Review: TMSV – 1988 EP

Coming off like the long lost soundtrack to Refn’s Drive or if Vangelis moved to West Coast and listened to g-funk all day, TMSV’s self-release EP ‘1988’ invokes the high definition glare of Los Angeles and the the dystopian elements implicit within it’s skyscrapers, it’s skid rows, in it’s foundation. The ‘1988’ EP is a complete and utter change of style for the Dutch Wonder, who’s more known for constructing meditative, percussive workouts favored by Mala or Vivek. Here, TMSV’s highly refined melodic taste is indulged with all the bombast and glamor that was LA in the 80’s and channelling his love of hip-hop beat-smithing, crafting a fully engaged and unpretentious EP that sounds like something Soulection would rep.

‘Intro / 1988’ opens with a collage of field recordings of spaces and places not seen but heard, until it gives way to building synth washes that rise like steam out of the sewer drain, as an mournfully operatic melody pokes it’s way through the streets. Huge, thunderous claps mimic the gunshots that bounce off of row houses and cheap flop hotels, while the washes become reinforced with piano chords that fill, giving teeth to the ethereal billows of sound. It’s scene-setting music that would could have been used when Rick Deckard goes to the massive Tyrell Corporation monolith in Blade Runner. If ‘Intro / 1988’ evokes the world cities of Tokyo, Shanghai, or Dubai, ‘Reality’ is that chill cruising music that you’d bump driving around town in your SLAB at four in the morning. It displays TMSV love for hip-hop if you’ve ever locked for his Rood.FM show. Icy, clinical melodies match the flickering lights of cell towers or the patchwork of corporate buildings with various rooms illuminated. An MC by the name of Ill Chill spits bars of space travel, astral projection, time-travel, and the desire to go beyond the present to the future. While the lyrics themselves are nothing to write home about, they fit the spacy and interstellar juju of the beat. Meaty 808’s give some hefty to the emotional, yet sonically porous textures that swirl like purple haze.

‘Sundown’ cuts with crisp hi-hats that would taste like Sprite©® as swollen lavender tones sound like the last gasping breaths of the sun as it sinks behind the curtain of the Pacific Ocean. A heaving boogie bass-line lopes as lurching and loose claps, finger snaps, and snare hits form an interesting snare accent, as a Vangelis-styled solo shimmers like sunset upon the waters. ‘Sundown’ possess a balance that hits between chill with it’s melancholic solo and bright melodic accents, yet increases it’s menace as the darkly subtle, ‘Crunk-esque’ synth timbre is deployed at the third section of the song. Meanwhile, ‘Blood Dragon’ balances things out nicely by add some overt darkness to the proceedings, everything before this point has been menacing, not threatening. It’s the oddly harmonic drones that kick the song off that really give this track it’s teeth. As everything builds, a revolving, head-warping melody encircles itself, coiling and uncoiling like an ouroboros as you stare in your rearview mirror at that shrinking skyline behind you. Delicate hats and snares give ‘Blood Dragon’ it’s forward momentum, but in all honesty it’s the swelling rhythmelodic loop that makes ‘Blood Dragon’ its loping, lost highway vibe.

The highlight of the EP (at least for me) is ‘Respite’. Opened with a sample regarding death and love and the power of love to conquer death (sample hunters, please tell me where it’s from, I know I’ve heard before somewhere). While the rest of the ‘1988’ EP has relied on the torpid and spliff-induced bpms of hip-hop, ‘Respite’ plays with speed, slowing down to draw out its melodic tapestries, only to speed up the next second with hi hats that sound like an uzi being fired. A warbling g-funk solo begs for us (the suburbanites) to start c-walking and throw up gang-signs like it ain’t no thang. While its all still grafted onto a hip-hop framework, Respite’s playing with different hi-hat patterns is a welcome change to the otherwise moon-walking pace of the EP. ‘Far Away’ is geared with an almost electro-house synth pattern, but grafted onto a rap beat, as a circular melody of a flute (maybe?) spires up in the air as a bird would do, until it collapses and arcing g-funk hum the body electric. Wisps of some wino siren pierce the night veil across the rain clogged streets of LA before the sun rises. All of a sudden the hi-hats double time as your neurons start to misfire creating tracers as you pass the orange-yellow haze of street lamps going 70 mph. Everything becomes washed, unclear as if you were underwater, and all you can do is slump in the driver’s seat until it stops, if it will stop.

The ‘1988’ EP closes out with the aptly named ‘Move On / Outro’. A sample regarding the ever-constant fuss about dance music “copy, paste, profit” formula may be a call to arms or maybe another voice in the discussion, or maybe a proxy of TMSV’s views. Either way, it’s anchored by a lumbering, slow-haus sub-line armed with 80’s boogie synth tones and a fractured drone that sounds like a church choir in reverse. Again, a g-funk sine solo cries like some lost ghost doomed to repeat itself again, again, again, again. As the song draws to a close, the sample is extended, railing against label executives, managers, and the whole of the “record business”. It’s a fitting choice, and a provocative one given that TMSV is self-releasing the EP. Perhaps something happened, but that’s conjecture and not fact. All in all, the ‘1988’ EP is a delicious slice of sun-ripened hip-hop that meshes TMSV’s love for hip-hop and his soaring and exquisite melodic tastes. It’s a totally unheard move in dubstep circles to simply switch to something so radically different, but TMSV pulls it off with class and taste. One can hope that others follow in his lead. From the Vangelis dystopian space opera synths that wildly soar across the firmament to the low-slung gangster funk of the late 80’s, early 90’s TMSV creates an engaging, engrossing, and thoroughly listenable experience for the those last night cruises through an empty world city. Pop this one in your cassette deck and ride slow homies.

1988 is out now and available from the TMSV Bandcamp Store.

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