EDM is dead. The golden age of electronic music is long gone, now only a distant memory. The biggest culprit of this decline is the dastardly phenomenon known as future bass, characterized by sweeping synths that all sound like the same, strange chipmunked vocals, chants from the latest Cymatics sample pack and a hyper-caffeinated euphoric mood — as if all music producers just watched that same “Make Sound like Flume in 10 Minutes!” video on YouTube. Where are the good old days of big room house? Kids these days only listen to the likes of Marshmallow, Illenial and Frostii — and that’s ruining music.
At least, that’s among one of the most common criticisms of the EDM scene today. No future bass track is complete without a barrage of hate directed at the artist’s musicality, skill and even intelligence. It’s almost like an initiation, knowing that your music has uniquely evoked anger in a small but vocal minority of your listeners.
Indeed, future bass, like any genre, has certain characteristics that define its sound, and inevitably, a lot of similar music emerges from those tropes. Yet there are many lesser-known artists that deserve more attention for their creativity with future bass ideas, and often these tracks fall under the umbrella of the broader “future beats.” Here’s a sampling of some of their tracks:
Element (feat. Eileen Tiffany) — “Can’t Have You”
There’s something about Eileen Tiffany’s heavy voice and confident prosody that carries this track. Her voice floats easily through the dense, murky chords despite the complex undercurrent of sounds in the background. The production is excellent as well, featuring a driving beat supporting rhythmic synth chords and listenable hooks.
Blap Deli — “Wristfulla Problems”
This track begins calmly, but don’t let that mellow facade fool you. All of a sudden, you’ll find yourself launched into wave after wave of intense synths and vocals. It’s a slow beat, but it’s incessantly driving, beating constant time underneath the soaring vocal hooks and phrases amidst a sequence of swelling synth chords.
IDestiny & RonPon — “You Got Me”
This begins with a catchy, slightly annoying vocal hook, but soon evolves into a medley of knocking drums, vocal chops, and gurgling bass shots. A synth melody, reminiscent of WRLD, soon appears, weaving through drums and vocals with ease. Through the entire track, there’s a sense of euphoric wonder and excitement — thought it never becomes hyperactive.
GEOTHEORY — “Desiree (Aye)”
“Desiree” begins subtly, quietly, with deep sounds mumbling in the murk. It’s got none of the happiness of the previous track; on the contrary, it’s dark, serious and minimal. It’s a contentious duet between the rhythmic chords and the brooding vocals over the groove. Be careful; this track moves quickly — it’s easy to miss the counterpoint between the dueling ideas.
JAHKOY — “California Heaven (medasin Remix)”
Medasin has long been known for his watery, dreamy sounds, and his take on JAHKOY’s “California Heaven” is no exception. The remix begins uneventfully, with dreamy synth chords piling one on top of the another, until suddenly Medasin seems to forget that we’re in F# Major as he drops the beat. Though not explosive, the drop makes a statement with its presence: the distant, periodic “booms” in the background combine with the airy synths for a lightweight, spacious mood. For a moment, we’re put in musical purgatory — then normalcy returns.
Låpsley — “Love Is Blind (Sam Gelliatry Remix)”
Sam Gelliatry’s version of “Love Is Blind” offers a tipsy, relaxed take on the future music aesthetic. Either Gelliatry’s forgotten how meter works, or he doesn’t care. In any case, the off-beat chords are nonchalant and charmingly disordered. Somehow I find myself comparing it to vaporwave: though stylistically they’re worlds apart, both feature a certain surrealness, an almost thoughtless disregard for reality.
omniboi — “Suspended In Love”
I’m not sure what type of track this is, but it’s certainly got the requisite lightweight, cutesy feel of future bass. It’s something like a cross between loose jazz fusion jam, montage music for a rom-com anime, and Mii channel music. Somewhere in the middle the breakbeat-esque groove keeping time disappears, and the music forgets all thoughts of 4/4, suspending the listener in a metric limbo. I’ve got no idea how to nod my head to the beat for this one — but I don’t mind.
Nora En Pure — “Come With Me (KR$CHN Remix)”
This remix is centered around one sound: a bell-like resonance, which loops in an ostinato through the entire track. It never becomes overbearing, though; instead, it’s a clean, shiny sound that ties the track together, never faltering amidst the knocking of drums. The production on this track is flawless, giving the track an unnatural clarity. It’s surreal and blindingly bright — yet you can’t look away.
Kai Takahashi — “Party Talk”
Takahashi’s “Party Talk” is a new take on the cutesy future bass aesthetic, anchored by lighthearted riffs on the electric piano and vibrant vocal samples. Nothing in this track takes itself too seriously. It sounds innocent, exploring new melodies and progressions without restraint, and the unfolding beauty of this aimless exploration takes us on a youthful adventure. Despite the overflowing cutesiness, it never gets too saccharine: on the contrary, it brings the listener a concurrent sense of childlike wonderment.
Contact Trenton Chang at tchang97 ‘at’ stanford.edu.