Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Album Review: Seven Lions - Days To Come

Album Rating: B-
While Seven Lions was once a breath of fresh air, that breath has started to taste stale. His mixing of trance synths and vocals with dubstep beats and wobbles shot him to the top of the charts with his Polarize EP and his remixes of various high-profile trance artists like Above And Beyond and Tritonal. And it's clear that Seven Lions (a.k.a. Jeff Montalvo, a California producer in his mid-20s) became famous almost overnight for good reason: songs like "Below Us" and "Polarized" took a near-motionless dubstep sound and pushed it to places it had barely gone before, and people flocked to his new "trancestep" and "progstep" ideas. However, the novelty of his sounds has started to fade away, and a lot of Montalvo's recent work has started to sound just a little too similar. A lot of his songs - most notably "Below Us" and his remixes of Velvetine's "The Great Divide" and Above And Beyond's "On My Way To Heaven" - build up with comparable airy trance leads and somewhat subtle lower-register wobbles, fade away to sultry female vocals, and then drop with the same chord every time. It's unfortunate how predictably chaotic every one of his post-drop sections has become, but he's basically taken the same stiff format that would have been better off if it were used far less frequently and applied it to almost every single one of his songs.

That being said, though, it's clear that Seven Lions is trying to switch things up a little on his new Days To Come EP. Only one of the four songs is dubstep, and he's even taken baby steps into the habitat of the ever-popular glitch hop. On the surface, at least, it's nice to see Montalvo try and move out of the creative rut he's seemingly been in ever since Polarize. And, while that one dubstep tune ("Days To Come") is typical Seven Lions, it's still very nicely produced and showcases why Montalvo's made it big in the first place. A slightly bleepy intro that we've heard only partially on previous tracks leads us into the vocals of guest singer Fiora that end up fitting right in with the "trancestep" of the song. Sure, the light trance synths are there, the fade-away to Fiora's vocals is there, and that damn chord leads off after the vocals drop away, but it's impossible to say the song is shoddily made. And while it's chaotic, in this case the chaos feels right. The song ends up being a successful piece of Seven Lions' sound that works best because it's the sole work of dubstep on the EP. It's tough to say that Seven Lions is constricting himself within a 140 BPM structure like he's been doing recently.

Unfortunately, Seven Lions fails to escape the confines of his trance-laden chaotic sound on the rest of the release. "The Truth" weaves strands of Fiora's vocals from "Days To Come" through Montalvo's hectic "progstep" sound that's placed over a straight house beat instead of the standard broken dubstep one. It's disappointing that the song essentially sounds like a Seven Lions dubstep track over a different beat, and to make matters worse the disorganized sound that works over a broken beat doesn't fit as well over four-on-the-floor drums. "Fractals" is a minor deviation from Montalvo's normal sound, and uses vocal samples from the opening track yet again in an promising prog-house intro that fades away into straight electro wobbles that place Montalvo in the middle of the electro house pack in an attempt to distance himself from himself. While the half-time section Seven Lions throws in midway through the song saves the tune partially, in the end it's just shy of being interesting enough to carve out a new idea in today's electro/progressive house wall.

The standout track by far on the EP, thankfully, lies in the closer, "She Was." Seven Lions successfully ventures into glitch-hop territory dominated by label-mates KOAN Sound, and his trademark wobbles complement a twanging string instrument reminiscent of the aforementioned group's "Eastern Thug." The switches between guttural, syncopated Vengeance samples and slightly aggressive trance chords that follow the intro make the song interesting enough to fill the void left by the previous two tracks. There's enough variation in the song and enough interesting chords and beats that weave between sections that "She Was" turns out to be a fantastic tune. Disappointingly, though, it doesn't quite make up for the stagnation of Seven Lions' sound on the rest of the EP. Days To Come, if taken by itself, is a very solid release. However, taken with the rest of Montalvo's music and how similar it all sounds, it fails to be original and captivating. While it will be nice to see if Seven Lions progresses at all in the future, after listening to Days To Come all we can do is sigh regretfully, because for now he's not going anywhere.

Buy the EP on Beatport

1. Days To Come (ft. Fiora)
2. The Truth
3. Fractals
4. She Was (ft. Birds Of Paradise)

1 comment:

  1. what the hell such a negative review... i disagree almost completely seven lions has such innovative sound creating the idea that trance and dubstep even belong in the same category very fresh and apprehensive to the electronic world