The first volume of the Earth Movement compilation series sees eight UK-based artists from a bass/dnb background forego the rolling beats and chopped up drums in order to stay within the restrains of a (mostly) beatless release. On first glance, this may seem like a tall task for a group of young artists styling themselves as "some of UK's hardest-hitting bass music producers" - similarly-minded projects often expose flaws in the artist’s range, rather than showcasing the strengths of a producer's sound palette.
In the case of Earth Movement vol.01 we can safely put this notion to rest right off the bat - the opening tracks patiently unwrap multiple layers of reverberating echoes and crystalline reflections, weaving a rich and finely crafted sonic tapestry before engaging in the more extreme forms of low frequency manipulation. It must be said that every single piece on the compilation contains a rich and highly detailed universe of sound, dispelling any lingering fears that once rhythmic structures are removed, the patchwork of sound behind it would be lacking in diversity and imagination. There's a lot of depth and detail behind each of the featured tracks, showcasing not only a high standard of craftsmanship in the sound design department, but also a willingness to explore the sonic fabric lying behind the dominant rhythmic signatures of modern bass music templates.
When comparing the featured artists' previous production to their efforts on Earth Movement vol.01, one can spot some familiar terrain, but it's this willingness to grow as an artist and expand the sound palette into uncharted directions that truly breathes life into this experiment. Additionally, it's quite interesting to note that while most of the tracks featured are quite short and usually feature a play on one main arrangement theme or trope, not a single moment feels redundant or contrived. Each successive wave of sound carries genuine tension and emotional weight, fitting into the overall narrative of the compilation, a characteristic that not only encourages multiple start-to-finish listens of the entire release, but also does wonder for the general flow of the release. The sound design itself is varied yet consistent, offering a multitude of shimmering pads, percussive noises, cavernous atmospheres and a variety of consonant/dissonant drones as well as the occasional abrasive synth squelch.
The end result is much more than the sum of the individual parts, to the point that it feels more like listening to the effort of a band or production collective, rather than just a compilation of like-minded artists. The liner notes also seem to be supporting this notion in a pretty cryptic way - offering snippets such as “all 8 producers involved". It is unknown if it is a single person or agency that helmed the curation of this project, but it's absolutely certain they have their finger on the pulse of contemporary sound design. One can only hope that the "vol. 01" designation is a sign of even greater things to come. Considering that the median age of the artists involved is somewhere in the lower 20s, I fully expect Earth Movement to bring many more exquisite releases.
Released August 13, 2017