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Deconstructed - Five Classic Bass Music Tunes And Discover Some Key Ideas (Part 3)

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Julio Bashmore - Battle For Middle You

Our next track comes from the 2011 Everybody Needs a Theme Tune EP by Julio Bashmore, who’d cut his teeth two years previously with an eponymous EP on cult house label Dirty Bird. Battle For Middle You is the first of four tracks on the EP that are all heavily influenced by retro house sounds in one way or another. At 126bpm and with a solid four-to-the-floor feel, this is also the nearest thing to a regular house tune in our five Deconstructed tracks.

 
"The rhythm of the bass part contributes massively to the hypnotic nature of the track"

"The rhythm of the bass part contributes massively to the hypnotic nature of the track"

That said, the track’s retro, deep house beats are offset by hypnotic keyboards and a rounded bass that move the feel away from that of a typical floor filler. Clever use of long reverbs and swung delays on specific sounds adds to the dubbed out vibe, and the main vocal sample, borrowed from Mass Production’s 1977 tune People Get Up, adds another layer of retro flavor with well-chosen reverb, delay and EQ. Structurally, the track follows a tried and tested formula for a full-length house mix and includes two drop sections, one after the intro section at 1.31 and one around half way through at 3.01. Both drops use a rising low-pass filter on the main rhythmic synth to help build the tension, but the second drop is twice as long.

An FM synth is the perfect tool for the punchy, round bass that characterizes Battle for Middle You

An FM synth is the perfect tool for the punchy, round bass that characterizes Battle for Middle You

This double-length section works really well, allowing plenty of time to build to the track’s peak at 4.04. This peak section is hammered home with 32 full-on bars that include the main rhythmic synth part used in the build-up.

This rhythmic synth is a key component in the track, creating a hypnotic feel to the build sections and providing a great payoff as a lead through the peak section. Through careful sound design it also has a wonderful pumping feel that’s reminiscent of the sidechained compression featured on many club tracks. By typing this in closely with the bass part, it also works really well rhythmically.

The rhythm of the bass part contributes massively to the hypnotic nature of the track, but we shouldn’t overlook its sound. This deep, round, bouncy tone is ideal, holding down the sub-frequencies but with a bold attack that becomes part of the rhythmic feel.

Low-end punch

The bass sound and part are, of course, hugely important to the overall feel of the track, so let’s look at how they’ve been executed. The sound itself is deep and bouncy, almost like a pitched 909 kick. If it were solely this round, subby nature we were seeking, we could go for a sine wave-based sound, but we’re also looking for a really soli percussive attack. We could create this using the right sort of analogue synth and tweaking the amplitude envelope, but here we’re going to go down the FM route, as FM-based sounds tend to offer tougher attack characteristics than analogue.

The other parameters of this sound that will need careful tailoring are the decay and release. By using a quick decay, limited sustain and a short but gentle release, we’ll get the short, bouncy sound we’re after.

By using a quick decay, limited sustain and a short but gentle release, we’ll get the short, bouncy sound we’re after

By using a quick decay, limited sustain and a short but gentle release, we’ll get the short, bouncy sound we’re after

The bass part itself has two note patterns: one for the main build (as in the section 4) and one for the other sections in which it plays (as in section 3). The rhythmic pattern remains the same in both cases, and is a 4:3 polyrhythm over two bars. At bar 3 the polyrhythm starts again, breaking the full cycle (which would be three bars). This is the prevailing rhythm that you’ll hear when listening to all sorts of club music, playing either the main riff or the bass part. Often the cycle is used only for one bar, and every now and then four bas, but here it’s two bars. So, you get the syncopated feel against the 4/4 kick, as well as against the syncopated feel of the hi-hats.

To program these parts, simply divide two 4/4 bars into 16ths and then, starting with the downbeat of bar 1, play every fourth 16t. At the end of bar 2, this leaves a gap of two 16ths, effectively breaking the polyrhythmic cycle, which starts afresh on bar 3.

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