Electronic music genres like dubstep and trap are often full of harsh noise and intentionally grating synths that hit hard at festivals, but that doesn’t mean there’s no beauty or emotion present. EDM producers have to understand melodies and atmosphere as much as any other musical artist, and sometimes it translates into a song that perfectly blends bass music and emotion. Here are some songs that prove that bass music isn’t just screeches and booms.
1. “Fellow Feeling” by Porter Robinson
Whether it’s the bittersweet isolation within “Sad Machine” or the dark and nostalgia-tinged “Ghost Voices” from his Virtual Self side project, nearly all of Porter Robinson’s songs have intricate themes weaved into the music and lyrics. “Fellow Feeling” is perhaps the best example, with an omniscient voice ushering listeners through a vivid orchestral landscape that abruptly becomes, in Robinson’s own words, an “ugly, evil, chugging, techno monster.”
It’s a warning of the dangers of losing all sense of music and beauty in art. The finale, which combines the two disparate aesthetics into one cohesive melodic bass anthem, is as iconic as it is breathtaking. As a meditation on the state of bass music and the expectations put upon artists — Robinson was struggling with his musical direction at the time — it’s unparalleled. Even though many producers have tried to create similarly-structured songs, none of them have surpassed “Fellow Feeling” in beauty or emotional impact.
2. “Without” by Funtcase (feat. Dani Poppitt)
The masked DJ Funtcase is known for crafting dark, relentless dubstep and riddim. Songs like “Death Stomp” with Versa don’t let up at all throughout their runtime, overwhelming listeners with clanking hi-hats and swirling breakdowns. It’s done masterfully and it’s what he’s known for, so the release of “Without” caught many by surprise.
Dani Poppitt sings about a dissolving relationship over a melancholic piano, which gradually builds into a pounding dubstep drop that blends Funtcase’s typical bold style with wavering melodies and Poppitt’s yearning voice. This potential of melodic riddim has yet to be fully tapped by artists and this song is a great example from a prominent producer. It’s still heavy, but it showcases a melodic side of Funtcase that hopefully sticks around. The in-your-face bass music that surrounds “Without” on the accompanying “Next Chapter” EP proves that Funtcase is keeping his sound diverse and that he’s not afraid to take risks.
3. “Home” by Marauda
Even though Marauda’s first project was only released in 2017, he’s established himself as one of the most influential producers in bass music. His songs are immediately recognizable from his sustained bass notes and crisp hi-hats, and every one of them is played frequently at dubstep festivals. However, for “Home,” Marauda stepped away from his dark and aggressive style to create some unique dubstep-infused lo-fi.
The end result is difficult to describe, as there aren’t many other songs like it, but it’s something beautiful and evocative. This reimagining of The Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build a Home” uses the lead melody of the original, but wraps it up in a dark and immense bass landscape. It’s still amazingly well-produced and contains Marauda’s distinct sound design, but it’s melancholic and evokes a sense of nostalgia. Without lyrics of any kind, Marauda managed to create one of the most emotionally compelling songs of 2019.
4. “LA Never Says Goodbye” by Kayzo & ARMNHMR (feat. Kyle Pavone)
One of the most inventive producers in bass music currently, Kayzo has dedicated himself to combining the worlds of rock and EDM. His recent album “Unleashed” allowed him to explore this style to the fullest. He was able to collaborate with many prominent musicians and groups like Of Mice and Men, Underoath and Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low; he also experimented with nearly every electronic music genre under the sun from psytrance to dubstep.
One of the dubstep songs stands out over the others, though: “LA Never Says Goodbye” with ARMNHMR featuring Kyle Pavone. Pavone, the late singer of We Came As Romans, tragically passed away about a year before this song was released. He delivers an intense emotional performance over a melodic dubstep instrumental that delivers almost as much emotion as Pavone does. Pavone’s father described the collaboration as a “dream come true for Kyle,” which only makes the impact of the song greater.
5. “Painted White” by Illenium & Said the Sky (feat. Cristina Soto)
Said the Sky and Illenium are good friends with complementary musical styles, so it only makes sense that they’ve collaborated many times throughout the years. Every song together is beautiful and emotionally compelling in its own way, but “Painted White” featuring Cristina Soto’s vocals stands out among the rest for its immaculate sound design.
It starts out like most melodic dubstep songs do, with hints of the rest of the song’s sounds and melodies, but it quickly steps into its own when Soto begins singing about a previous relationship that seems to have gone well, but ended suddenly. Immediately, the bass in the song slips away and the sounds reach an almost ear-piercing register, creating a sense of discord that fluctuates in and out as the song goes on.
The melodic drops perfectly capture Soto’s cautiously optimistic vocals, and the sudden switches into a deeper bass music aesthetic emphasize just how tenuous that optimism can be. Dissecting every sound and technique used in this song would take hours and hours — the drops pivot on the sound of a hitched breath and waves roil under the song’s surface — and that’s what makes it such an engaging listen.
6. “Life Goes On” by Dubloadz (feat. Anuka)
Dubloadz is known for his unique bass music style which combines ‘90s video game and horror aesthetics into grimy dubstep and trap. His 2017 album, “Dubloadz and the 9000 Ghosts,” showcased his style perfectly while winding through as many genres and aesthetics as possible; for example, “Drunken Record” uses bouncy sounds and lazy triplets to simulate someone staggering around while intoxicated.
The true thematic standout of the album, though, is “Life Goes On” featuring Anuka. The song is second-to-last in the tracklist so that its sweeter, less aggressive sound stands out even more. Anuka sings about regrets from a recent relationship and the nonchalance that she fakes to get through the breakup. The song builds into a glitchy yet somber bass drop that is accentuated by Anuka’s chopped up vocals. Dubloadz doesn’t often make music like “Life Goes On,” but it’s proof that talented bass musicians can work in all kinds of moods and genres.