The Upbeats – De-Evolution Part 2
Words by Tony Ferguson
Oh shit, here we go! Big room, big vibes, big energy, LET’S DO THIS. I often talk (in my head) while I’m writing, so whatever pops in there goes onto the page. Right now I feel like my inner voice is shouting to compensate for the fact that my speakers are trying to bring the roof down. The Upbeats then are kicking subtlety to the kerb and running headfirst into a wall covered in speaker stacks. Said stacks are pushing out some serious sound throughout this release and I have to say it’s a post-coffee listener for sure. After only a single play from end to end I have to put this EP into the post-1am time slot without a doubt. It’s amped, dangerous almost, and in the right hands it will make a night at the dance quite memorable. Just bring spare shoes, and maybe pants.
So yeah it’s going to be like that. I’m going to shout a lot, gush and basically talk shit about how I used to be young and love hearing EPs like this at my favourite night spots, you have been warned, read on at your own risk. Ok let’s dial it back just a touch. You can fire up this EP and hear ‘Mediums’, which will likely make you want to jump around and such, but I think I judged this EP too soon and on a single track. Yes I’ve listened to it all, shut up, just hear me out. The later you get into this release, the more interesting and exciting it becomes, it’s so much more than a Pendulum-esque synth (not an insult, really). There’s depth and substance in every track that only seems to grow the further in you get. I was admittedly sold on my first impression but I keep coming back for the atmosphere and the company.
With ‘Mediums’, it really feels like the headline track is just shouting at me: ‘come on you cunt’. It’s cool, I’ve been called worse and for most of my childhood/teens/early twenties. There’s just a level of pace and power, yeah it’s a big room vibe for sure and that’s OK, this track can and no doubt does fill the room which is its goal, score. If you drop into some headphones you can really get a sense that each and every sound has weight, the heft of that snare for example as it kicks and punches its was through the mid range is lovely. ‘Mediums’ really is an assault on the senses, like the ultimate driving tune. Only it’s wide open empty roads, the golden hour, and you’re sitting in front of a V10, right foot slammed, 24 valves screaming behind you, tyres on the limit, reflexes tested to breaking point. And then the drop. Time to really open it up, light the rear tyres, find the grip and BOOM, off into the ether without a trace other than a puff of smoke and the glorious smell of burnt up high octane fuel. Lovely. So always wear a seatbelt, drive responsibly and only do this shit on a track, don’t be an idiot.
When a track makes me feel this way, when it delivers so much power and energy, I can only really grasp at silly metaphors to have a hope of getting my point across. Putting silly car metaphors to one side for a moment I have to give a mention to some of these awesome mid bass stabs. They make such a huge impact on the pace/aggression of the track, dropping during the breath of the main bass synth, like a rabid beast breathing in before it leaps in to strike at it’s prey. Short and sharp in nature, filling in a gap that would have let you take in oxygen for a second but The Upbeats were like fuck that you don’t have time to breathe bitches.
‘Joyrider’ on the other hand is intro vibes, this time almost whispering that ‘we are going to fuck you up.’ Once again we get a nauseating set of balls on that snare, such a full sound taking up all that mid range space but the kick still kicks you in the head. It’s just madness. I class myself as very lucky to have seen a band drop riddims like this live and let me tell you, this drum track feels (a)live, smashing hats and cymbals, power coming from a human arm through that snare and into a microphone: it’s tangible for sure. These are without a doubt the best drums I’ve heard in a while, and I can’t stress enough the importance of the live component. Just getting a guy (or girl) to smash some animal skins in a studio will give you shockingly hot results each and every time, just listen. ‘Joyrider’, then, really takes the baton from ‘Mediums’ and runs with it, only this time it goes up a mountain, jumping headfirst into an active volcano as it reaches the summit and not to sound like a broken record but it’s all about the drums here.
Don’t get me wrong this track ticks all the boxes, hot mid bass, deep low end and plenty of hi-end energy, but I really feel like all of that pace, power and energy comes from the drummer. I can really get lost in the percussion. It’s a dangerous tune no doubt, a weapon for the dance that would surely get a crowd foaming at the mouth. It will definitely light up a sound system real nice and I think it has the perfect combination of really lively drums, mixed (really well mixed) with gloriously rough and scratchy mid bass. It doesn’t all just sit softly on a nice low sine wave either, instead it feels like every sound is alive with sub bass. Mad props to The Upbeats on this production, fucking awesome.
Next up is ‘Say Go’ ft. Mara TK, and good lord. Get your mother fucking hands up. This one is absolutely huge. It kinda goes like this. Summer-ending vibes going off, big bass lines, big vocals and good vocals for a change, nice. Chills. Drop. Jump around for a few minutes, rinse, repeat. This is a hard battle for my top pick of the EP and the month. Like most people I’m a sucker for this kind of vibe, we’ve all been to those parties, the DJ drops ‘Say Go’ at the perfect moment to grab everyone’s attention, smiles are practically audible across the dance and for these four and half minutes, nothing matters, forget work, bills, the fact your feet hurt and it’s only midnight (so I’m old, shut up). You remember for these few minutes why music is so goddamn important.
Putting emotions to one side for a moment it’s clear that ‘Say Go’ is a slight side step for The Upbeats here. This is not a criticism though, just an observation. At face value this change in direction would really push me towards looking at a real inconsistency in the middle of this pack of bangers but I don’t see that as the case this time out. I think Say Go is such a wicked tune and yet it changes the theme of the EP so vastly that it actually works beautifully. I’ve literally been at clubs where this kind of switch up happens and goes down a treat. That welcome respite before shit really kicks off, it allows you to think, to breathe but you still get the solid low end and ample energy that you paid for at the door, win.
‘Babylon’ features possibly the best MC name ever – Orifice Vulgatron. Speaking of vulgar though, wow, this guy is brutal, and that brutality is backed up plentifully by some of the dirtiest percussive vibes I’ve heard in a long while. I can listen to this track all day, that drum track, the percussion, so much pace and energy it’s almost criminal. This one just keeps on giving. Alright, so I love this tune and seriously I love everything about it. The vocal processing is at times scary, and it’s paired wonderfully with a rather nasty synth that is crunchy and wide at all times, continuing this theme of relentless energy set up by the opening track of this EP. This raw sense of pace is pelted upwards with the percussive sounds that, like most of this EP, just seem to carry so much weight. Every snare and kick is layered up with low end but they still punch high and hard through the mix. All the while the top end of said percussion is merely decorative, and the splashes and clicks from hats and cymbals provide some extra space and clarity without distraction from all that nice punchy stuff in the lows.
Last up is ‘No Surprises’, and based on what you’ve been reading so far it probably comes as no surprise that I love it, absolutely love it. I’m going into Stranger Things mode right now, if you haven’t seen Stranger Things stop reading, go watch it NOW, I’m not even joking, go on. So now you’ve all been and watched Stranger Things first season, you are welcome and season two is confirmed for 2017 and I hope there is in some part a new appreciation for this incredible tune. Honestly this track was a surprise, and I love the direction The Upbeats have moved in at the end of this mammoth journey of energy sapping music.
I was tired at this point, not as a complaint though, I love that music can have such a physical manifestation that one can literally feel. My recurring feeling during ‘No Surprises’ was not only that I think the percussion is incredible and a brilliant continuation of talent in that area, but also that I have to press rewind so damn often. This track quickly becomes a short tech demo, a look at what else The Upbeats can do and it is impressive and complex enough to have their next EP already in my basket the moment it comes out. Please, for the love of god make an extended version or I’m going to have to load this into Ableton and do it myself.
It’s been a busy few weeks for my typing fingers, not complaining, oh no. Just saying that I’ve gone through a good share of music and all of it has been to a high standard. But this last week has been all about The Upbeats and how they have been fucking up my speakers, headphones and productivity. Where do I even start? This is EP is, in short, epic. Yes I agree that I was taken in by the big room smasher that is ‘Mediums’; it’s the first thing you hear when pressing play and yes it’s shiny and loud and I can’t lie that the youth in me was excited. But it was just the bait on the hook, and what followed made me think and shuffle with vigour. This is of course a three part EP but let’s not dwell on what came before or what is coming next. Instead, focus square on our current target which seems to be maximum energy, redonculous low end, hefty percussion and system smashing vibes.
Sometimes when I’m listening to music, whatever variety it may come in I often need a certain aggression. Whether that’s in the form of big room bass like ‘Mediums’ or R-Rated lyrics like ‘Babylon’ I just like that specific quality that comes from the kind of sounds that make you want to dance, and it just so happens a lot of that sound covers the unbeatable UK underground scene. And this is what ‘De-Evolution Part Two’ is all about, right – dancing, expelling energy in a room filled with speakers and like minded people from all walks of life, joining together with a common and peaceful goal, blowing off steam and having a blast doing it. However, underneath the big room feel and the aggressive low end there’s something else. It’s a raw energy, each track has it and The Upbeats have kept this present through every beat, every bar and every frequency. Tough to explain what I really mean here but as always I implore you to really listen, go deeper than the glorious drums and sumptuous low end and I hope you can feel it. I have rarely enjoyed every moment of every track that I get sent and I will likely have to wait a while until I do again. The Upbeats have to get my full recommendation for this EP, an essential purchase at the very least, and now I need to go grab Part 1 and see where it all began.
De-Evolution Part Two is out now on Noisia’s Vision imprint, and you can grab it by clicking here.