by Anand Harsh
When you dig into the backstory of today's hottest EDM producers, even the 19-year-old phenoms, chances are you'll find a deep dedication to music. Not just a passion for creating movement with sound, but a deep devotion to organic instruments--not skillful button-pushing. Years and years are spent lovingly pouring their every fiber of being into strings and wood, tightly-wound steel and horsehair, or polished brass and delicate ivory. Then they discover electronic music. No more frustrating band practice, no in-fighting or dilution of creative will, just the artist, the instrument, and a computer. Adaptation.
But to call the career of guitarist, mandolinist, and all-around multi-instrumentalist Derek VanScoten "adaptation," is to sell it short. Not only has he taken his virtuosic playing to the next level to blend it seamlessly with contemporary beats and bass, he's actually pushing the envelope of today's EDM to places it's never before been. For the past year, D.V.S* has slowly, piece by piece, been unveiling his masterpiece, a double-album entitled DUSK and DAWN. This 30-track behemoth represents more than a year of prolific productin spanning genres far and wide. The first 15-tracks found on DUSK embody grittier dance trends in today's scene, including wobbly bass, stuttered beats, and glittering synths. DAWN tends towards subdued downtempo, twinkling melodies, and subtle beat scene accoutrements.
The noise-pop opener "Reverse Universe" gives way to "Oxygen," which could very well have been written by math-metal enthusiasts, Umphrey's McGee, or its progeny Digital Tape Machine. Standouts "Society of the Evening Star," "Crime Crunk Scene," and "Timeless Air," feature VanScoten's signature soaring thirds and fifths, big meaty guitar licks on top of fuzzed out beats and low-end support. But tracks like "Baile Baile Baile!" schowcase his diversity, as he adopts the Pretty Lights aesthetic of blending hip-hop with sliced up soul samples--but wait, D.V.S* nosedives into a slow-mo moombahton take that throws the whole track out the window. Beyond the sheer magnitude of the number of tracks there's also variety between them, so there's no possible way to get bogged down in one oppressive style.
DAWN takes the back half of the album, the gentler side of D.V.S*. Bubbling beats and wonky cadences underscore more idyllic string work from VanScoten. Speaking of PL, the second part features collaborations with PLM labelmate Michal Menert, another virtuoso in Govinda, and the sweet and sultry musings of Chantel. Creative sampling and an uabashed use of a slew of instruments almost gives DAWN the feel of an indie-instrumental album, with tracks like the opener "The Bending Bloom," "Sundial," and "Trees." "Jarêt" has a bouncy 80's feel, "The Ship" is a jazz exploration--the last 15 tracks are inspired by some brilliant musings.
Dance music is one thing: fun. But electronic music encompasses something greater. It doesn't preclude sonic sophistication. It doesn't preclue instrumental prowess or even risk-taking. DUSK and DAWN are musical statements, not just of how far Derek VanScoten has progressed in the past year, but of a shift in where the electronic frontiers are headed.
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