Artist: Vintage Beats
Release Date: 2014 July 24
Genre: Downtempo / Trip-Hop
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: Dusted Wax Kingdom
Vintage Beats needs help. On this first release on Dusted Wax Kingdom, Jeremy Wood presents twenty downtempo tracks filled with trip-hop, jazz, and lo-fi goodness. With twenty tracks that whiz by in fifty-three minutes, you might think you’d get a case of whip-lash. But then again, maybe you won’t. Why? Well let’s examine that question.
Vintage Beats Needs Help
The first thing that is quite noticeable about this release is the length of the tracks: fourteen out of twenty tracks are under three minutes long, and three of the remaining six tracks tick in at barely over three minutes long.
Now, I am a fan of music that is compact and tightly written, arranged and/or produced. There is a long history going way back into classical music for “miniatures” (as I’ve mentioned before I am a huge fan of Edward Grieg’s miniatures, especially the Lyric Pieces). But when writing miniature pieces they still have to be full compositions. You have to be able to recognize the song structure internal to the works. And that’s where this release just doesn’t reach its potential.
None of the tracks on this release have anything resembling an ABA structure, much less anything more. It’s all AAA with some minor changes in samples being punched in and out, or equalization adjustments, etc. Which is really a shame when some of the source material, such as the Moody Blues piece at the center of ‘Dear Diary’ (also named ‘Dear Diary’) happens to have an ABACABA (roughly) structure to it. (Aside: Not to mention, he misses picking up the best line of the song: “Somebody exploded an H-bomb today / But it wasn’t anybody that I knew.”)
So, this actually makes for weird listening experience: most of the tracks are short and seem to go by quickly, and yet because of a lack of structure they seem to go on forever and verge on the point of tedium. It seemed like this would be something impossible to do, yet this release manages to accomplish that.
The thing is, it seems that this release is relying on the fact that Jeremy Wood is an excellent producer, which he is. He has an excellent ear for selecting samples, layering them, beat matching, and all the primary skills needed for this style of production. However, he seems to lack the ability to take these pieces to the next level.
So as I made my way through this release, hearing a track I know very well being used in a good, if ineffectual production I thought things couldn’t get worse. Then I got to the fifteenth track: ‘Cure’. Now, let me say this, tempo changes to vocals are something that we have come to expect with most electronic music, and sometimes a change in pitch comes with that change in tempo to match the key of samples. However, when your speed up vocal no longer sounds like a human being you have gone too far. And that’s what we have here: a female vocal that has been pitch changed so badly that she sounds like Minnie Mouse hopped up on snow while trying to sing the blues. At this point I wanted to stop listening, however I did find a redeeming quality: this is the third shortest track on the release.
Fortunately (or not) the rest of the release is mostly the same as the earlier tracks. Simple AAA structures, without mangled rodent vocals. (Although the track ‘Licorice’ does try to be as annoying.)
This was a let-down of a release from Dusted Wax Kingdom, especially after the excellent Darkside release I reviewed earlier this week. This was a release that is only half done at best, something that both DWK and Jeremy should have recognized before releasing this work. The production, sample selection, beat matching, etc. are excellent. But the lack of a complete structure to these tracks, and the Minnie Mouse vocals on ‘Cure’ just kill this release.