Spend any amount of time surveying the sleek abundance of Soundcloud and it will eventually start to resemble some sort of infinite cul-de-sac of extravagant, multimillion-dollar suburban homes: imposing, impressive, brimming with aspiration, but often discernibly lacking in substance, taste, and personality. The emerging producers taking their prefab pastiche to the social-enabled platform are showcasing their abilities in a manner that seems to suggest “business card” over “big artistic statement,” aware that the ability to pull off clever builds and massive drops convincingly could potentially mean steady work in the pop game. The payout from a high-profile collaboration or remix has traditionally come at the expense of originality, but I’m not so sure the concept of selling out even occurs to our new generation of musicmakers sliding so fluidly between the mainstream and the underground. Keeping up with the Joneses, fake-it-til-you-make-it, whatever the case may be, the truth is that if I see one more Instagrammed avatar of some lanky teenager with a hyper-manicured high & tight, his post-emo trap track accompanied by twitterspeak comments like “DAT BASS THO,” I’m going to have a massive psychological break…
Luckily for Owen Bones, I’m not going to hold his haircut against him because Sabotage, an eight-and-a-half-minute micro-EP narrating a recent arc of personal struggle, is a step above the rest.
Owen Bones’ Sabotage, which premiered last month on Nylon, indisputably bears the imprint of some of the more fashionable production styles of recent years – big EDM builds, chiming melodies, bass for days – but while lesser producers are content to paint by numbers, Bones sees these raw materials as an opportunity for studious inquiry and renders them with the skillfulness of an experienced and adventurous artisan. Details are indulged, care is taken with regard to pacing and dynamics, and the three tracks included here burst with a profusion of energy and variation during each of their short durations.
The result is a tidy summation of the young Chicago producer’s range and serves as an interesting midpoint between his early efforts and the promise of what’s to come.
“Super Late” opens with an uncomplicated, but pretty, refrain before quickly leaping into an elastic riff that upsets the serene dreaminess of the melody, like a big wet dog-lick jarring you out of a quick catnap on the couch. Bones has an ear for technique, crowding his bars with the types of snare rudiments, drags and accents you would never hear in cookie-cutter radio rap. It’s a touch faster, too, which adds a welcome sense of urgency to familiar compositional devices, a little spike of Adderall in your cup of purple stuff.
Next, neoclassical treatments of synthesized horns and harpsichords spar with more inventive, martial drum work on “Flying Blind” wherein a dizzy counterpointing of styles and signifiers from chiptune to grime to electro get folded into the flexible architecture of a Dirty South bounce, recalling the loose and limber work of Organized Noize or Manny Fresh.
A tangled interplay of vocal snips and orchestra hits gets the closing track “Sin Eater” tumbling breakneck into high gear only to sputter out in anticlimax, ending with a disembodied woman’s voice castigating an unknown terrorist – all in under three minutes. It’s a humbled closing to a confident showing and demonstrates a youthful producer newly aware of his considerable talents, and an ode to the unselfconscious pleasure to be found in the simple act of beatmaking.
Download Owen Bones’ Sabotage here.