WARNING: Listening to ‘Wave Theory’ may cause feelings of appreciation and relaxation.
‘Wave Theory’ is an extensive compilation album awash with atmospheric tones and mind altering rhythms. It consists of 44 tracks carefully handpicked over the last 6 months by Bret and Jeff, who manage Dust Collectors Records.
The team at DCR listened to almost 300 tracks before choosing the ones they felt best suited the ‘vibe’ for which ‘Wave Theory’ would ultimately represent.
When reading through DCR’s blog about the process of selecting tracks, I began to get a sense of how the creation of a compilation album, particularly one of this size and quality, takes a level of time and dedication that for most of us regular beings is hard to comprehend.
The title for the compilation was something they spent a long time deciding on before landing on ‘Wave Theory’. Bret said, “We decided to go with Wave Theory because of how it symbolised the flow between one song to another to create a whole project. It also sounded cool.” I like the idea that this compilation is the audible hypothesis of sound waves flowing together — it’s a theory which can be directly experienced by the listener as soon as they hit play.
‘Wave Theory’ is a concept compilation; an idea brought to life through the various instrumentals that in DCR’s words 'come together like a jigsaw puzzle.' The beats were the seeds, which DCR planted and coaxed into the birth of a forest; an interconnected ecosystem of sound.
However, whether you like it or not — books, before they're read, are often judged by their covers. The first thing I notice before I hit play on an album, or single, is the artwork which accompanies it. I think it’s fair to say the artwork on 'Wave Theory’ is simultaneously stunning, intriguing and hypnotising. Bret described it as having a different feel from most cover art with a more dark and mysterious tone to it.
Created by the freelance visual artist MadKobra, this piece of surrealistic art combined with the 80’s retro wave title font, captured my interest and imagination in a way that only a few album covers have managed previously. It seems Bret and Jeff had a similar experience when they said they kept finding new things in the illustration the more they looked. So, in the words of Nas… MadKobra’s artwork “Made you look!”
Having dope beats and sick cover art is obviously mandatory for any release but what really separates ‘Wave Theory’ from the sea of ‘Lo Fi’ compilations out there today, and why should you listen to it?
Well, I think Bret was spot on when he said that it’s the palette of diverse sounds on ‘Wave Theory’ that really makes it stand out — that, and the length of it, which allowed him to build, as he puts it, “A pyramid of vibes.”
Bret went on to describe how their choice of beats delved into this idea from the opening track. 'We can live here' by the artist 'another silent night' is a great example of a Lo Fi ambient instrumental. Then there’s tracks by Tedd Boyd and Alistair, which are heavily influenced by Trap and that old school Boom Bap era. Overall, this is a compilation filled with classic Lo Fi ambience.
DCR have collected and compiled branches of the genre which compliment each other under the low fidelity umbrella, and organised them into sides A, B, C and D, where the flow and energy of the tracks oscillates like the sound waves themselves. This is just another example of the level of consideration which has gone into creating this compilation.
With so many tracks and such a variety of artists, from the more established names in the game to the less well-known but just as significant talents of the aforementioned 'another silent night', it wasn’t long before I found the kind of beats that stopped my wandering mind like a slap to my attention span.
Some of my personal favourites were: 'Dilemma' by Milkz and 'Comrade' by Stan Forebee both of which have an emphasis on Boom Bap drums with an edge of grit over consciousness-expanding sample flips.
Then there’s 'three bears' by Soul Food Horns no18, which is, as the artist’s name suggests, beautiful food for the soul, or how about 'apollo fire' by DLJ with those chill vibrations, or the upbeat melodies of 'having friends over' by HM Surf, or 'global’ by Clap Cotton with those lethal synths, and not forgetting 'head in the clouds' by Robot Orchestra with those wonky hi hats and delicate keys to get your mind floating.
With that said, it was difficult to choose out of the 44 tracks which ones I was going to mention because there are some absolute gems in here. As somebody who makes beats (and writes about them), I’m always looking to expose myself to new artists and different styles. For this alone, listening to 'Wave Theory' was, and is, a musically enhancing experience.
The folks at DCR describe the compilation as ‘combiningelements from hip hop, jazz, ambient, and indie.’ They are proud to include established artists as well as undiscovered talent, to think outside of the conventional box of what sounds to use, to have diverse release strategies, and they say it’s all down to the fans and artists who constantly allow them to experiment — something Bret emphasised DCR don’t take for granted.
Lo Fi beat culture and the beats themselves always seem to be expanding into something strange and wonderful.
On the one hand it appears to be entering the mainstream, and as Bret mentioned, "Lo Fi beat culture is changing at an insane rate. Between big players like Trap Nation creating Lo Fi subsidiaries and the rise of Swedish publishing companies taking over Lo Fi playlists there never seems to be a dull day." He went on to say, "From a labels perspective, I think while I was initially opposed to the competition, now I welcome it and think that more people in the community will drive us to be better."
At the same time as people are using Lo Fi beats on the latest social media app, artists (and labels) are constantly evolving and willing to keep walking into the unknown territories sound and music has to offer.
The addition of the concluding track, 'La Lavande', which is a beautiful ambient piece, demonstrates their openness to change and potential to be pioneers of the culture.
Beat culture is like a tree with leaves that change with the seasons, branches that stretch in all directions, and roots… deep underground.
Then again, it’s just a theory.
Listen to 'Wave Theory' below:
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