Now almost forgotten, there was once area of electronic music revered for its intricacy and the brilliant attention to detail required in its creation. It’s the grandfather of some of today’s heaviest genres, but just like any once-culturally-defining trend, it faded away, now just barely visible under our ADD-riddled EDM scene. I’m talking about downtempo. Don’t get me wrong, there are some phenomenal minimalists still producing today– the aura of Supreme Cuts or soundscape vibe of Fancy Mike– but the majority of masters have since moved on or given up. Case in point: edIT’s, now 1/3 of The Glitch Mob, 2008 LP Crying Over Pros for No Reason is, in my opinion, one of the greatest examples of electronic music ever. Ever. With little more than a feeling to guide the song, choosing when it peaks, how it ebbs and flows, when a synth enters or exits, was more reflective of edIT’s disposition than his knack for making catchy beats. This is how champion musicians exhibit their talent: they create a unified body of work with a consistent feel reflective of the story they’re trying to tell. By definition, this patient approach doesn’t captivate listeners like louder, easier modern dance music does (by no means worse, just different; it’s more accessible), and as a result the respect flung towards downtempo producers has lost its weight. However, in every tale of demise, there’s always hope; a chance for revival or unlikey hero. In this story, that warrior is Cross Them Out.
Hailing from New Zealand, Cross Them Out, or Harley James Going, has been bubbling just below the blogosphere for about a year. A few originals, brief but high quality remixes, and a fantastic hour-long mix is all that comprises his modest body of work. Why does Going deserve my attention then?, you might ask. Well, because he’s doing his damnedest to try to keep this once-sacred style of beat-making alive. Where edIT used hypnotic, sporadic pulses though, or Supreme Cuts with their synth-y, sample-driven joints, Cross Them Out creates atmosphere. With sweeping notes of rumbling bass and just enough glitch to keep the track engaging, his music draws instant comparisons to some of this decade’s early downtempo beat makers. It’s worth noting as well that for a year– during Going’s debut and steady initial climb– we essentially had to rely on remixes as a gauge of the producer’s talent. Nothing wrong with a reworking, and, as it turned out, they were all phenomenal, but an original body of work stands alone when getting a feel for a producers style, consistency, and quality. Cross Them Out’s debut EP, Falling Deeper, then, tells us a few things.
As previous mentioned, he creates atmosphere. This is his primary concern. Every chime, whistle, and sample simply progresses the vibe. On the EP’s closer, “From This Day, Until My Last,” the only indication of a peak (and calling it a peak is drastic overstatement) happens after three minutes of steady and subtle layer building, where Going drops everything down to a whisper, lets it flow gently among spacey breaths, and then regains control, putting every drum, synth, and piano track right on top of each other. In theory, this is where energy is the highest, and it actually is, but Cross Them Out doesn’t concern himself with that. It’s about tempo, pacing, the vibe: creating atmosphere. An extremely delicate balance, really, but Going perfects this juggle on Falling Deeper.
That being said, another key characteristic of Cross Them Out is his knack for birthing passion and life into silvery progressions. Too often– and this is by no means bad– downtempo producers never achieve a sense of enthusiasm. But Going does this really well. On the EP’s wandering opener, “Approaching Dusk,” as well as the sporadic “Disorientated,” strings collide with hyperactive drums, tangible vigor with hypnotic rhythms. Head-bobbing enthusiasm appears in the midst of sauntering melodies. It inspires imagination. On “Falling Deeper” and “Approaching Dusk,” Emily Underhill and Holly Drummond, respectively, are welcomed guests, adding a personal touch to an already lyrical tune.
It need not be said that the sound explored on Falling Deeper is a far cry away from today’s exploding EDM frenzy. Halfway across the world, Cross Them Out’s location doesn’t help his disconnect either. But for what Going is trying to achieve– excuse me, has achieved– on Falling Deeper, a divorce from the music a lot of us hold dear is appropriate. He is revisiting a sound pioneered by legends, injecting life into a style thought dead. Or at least on its way out. With a touch of soul, however, he takes it past soundscape, even managing to elude the limits downtempo, creating a sound as much his own as a tribute, if not a rebirth, to a remarkable genre.
Listen to Cross Them Out’s Falling Deeper EP below and simply “Like” the producer on Facebook to download it for free.
Cross Them Out - Falling Deeper EP