There's something to be said for not standing still. In a sonic landscape now crowded to breaking point, artists are continually striving for individuality. There are infinite ways of achieving this goal, but a key component is evolution. Before this evolution must come some form of divergence. Some artists work most effectively within the confines of their self (or fan) defined sounds, others branch in to uncharted territory. A risky approach, and one not for the faint of heart, but if it is executed well it can lead to a lush, fully enriched sound that is entirely unique (see Arcade Fire, Bjork, Beirut)
Beatastic, a project by a young man by the name of Nico, is in to it's 3rd full length release, and his utilisation of divergence-come-evolution is an interesting case study. His catalogue has run the full gamit of genre's, touching on hip-hop, electronica, chillwave (I know, but it was apt at the time), lo-fi, dream pop, rock, noise, minimalist, techno, funk, you get the idea. Rather than a jack of all trades approach, Beatastic takes a more in-depth look at each genre he employs. On previous release This Lazer Life, brilliant slow burning minimal electronic pieces like We Learn To Swim When We Begin To Drown are plotted next to thumping EDM throws such as Mon Coeur Ne Bat Pas Que Pour Moi
and Synergy. Hip-hop was also embraced, with frequent collaborator Global Graffitti, on a number of tracks. On Oceans Between You And I there was a more electronic focus, with dalliances in folk and acoustic singer/songwriter sounds. And Bedroom-dancing Anthems even introduced a bit of Glam Rock on Futuretastic.
GL1TCH3S finds Beatastic again pushing the envelope. Glitchy begins in stomping fashion, Nico pairs an aggressive, distorted riff with strong, pounding drums and sings with more confidence than on previous releases. It's a full blown excursion in to punk, with trademark heavy industry juxtaposed with a spacey electronic ending. It bleeds nicely in to Lctr, which employs more heft in a simple but effective riff that opens out brilliantly at 1 minute, recalling Explosions In The Sky and, of course, My Bloody Valentine. The vocals are soaked in reverb and indistinguishable for the most. It masks the true emotion of the track, and the highly plucked strings that sneak in only serve to heighten the anxiety. It's a dark track that Nico exposes to the light, and one of the best on the record.
If there is an inherent sense of movement within the music that feels natural (perfect example is the lovely flowing Hightide), the themes that Nico deals with push and pull, and forward momentum feels forced. Positivity leaks through all over the record, but tension always awaits. On the fluffy Give Up, Nico employs a light and airey feel that counteracts his introspective mood, 'The cold reality, the bitter familiarity, of growing old, cold'. The synths are pure Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, rather than enliven they create a thoughtful atmosphere, as if you've taken a moment in time to explore your universe, your future and reality. It's a technique echoed on Comets And Nebulas, a stunning soundscape that builds from the humble origins of a simple piano riff and expands in to a post-rock epic. Nico muses 'my time, your time, our time, is ebbing away', before questioning 'is it too late tonight to wish upon a star?' It sounds cheesy in text but works within the confines of the song. For a man so young, his obsession with the ever encroaching end is disquieting but intriguing.
These moments of introspection add weight to what is already a heavy record. As a producer, Beatastic is well versed and adept, and if this were a purely instrumental affair you'd not feel short changed without those insights in to his mindset. Addiction is an example of what creates this instrumental heaviness, as well as why it is unique but at times hard to palate. It carries over his vocal themes of anxiety, disquiet, a caged need for a resolution that isn't forthcoming, and pours them solely in to the sonics. The start is loud and abrasive, industrial. As each sound is added, including the unintelligble vocals, a more disruptive environment is created. By the time the off-kilter out of time drums are employed the song is a dystopian nightmare rattling around in your head. It's a love or hate track, on par with Autechre, but it keeps the image of a tortured mind vivid and alive.
Evolution may be the key, but consistency can not be underrated. Earlier releases by Beatastic were safest and strongest in a less noise-oriented domain. Half of GL1TCH3S finds the producer flirting with big walls of distorted sound that attack the ears and fill your personal space. This is a difficult skill to master, and even if it isn't your most enjoyed technique you must admire the skill put forth by Beatastic to generate these situations. I mention consistency because even when Beatastic takes stylistic left turns on GL1TCH3S he still manages to touch on a core sound. On Dreamcatcher for example, the message is light, loving, 'I'll be your dream catcher when you're asleep', and if you removed the percussion it'd be a straight dream pop album cut. Add the drums in and that hard edged side to the shoe gaze genre is still present, they sound like they're being played under water and add bite to the message. It draws your attention. The same is said of 26 years, the closest thing on the record you could say to indie pop, it's quite a straightforward song yet those distorted guitars allow it a touch point with the rest of the record that breeds consistency and familiarity. Even the obligatory hip-hop song, Let's Make Today About Today, is menacing and loud.
7/10 Essentially, GL1TCH3S is a clear sign of forward movement for Beatastic. As an artist who is unsigned and trying to gain a concrete foothold in an infinitely crowded marketplace of easy access music, his output needs to be quality controlled and his selling point must be unique. The variety of sounds offered on this release is immense and impressive, but what is even more striking is his ability to carry a general theme throughout such a rich variety. If you're a fan of My Bloody Valentine, Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, Anathema, basically anything ranging from instrumental post-rock to harder-edged shoe gaze, you will enjoy this release.
Best Tracks: Lctr, Give Up, Comets and Nebulas
And on Spotify