Famed drummer Questlove once weighed in with love on the percussion of 90s hip hoppers Pharcyde.
“It sounded like a drunk three-year-old programmed [their] kick drum,” he told Red Bull Music Academy in February of last year.
Quest said he has applied that observation to his own music and the development of his style. These days, though, that glossy view of “drunk” production works almost just as well with the work of local rockers like Lowell’s Ellis Roundy and his new blues punk project Basel.
Dropped earlier this year, Basel’s debut effort Give it Time effectively features its title track as a single with the song “Black Stripes” sliding in as a short B-side.
The song “Give it Time” opens all this with a brief bit of lo-fi inspired fuzz and guitar feedback before then exploding into a marching drum intro. Those drums, prominent in the mix, are intentionally trashy and full of character, jamming together lo-fi mixing and equalization tropes with spacious sounding cracks and booms that seem pulled straight from the Black Keys early DIY records.
Roundy comes in on vocals shortly after that percussive intro. Those words wash and crescendo, mumbled, reverberated and heavily effected at times. They’re haunting. In those respects, he seems to draw on the influence of Iggy Pop’s proto-punk or The Birthday Party’s early 80s inventive blue influenced noise rock.
The vocals goad the instrumentals, playing with the mix and at times seeming to artfully draw the entire musical dance to the brink of breakdown. The drum’s slip through similar but clearly different tempos. The guitars sometimes fall off the beat by microseconds in their simple auditory onslaught. But it all works.
The same can be said for track two, “Black Stripes.” As “Give it Time” devolves into a Beatles style noisy ending, the second half of this release blasts the audio meters to the max with what is pure, honest, straight up punk rock. That song runs just 77 seconds. The drums bellow. Roundry growls. And the guitars scream. It gets in and gets out quick. Once again, it works.
Altogether, this entire release is chaotic in the most beautiful sense of the word. As is typical of lo-fi, it has a sense of accessibility in its gritty sound. Then, like the Black Keys and the White Stripes, its instrumental simplicity and thoughtful riffing on that skeletal structure makes the actual music feel relatable. Roundy isn’t showing off. It doesn’t even sound like he’s straining that hard.
Give it Time sounds like a casual jam session with nobody watching. In the end, that’s the kind of trait that Questlove saw and liked about J-Dilla’s beats. And that’s why Roundy seems primed for a solid run with Basel in this Lowell scene.