Monday, April 29, 2013

Album Review: ShockOne - Universus

Album Rating: B
ShockOne's Universus LP has toxic amounts of brostep - but is it a bad thing? That's not a particularly easy-to-answer question, by the way. While some people in the quote-unquote "serious" electronic community refuse to believe the burgeoning EDM market has any real value, a fair number of people truly enjoy the heavy wobbles and club beats which make up the majority of the tunes within the realm. And, to be perfectly honest, the arguments on both sides of the coin have their merits and flaws. Sure, the "real" type of electronic music - Burial-style garage, deep and dark techno, and the woozy electronica and trip-hop of Flying Lotus et al. has more "critical weight" behind it, but who's to blame a guy if he just wants to headbang and have some fun with some super-wobbly brostep? And, on the flipside, one can only listen to the same wobble used in every song for so long until it all starts to blend together. After all, there's no "perfect" genre of electronic music - nothing which will please everyone with no detractors.

I bring up this oft-referenced topic in order to justify the B I'm about to bestow upon Universus. Some people might look at the grade and immediately think, "How is this possible? ShockOne is the worst kind of electronic music, and he shouldn't be getting the critical reception this writer is giving him." And, to a point, that's true. Look at "Lazerbeam," for example, which essentially uses the same song structure as Skrillex's  "Goin' Hard" remix of Birdy Nam Nam, from the trap-tinged, half-time DnB format right down to the main "post-drop" section which utilizes the same wobbles at the same times. God-awful stuff aside, though (and thankfully ShockOne keeps it to a minimum), Universus is what the heavier variety of electronic music can do at its best. It's clear that ShockOne is drawing from a wide range of influences here as he tries on modern-day Pendulum ("Crucify Me"), new-school Hospital Records ("Home"), and, inevitably, the titans of today's brostep scene ("Chaos Theory", "Relapse"). And it works. Shockingly, almost the entire album is a pleasant and fun listen, even if it doesn't ever go too far below skin-deep. The aforementioned "Home" utilizes a modern take on liquid funk, and much like Fred V and Grafix's best stuff it's an aural treat with soaring synths and a pulse-pounding poppy DnB beat. Meanwhile, "Relapse" is straight brostep done right, with brutal wobbles sounding exactly like they're supposed to and Sam Nafie's powerful vocals over a surprisingly excellent melodic line.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I'm sick and tired of people bashing EDM simply because they perceive it as a moneymaking machine, devoid of talent, innovation, and the joy which characterizes much of the experience good music creates. I don't want to have to argue ShockOne's merits any more than I'd have to argue anyone else's simply because he's "trashy s**tstep" and should be impossible for any rational human being to like. If closing track "Light Cycles" is any indication, EDM is still thriving. The prog-ish keyboard solo over the pretty 6/8 beat and twinkly synths shows that there's still room for motion in the genre.

In the end, it's fair to say Universus is not for everyone. No matter how many detractors form legitimate critical opinions about the album which make sense and are entirely fair, there will inevitably be those who bash it for the trashy mid-range wobbles without giving it a fair chance. It's the way of the world, and as a fan of brostep I need to be able to cope with these people. However, as is true with almost everything in the music world, Universus and the impending backlash among forum users and bloggers with "legitimate" taste are learning experiences. Variety is the spice of life, and the variegated palate choices of the world ensure good music will continue to be made in all genres, each for a different group of people who will appreciate that music and hopefully learn to accept other demographics and styles in the same way they should hope to be accepted as well.


01. Singularity (The Monochord Of Creation)
02. Chaos Theory
03. Harmonize
04. Home (Feat. Reija Lee)
05. Big Bounce
06. Lose Control
07. Crucify Me (feat. Phetsta)
08. Universes (feat. Phetsta & Reija Lee)
09. Lazerbeam (feat. Metrik & Kyza)
10. Infinity's Silence
11. Relapse (feat. Sam Nafie)
12. Age Of Enlightenment
13. Light Cycles (Prelude)
14. Light Cycles

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