Totemic - Falling
Drum and bass is a genre whose producers are under constant threat of going stale at any minute due to market saturation, constant reinvention of subgenres and eternally moody followers. The pressure, both to conform to fans’ ideas of what dnb should be and not to be so cookie-cutter that the easily bored audience gets, well, bored, can be relentless. Through the twists and turns of a music market which is both volatile and restrictive, artists like Toronto’s Totemic have been quietly doing what excites the dnb crowd the most: making tracks the artist himself is excited about and not pulling any punches when it comes to subgenres or labels.
Totemic’s newest EP, Falling, released May 17 and proves that this artist could really not give two craps about what the industry is doing with regard to drum and bass. With its explosion of neurofunk on the one hand and throw back to jungle on the other, the once united genre of music seems to be creating new rifts for itself once again. That said, Totemic’s highly complex beats, diverse and beautiful melodies and surprising sampling show that he understands his audience, no matter how divided they become.Scene squabbles aside, dnb heads are highly educated when it comes to music production and composition, and they do not suffer low quality. Totemic knows this and challenges this justifiably snarky audience with Falling and “Drow,” a one-off single he released about a month before the EP.
“Drow” is what we in the industry call a “banger.” No, Miley Cyrus didn’t make that term up, and yes it accurately describes the reverse dnb beats, death-defying breaks and soaring melodies in this
electronica/Middle Eastern fusion track Totemic released independently. It might sound strange, but the highly stylized and syncopated beats of dnb work well with Middle Eastern music because the Arabic music structure is much more elaborate and follows different counts than the standard western 4/4 time. To wit: it sounds like Totemic has had to reverse and dress up the standard drum and bass syncopation just to keep up with the Middle Eastern melody. If that weren’t enough, underneath all this is a pulsing straight beat with a harder, grimy center which ends in a bar-crossing break every other phrase. This track is highly complex to say the least and will satisfy even the most technical of drum and bass snobs.
For the EP’s part, Falling opens with the title track, which is more recognizable as Totemic’s
characteristic style. His beats are usually dizzyingly fast - even for drum and bass - and jungle-driven. This much is true with “Falling”, but in this case he adds both rave and classical elements. Bloops and bleeps introduce each bar as a simple piano plays throughout. With such diversity, this track would be well-suited to a late night dnb club atmosphere or a sunrise set at a festival. Totemic himself does both, having played at both eastern Canada’s major festies, OM and Solstice, for the last three years.
“Static Blitz” takes Falling back to a deeper place, mixing fast jungle snares with a harder yet slower drum and bass beat and bass-laden samples throughout. The Arabic-influenced violin is back, which, incidentally, Totemic plays himself live onstage while performing. Falling closes with “Devil’s Heart”, a wonderful throwback to intelligent drum and bass beat-wise, and “Endless Dream”, another intelligent, yet more ravey track with a tribal overbeat. Both these tracks show that while Totemic started in drum and bass fairly recently, he understands its roots and wants to create his own sound while respecting where the genre has come from.
Everyone knows the way to an old schooler’s heart if through a track like “Devil’s Heart”. Full of intelligent beats comprised of half downtempo and half fast snares, Totemic puts a completely new twist on a classic beat style; tough to pull off with modern techniques. “Endless Dream” starts out similarly, with snares and jungle beats balancing each other, then adds a matching tribal beat before somehow merging into an even faster straight beat. Said straight beat is almost the speed of hardcore before it suddenly drops out and listeners are left with a trail of tribal, and also quite dizzy.
With singles like “Drow” and EPs like Falling, it’s no wonder Totemic has already gained the respect of the industry, EDM heads and old school junglists alike. Since 2013, he’s already released tracks on Street Ritual (US) and the legendary Rogue LTD (UK) record labels. His independent tracks, diverse knowledge of musical styles, classical training and the talent to merge all these elements makes Totemic a drum and bass prodigy for the new age. Despite all our belly aching in the dnb scene, we desperately need the likes of Totemic, so let’s all shush and just listen.May 26 2016
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance
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