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Trey Frey – Drift [Review]

Get ready to rip that E-Brake and counter steer into Trey Frey’s Chiptune Future Bass single, Drift.

Future bass; a genre that typically exhibits a lighter, more playful side of trap music. Even though it has been in the spotlight for about two years, the genre is still relatively new. While future bass has representative characteristics that distinguish the genre, it’s incredibly eclectic in its influences. Any given track can vary remarkably in tempo, form, and style. Although the genre allows a lot of room for debate over what constitutes “future bass”, the most common factor is its trap rhythms and signature detuned saw or square wave synth chords. Very often, chiptune and video game music is included in the form of instruments, soundfonts, or samples. The low fidelity sound offers a nice timbral contrast with the clean and crisp saw chords. However, Drift is the first instance I’ve ever seen of a future bass track made solely with chiptune instruments. Before I talk about this track further, let’s take a look into the concept here.

“Drift”, as the title of the this single, has an implied double meaning. Take a look at the album art. We see an old CRT television set displaying a stock car turning a corner. At first glance, one immediately associate the title with the driving technique made famous in Japan known as drifting. However, I think the title goes a little farther than that. Let’s think about the word “drift” in the context of sound design.

Flashback to the 70’s and 80’s, when analog synthesizers were making a huge splash in the music scene. They were surging in popularity as live instruments as well as tools in the recording studio. Soon, entire bands would be playing synthesizers, as seen during the synth pop or new wave era of the 80’s. Companies like Yamaha, Roland, and Korg were the lead producers of synthesizers and created the staple instruments of the industry at that time.. However, there were a few issues that the design of these synthesizers did not account for. These “design flaws”, while troublesome to musicians during those days, actually contribute to the signature sound of an analog synth.

The big problem was that the instruments did not have consistent sound quality. It was limited by its on-board circuitry, as its components never provided a truly constant value. Pitch, volume, and other components of the synthesizer would waver slightly–a phenomena known as drift.  Drift occurs for multiple reasons–temperature fluctuation of analog circuits, circuit deterioration, and electromagnetic interference. This gives analog instruments its “warm sound” as opposed to the cold, calculated quality of digital synthesizers. Audiophiles or synth enthusiasts alike swear by the analog sound. Most will consider this warmth impossible to accurately reproduce in a digital software synthesizer.

So, with all that in mind, listen to the music again and realize the lack of intonation in the lead instrument that comes in after the intro. It gives this almost “drunk feeling” to the melody. This is much exaggerated for effect, as drift is a slower, subtle warping of pitch. The fascinating part about all of this, is that the track was created on two DMG gameboys running Little Sound Dj (LSDj). Drift doesn’t occur naturally in these instruments so it had to be programmed intentionally and meticulously. If you aren’t knowledgeable about LSDj or music trackers, that’s a serious amount of work. The work was well deserved as the drift creates such a unique and interesting sound that makes this track stand out a lot. It can be seen as tongue-in-cheek also as future bass is usually known for its extreme clarity of sound.

I really enjoy what Trey Frey does during the chorus. He creates a huge pause in the initial hits of the drop that creates this weightless feeling. Your whole body is suspended, waiting for the next sound and he holds it just a little longer than you expect it. It’s such a powerful sensation in the music and I am repeatedly surprised with each listen. This is an incredibly fun track and really moves the listener. Hands down a new favorite of mine.

Buy this amazing track for name your price on Bandcamp. Buy a copy for a friend even! You can find more of Trey Frey’s music and follow him on social media: Bandcamp, SoundcloudFacebook, and Twitter

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