One question immediately comes to mind upon listening to Worlds Apart
, Seven Lions’ newest release: why did it take this long?
After the initial glow of brostep’s rise subsided a couple years ago, those of us who were products of the mind-boggling wobbles - the really glorious ones, writhing like quicksilver and not just growling but roaring
, deafening and proud - lost the thread of the style’s evolution somewhere along the way. When the dust kicked up by Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
eventually settled, we found that the producers everywhere were almost swindling us, repackaging different settings on Massive and Sylenth under the guise of some superficial tactic to make us think the style was continuing to mutate - a violin, maybe, or an uplifting female vocal that stands out from the plethora of uplifting female vocals already released because, you know, this one uses slightly different words to describe the exhilaration of bright lights and material excess. Sure, when we got sick of everyone copying Skrillex bar for bar, we found a new ultra-melodic direction, but all that really did was delay the inevitable realization that as long as the focus was on wicked wobbles at the expense of an interesting song structure, the scene wouldn’t be able to sustain itself.
Seven Lions was supposed to be one of the Chosen Ones, kick-starting the creativity we’d missed and ushering in the Second Golden Age of Brostep or something. And, to be honest, his Polarize
EP almost did that. He’d already made a name for himself with his then-unique employment of euphoric trance synths and off-the-wall sidechaining and stuttering over a mid-tempo half-time framework, and the EP, his first post-breakthrough release, brought in a sorely lacking element of novelty, real and heartfelt newness as opposed to gimmicky orchestral fusion or whatever else happened to be the flavor of the month. After that, though, he hit a stumbling-block. All of his trance remixes started to sound the same (you can only delay the re-entry of huge walls of sound in too-similar ways so many times before listeners start to catch a whiff of formula), and his original compositions - as evidenced by his unimpressively good Days to Come
EP - sounded like he was trying to create something original by combining his original sound with unoriginal ones, foreboding trance combined with generic pop-house and dirty electro tropes.
Though some of us had mostly given up on brostep come 2014, we still wanted something new to legitimize the concept that there was such thing as mid-heavy dubstep which wasn’t content to settle down as merely a replication of what had already been done before. It’s why we went into Skrillex’s Recess
with such a fervor, hoping against hope that he was actually doing something interesting
for the first time in a few years, and coming out after hearing “All’s Fair in Love and Brostep” with desolate looks on our faces. Despite the glimmer of optimism we held dear, though, by and large we didn’t admit outwardly to having any sort of hope for the style. “It’s all gone downhill since 2010,” we said. “No one’s been doing anything interesting for years, because there are still too many people who are content to listen to whatever dubstep the EDM Network is pumping out all over YouTube. It’s a lost cause.”
comes as that justification which we’ve been searching for the longest time. We finally have concrete evidence that brutal wobbles aren’t necessarily a hallmark of poor quality, thanks to the shockingly excellent five songs featured here. Seven Lions deconstructs and reconstructs the very same things we despise in the wrong context, instead displaying them in a fascinating and gorgeous new light. Take the title track, for example, which walks with very carefully measured steps through a euphoric pop-dubstep introduction, ebbing and flowing until the producer finally lets go almost halfway through the song and drops a bass bomb that puts almost anything else released this year to shame. The painstaking care taken with every stuttered roar and every icy percussive hit is absolutely stunning, too - the cool blue brilliance of the monolithic “Nepenthe” and the subverted pop-house of “Strangers” seem to be products of eons of work.
The best quality of Worlds Apart
, aside from its infinitely intricate and satisfying construction, is that it stands as a sort of state-of-the-genre address. It sets the bar high for other brostep released from here on out - we won’t just compare new music to sounds that were fresh four years ago but also releases like this, ones that sound fresh now
. It’s a challenge to budding producers, a call to find a gem of an idea and polish and polish until it positively gleams. Finally, it’s a statement of quality, proof that brostep has a creative right to exist and proof of the style’s legitimacy. Worlds Apart
is a wonderful release almost regardless of your stance on the general unoriginality of brostep, and it deserves all the recognition and praise it can get.