Totemic - Continuous Cycle
Released off label 2016
Drum and bass producer Totemic has been producing and releasing innovative tracks with lightning speed this year. His last EP, Falling, was released less than two months ago in May, and now he’s already back with the follow up, Continuous Cycle. Since Brutal Resonance already introduced Totemic in our feature on Falling in May, this time we can dispense with the formalities of talking about his background and get right to discussing this cool and unconventional drum and bass producer. To check out our review of Falling and the incredible track "Drow", click here.
Continuous Cycle released July 7 and is available to stream or purchase on Totemic’s Bandcamp page. The EP opens with “Daybreak”, an upbeat track with a conventional or somewhat throwback-style drum and bass beat. The beat is more sparse and liquid-esque than has been seen in recent Totemic releases, but many liquid fans and old school heads will find this charming. The beat merges into a different type of syncopation at around 1:35, where things get a little more trippy. A sort of digital glitch sound comes out as the presumed melody, but then the track switches again to something more recognizably Totemic: a violin track, accompanied by trance-like bleeps and bloops. This part of the track only lasts for about 20 seconds as well. Both somewhat classically influenced, these two melody tracks toggle back and forth for the duration of “Daybreak”, gaining speed and adding bits until the track’s dénouement.
“Daybreak” moves quite seamlessly into “Mist”, another liquid-beated track which starts out even trippier than “Daybreak” ended. There is a hint of an amen break looming under this beat. The song gets all the way to 2:55 before Totemic’s Arabic-inspired violin comes in and hits right to the core. Before that, the only other sounds than the beat and the break are wispy female vocal samples. After the violin comes in, the amen break builds along with the melody, but then suddenly dies down again, giving way to the misty female vocals. The beat is a little stronger here and has sped up, but all the places where one would expect a big, heavy drum and bass drop, there is just more whispering. At the end “Mist” devolves into a slow, analog-sounding beat before stopping abruptly.
“Swords” has a similar feel to “Daybreak”, and by this point in the EP one will get the impression that all the songs here are meant to be linked (as if the EP’s name, Continuous Cycle, wasn’t enough to go on). Beginning with an esoteric, Middle Eastern feeling and the same liquid-style beat seen in “Daybreak” and “Mist”, “Swords” then diverges quite drastically into a fast, techy drum and bass beat, complete with ravey cut wave samples. From here the original eerie, sweeping desert-tinged waves come back in and mingle with this beat in a surprising way. Probably the most technically complicated song on Continuous Cycle, “Swords” has a lot going on but Totemic makes it feel simple and enjoyable. More surprises come at the end of the track, where the piano almost changes to a major key and somehow becomes more creepy because of it. Fun sidenote on this track: "Swords" was featured a couple of weeks ago on the Noisia Radio Podcast, a weekly radio show by one of the most influential drum and bass production trio in the world. Click here to listen: Noisia Radio S02E24.
Continuous Cycle ends, not surprisingly, with “Nightfall”. The beat is a merging of liquid and tech dnb and incorporates many of the esoteric, wispy sample elements seen in previous tracks. Out of nowhere halfway through the track, however a sort of digital glockenspiel sample comes through. This odd sound starts out as the melody but then fades into obscurity as the violin kicks up. Said violin is more of an Eastern European folk tradition this time, and sounds a little Dracula or Frankenstein-ish; maybe Young Frankenstein.
After the violin solo, the beat of “Nightfall” turns into one which is more heavily syncopated and rolling, making the track suddenly seem at once both more tribal and more electronic. Just when that rolling beat gets going, however, “Nightfall” fades to silence and the listener is left wanting more. The only choices: replay “Nightfall”, or start back at the beginning of the Continuous Cycle? The EP is definitely meant to be played as one contiguous piece, but each track can also stand on its own in a club setting. Intros are generally long in drum and bass tracks, and while djs will drop tracks in halfway through, Totemic uses the intros in each of the songs on this EP to build tension. They are thus well-suited for a nice listening session on one’s own or in an especially dark and esoteric dnb party or festival.
With Continuous Cycle, we are learning more and more about what Totemic can do and about the goals he has in creating his music the way he does. He brings all different types of musical traditions into his work and both operates within the parameters of drum and bass music and colors outside the lines. He joins the very tricky ranks of Om Unit and Mala in the way he balances spirituality with drum and bass in this EP, and we can probably expect more of this tightrope act from the budding dnb genius. It will be interesting to see how the notoriously drum and bass picky fans respond, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not Totemic cares. He clearly marches to the beat of his own drum (and bass).Jul 13 2016
Official release released by the artist themselves without the backing of a label.
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance
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