Future Bass: Get Familiar With EDM's Sound of 2017
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The Chainsmokers and Halsey's hit "Closer" was one of the biggest songs of 2016, sitting at Number One for 12 weeks. The song's exuberant pulse can be traced back to the teenaged Chicago duo Louis the Child, who helped co-write the song and imbued it with hints of an emerging sound being called "future bass."
A still-codifying genre, future bass takes the ecstatic drops of dubstep or trap, but provides a warm bounce rather than a lumbering bruteness. Basslines are provided by harsh, detuned synths that buzz and purr instead of gulp and whomp. "In the Name of Love," a maximalist take on the idea, scored Dutch producer Martin Garrix, along with the singer Bebe Rexha, a Top 40 hit. Artists like Australia's Flume and masked mystery-man Marshmello are top-tier festival breakouts who also deploy the style.
"It's still pretty mind-blowing to see how far it's gone," says Freddie Kennett of Louis the Child, about "Closer." He co-wrote the song on a bus with Drew Taggart of the Chainsmokers while the two groups were on tour – bandmate Robbie Hauldren missed the session since he was prepping for a final exam. Taggart finished up the song, added alt-pop star Halsey and the result was more than just a hit, it was a breakout for an emerging sound. Even if Kennett's name is buried in the credits, the song's half-step lurch sits closer to Louis the Child's own work than the brash electro-pop of their older co-writing partners.
"Back in the day it was call 'chill trap' or 'melodic trap,'" says Hauldren, "and then it turned from this 140 [bpm] chill trap into half-step beat, brought up a little bit more with the filtered chords that are super reverb[ed]." The gentler textures and rhythmic differences separate it from trap music's brief bout with mainstream success, exemplified by Baauer's viral hit "Harlem Shake" and DJ Snake's "Turn Down for What." Pulling even further back, the style recalls the disparate British post-dubstep from producers like Joker, Hudson Mohawke and James Blake, who all dealt in discovering new textures away from the original dubstep template.
Cover photo courtesy of Marc Nader/ZUMA