinct trademarks and intricate sonic approaches. So while it is definitely appropriate to compare this album to the music produced by said artists, iNTRiKeT has created something unique, and with the potential to become part of a new approach to electronic music within its region. If this artist begins to receive the exposure in the north-west DJ scene, there is a real chance that we may be on the verge of something special. There exists the demand for a musical renaissance of sorts within North American electronic music. Today, names like Jacques Greene (a house producer from Montreal), and Anthologic (a dubstep producer from Ontario), are part of a growing group of artists that are attempting to push these very boundaries. With The Woods
, iNTRiKeT is poised to join their ranks.
iNTRiKeT is a musical project of sputnik user Jash. ‘The Woods’ can be downloaded at http://intriket.bandcamp.com.