Imagine for just a moment that it’s 1993. Electronic music is still in its early stages, with house, trance, and breakbeat hardcore being some of the EDM movement’s most popular genres. Suddenly, happy hardcore bursts onto the scene; with its characteristic piano usage, spacey synths and stabs, up-tempo and upbeat style, the next phase of this music’s evolution has begun. Now, fast forward to 2017. Numerous happy hardcore labels have shut down and many of the genre’s most popular artists have retired. The scene remains alive through the DDR community, raves, and numerous individuals and collectives in Europe and Asia. One Swedish happy hardcore musician, nanobii, is known for fusing elements of chip into some of his music, and is one of the more active happy hardcore producers to this day. His latest EP, ‘Love Songs’, released on Valentine’s Day, made Bandcamp’s top 40 best-selling albums on release. Let’s dive in and see what this EP has in store for us!
The first track we’ll be listening to today is ‘Anything 4 U’. This track opens up with sweet vocals being the listener’s focus, with a very faint bass voice playing on our auditory peripherals. A sudden kick is the first sign of the track’s instrumentation, and piano notes play atop the vocals as nanobii starts talking about the person he loves coming into his life, and how he’d do ‘Anything 4 U’. At 0:35, another classic happy hardcore theme occurs – the main melody slowly increases in volume, every beat is accented with a snare, and the track quickly ramps up in intensity. The track’s focal lyric is heard, and we experience an aural climax. The song’s melody is played at a higher volume, and the percussion and bass explode with excitement. The chorus plays again in this newfound state, and the song begins to relax around the halfway point. It is worth noting that at this particular time the piano comes back into focus, and chip-like, cosmic voices are scattered like stardust in the background. Yet again, the song crescendos and reaches its climax again before fading into nothingness. This song structure – introduction, crescendo, chorus, decrescendo, interlude, crescendo, chorus, end – is extremely common in happy hardcore music, as most tracks within the genre adhere to it. ‘Anything 4 U’ is a perfect happy hardcore song through and through, from the title to its sonic layout.
Next on the EP is ‘Higher & Higher’, in which nanobii shows that his musical mastery isn’t limited to happy hardcore alone. The song introduces itself as a tribute to old-school gabber and UK hardcore, and there are several telltale signs that denote this compositional style that can be heard all within the first thirty seconds of the song. First off, the timbre of the instrument playing at the very beginning is common to late 90’s/early 2000’s UK hardcore music; it has a bubbly texture and layers over itself in order to create a sort of bouncing or popping melodic effect. Secondly – and most importantly – the kick used at the 0:24 mark has a bouncy, springy quality to it, and sustains a bass note. This alone simply screams gabber, and fans of this genre already know they’re going to be in for a wild ride. Kicks on every quarter note help to emphasize the bassline, while equal emphasis is put on the melody of ‘Higher & Higher’. Chip voices can be heard at the 1:15 mark, and they solo briefly before providing yet another melodic contribution to this well-crafted song. This song quiets down around the halfway mark, and crescendoes with the re-introduction of voices; however, a key change keeps this motif feeling fresh. ‘Higher & Higher’ is certain to bring a sense of nostalgia to those who were (or are) interested in the UK hardcore scene, and to be a favorite among this same group.
The last track we’ll be covering today is the biggest stylistic departure from the rest of this excursion, ‘Arcade Bay’. This is a relaxing, melodic piece of music that calls summer vacations, beaches, and oceans to mind. A deep, calm bass is rarely heard by itself on the lower end, usually being accompanied by a kick unless it slurs into another note. Flute work that sounds like it could be straight out of a SNES is a very nice touch, and its soothing tones are sure to relieve the tension in your neck from all the headbanging you’ve certainly done to the rest of ‘Love Songs’. The song transitions mid-melody to a modulating chip voice, changing hands to numerous different instruments cleverly and beautifully. Percussion exits the song around the 2:22 mark briefly in order to emphasize a flute solo, and slowly re-enters as the chip voice plays a harmonic solo over already established melodies. ‘Arcade Bay’ evokes feelings of tranquility, amiability, and love – a perfect way to end an aptly named release.
‘Love Songs’ is available on Bandcamp for a modest 30 SEK (Swedish krona), which translates to roughly $3.40. This is a sweet, lovely little Valentine’s Day release that’s sure to delight listeners around the world for months to come. With a diverse number of styles exhibited in this album, from dance music to relaxed, Protodome-esque grooves, nanobii has certainly outdone himself on this phenomenal release.
If you’re ever feeling lonely, know that we’re all right here beside you…