Restored 09 April 2017, originally published 10 February 2015
The first rays of a new day reach over the horizon and stretch across the trees, the roads, the houses, and finally the high-rises of a metropolis. A city awakens, and we awaken with it.
The new EP from Dutch artist deeB tells us “the exciting story of [this] city and all its people.” It opens with a slowly strummed guitar, gently pressed piano keys, the tinkle of chimes, a subtle beat, and hints of turn-tablism. As the opener “Intro (feat. Noumenom)” gets underway, we sample more of what is to come, trumpets, trippy digital manipulations, and increasingly prominent drums.
The mellow – almost melancholy – vibe of the intro is carried forth throughout the album with each successive track emphasizing in its own way different aspects of this city’s downtempo vibe.
“Morning Rituals” eases us into the day with a steady beat, quiet guitar, synthetic strings, and a crackling, lo-fi background. It almost makes you want to yawn, not out of boredom, but because the feel of it so accurately matches the impressions of morning that you might as well be getting out of bed while you listen.
“Pop Up Horizon” gets us through the morning routine and on the road. All the instruments and elements from the previous two tracks are turned up a notch. The guitar is infused with groove. The beat juiced up with energy and flare. The digital manipulations form a loop that feels like moving through successive tunnels. It’s almost like this is a daily occurrence.
“Or Else” is a curious title for the next track. I think deeB is conveying the ultimatum-like nature of going to work each day. For a lot of us, there’s little choice in the matter. We go to work to get paid, or else… The ominous threat of the unknown is usually enough to keep us showing up every day. But the track is not so mean as that. A lovely piano and a calm, steady beat with sprinkles of sound effects are present throughout the track and soften the difficulty of enduring jobs that so many of us don’t really enjoy.
“The Wrong Part Of Town” takes us beyond the work day into the city’s night life. A looped chord of increasing volume serves as warning signal. Maybe we shouldn’t linger long. Yet we linger, and the signal fades into the background with deeper undertones. A trumpet announces our arrival and all around us shady, shifty figures appear and disappear into the shadows. A somber electric guitar strums in time with our steps through the alleys and down the darkened streets. About halfway into the track, a host of strings (violin, cellos, maybe a bass) appears and persuades us that the underbelly of the city can actually be a warm, inviting place once the nerves wear off.
“Pedestrian Flow (feat. DJ Dash)” emphasizes a hypnotic looping beat and turn-tables right from the start which culminate in a quiet sample that states “rock and roll” before continuing. This track gives our city edge, flash, attitude.
The penultimate track “Through City Lights (feat. Mitchell Rivers)” takes us on a downtown taxi ride. Block by block, we’re met with a milieu of faces, odors, lights, and cars all backed by muted beats, sound effects, subtle vocal samples, and string instruments. The fatigue of a long day of living ripples through the night and we yawn as the taxi pulls up to our building.
Appropriately enough, the EP ends with a track titled “Call It A Day”. Cellos and a slow-stepping bass carry us up the stairs to our room. When we get into our room, a beat carries us to the kitchen where we pour a night cap before going out onto the balcony to watch the city retreat into itself. The album and our day in the city ends just as they began, slow and steady.
deeb – “The Wrong Part Of Town”