chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb + dub \ dub \ n + soul \ sōl \ adj
There always has and forever will be pockets of electronic music composers who can successfully imbue the cold clicks and distant thuds of the medium with a sense of soul. It's been a challenge that has accompanied the music since the days of Berlin's freeing and the Belleville Three. And yet, every time an accord between the man and the machine is successfully met, as it has been of late with contemporary acts like James Blake, SBTRKT, and now the Nashville-based trio BASECAMP, it seems a feat, an act previously thought unattainable.
For BASECAMP's growing number of fans, these kind words will come as nothing new, but given the growing number of repeat listens to its modest-but-contagious body of work here, it warrants that we chime in (besides, one of our favorite discoveries of 2013, Blacksmif, just chimed in with a new remix for download. Snag it below). Sure, the set-up we've given the trio's music is lofty, we'll admit. Still, way Aaron Miller, Aaron Harmon, and Jordan Reyes have subdued the boom and clap of bass music's building blocks and harnessed a soulful musicality that reminds us of John Legend has us impressed. Really impressed.
Take the group's debut, "Emmanuel." The beat sounds like it was made by a street musicians armed with nothing more than chopsticks and a block of wood. It's the antithesis of the beat the Neptunes composed for "Grindin," but no less primal. Hummed harmonies give life to the sparseness of the rhythm, and then the real singing starts. As ear-catching as SBTRKT co-hort Sampha, and less folksy-warbly then Blake, BASECAMP has slide into the underused space between leftfield glitch and straightup R&B, keeping impressive company with the acts to which it is so often compared.
"2 Thingz" sinks the pace to a midtempo groove backed by the soothing growl of live cello, dissident plucks of a thumb piano, and the haunting echo of dub rim shots. Its lyrics paint a familiar picture of a break-up, the hole that it leaves, and the hurt that time will heal... eventually. "I'm only now seeing how foolish we're being / The clock that moves forward can only bring more hurt," BASECAMP sings (we haven't actually been able to pinpoint who in the trio leads on vocals). It's a familiar story, sure, but a story's masterstroke is always in its telling.
Continuing the band's inspired melancholy, "Rydia" and "Smoke Filled Lungs" tug even harder on the heartstrings. The former seesaws between a halftime march and the skipping double time of minimal 2step, as a tale of unrequited love unfolds. "Smoked Filled Lungs" recalls the urban downtempo-jazz of Bonobo, as syncopated drumming and chanting choruses mingle with intricate string arrangements and tightly wound hi-hat chatter. The love theme returns yet again. It's clear where these three derive their passion, and if it manages to keep manifesting in tracks like these, we hope they never find a new muse.
— Joshua P. Ferguson
DOWNLOAD: BASECAMP "Emmanuel" (Blacksmif remix) | WAV
DOWNLOAD: BASECAMP BASECAMP | 320 mp3s