After releasing a slew of singles from their album ( Undertaker, Diffused, Beyond Reality & Alone ), The Upbeats return with their fourth LP Primitive Technique on Noisia’s Vision recordings. Cutting to the chase and saving several nonsensical adjectives to make ourselves appear as better writers, Primitive Technique is a damn good album yet falls short in feeling like an album. Primitive Technique is very much The Upbeats and undeniably contains top-notch sound design fused with bone shattering basslines, clean breaks, and razor-sharp synths, but its title contrasting productions feel more like a collection of singles spiced with a couple bits of exploration outside of what we would normally expect from Jeremy and Dylan. Those unusual sounds actually intrigued us more than anything with the more tripped out and airy vibes of “ Interval” along with the unusually reminiscent sounds of Clams Casino on “Castles.”
Album cohesion aside, when listening through Primitive Technique one feels that it was very natural to produce and that Jeremy and Dylan decided to expand and refine what they do best. Primitive Technique is as the name describes and effectively builds an attractive atmosphere that demonstrates the Noisia endorsed level of production they have achieved. Kicking things off with the widely acclaimed “Beyond Reality,” The Upbeats set a fierce and futuristic tone to their album with a stretching and stomping bassline accompanied by boomeranging drums that launch you in to outer space. “Beyond Reality” signifies the listener is about to embark on a futuristic journey and propels you into a primitive yet daunting world of crisp drums, sharp synth’s, and tectonic plate shifting bass.
The journey then continues with the futuristic stomper ”Drum Stop” that swallows you whole with some of the best sound design and effects in drum and bass. Swinging bass that grinds and grunts as it progresses is surrounded by The Upbeats trademark clean, crisp, and hammering drums. “Drum Stop” is a quick, grungy energizer for you to stomp your feet and get hyped before rolling into the well known pre-album single “Diffused.”
Once again slick percussion, full-time rolling bass, and smooth echoed vocals bring a great amount of atmospherics and musicality that take the listener to another world while keeping things grounded, raw, and primitive. The echoing vocals that diffuse throughout the bassline and ever changing drums latch themselves to your brain. “Diffused” is danceable, flavourful, and is a complex yet catchy tune in signature Upbeats style. After rattling the senses and the soul on “Diffused,” The Upbeats smartly slow things down and up the emotion on the following track “Again I.”
Featuring Armanni reign on vocals, “Again I” is reminiscent of the duo’s roots in grunge music and being impressionable teenagers growing up in New Zealand. Combining elements of hip-hop, grunge, and breaks, “Again I” creates a uniquely emotional stomper and is another example of where The Upbeats slightly deviated from their usual spectrum. “Again I” allows the listener to slow down and take a breath yet remain energized in preparation for the monstrous “Monogram.”
Utilizing dark, ominous, and airy synth pads, The Upbeats drop you into the first of a series of sonic battles with “Monogram.” Airy, dark synths and shuffling percussion leave you feeling as if you’re one of two warriors traversing the underground of New Zealand’s native landscapes where you have come across some sort of monster that’s comparable to a boss battle from your favourite video game. “Monogram” sets the tone for an epic battle, and at the sound of a swinging synth stab (or swing of a warriors sword), a swinging bassline and contrasting synth line unload to create a reflective and mysterious atmosphere that’s incredibly dark, sharp, and dance floor friendly. Each progressive snyth stab, drum kick, and snare hit dashes between your ears and steals your attention while impeccable sound design and atmospherics wash over your imagination. Leaving you unable to focus and from disallowing your imagination to generate another “boss battle visual” in your mind, “Monogram” is as its definition explains and is a true representation of where The Upbeats have reached as artists. The intensity doesn’t end there though. Monogram is just one of three killer tracks that form the climax of Primitive Technique.
Next we’re thrown into the wobble and growling infused bassline of “One Step.” Again what feels like the continuation in a series of sonic battles, “One Step” is an extension of “Monogram” and utilizes less atmospherics in exchange for punchy and jumping drums accompanied with a snarling bassline that will move dance floors and showcase how good or how shit your speakers are. If you’re a big fan of their previous collaboration with Noisia entitled “Creep Out,” then “One Step” is the track for you.
Following “One Step,” we enter the third and final climatic sound battle with “Thrasher.” Collaborating with fellow kiwi Trei, “Thrasher” feels like an extension of their previous collaboration “Wear & Tear.” Utilzing those razor sharp back beats, space age effecting, and cracking rim shots, “Thrasher” is inevitably a mosh pit generator. With a simple and short intro, “Thrasher” is engaged with a slick synth stab and drum break that doesn’t prepare you in the slightest for what’s about to unfold within your ears. “Thrasher” will definitely be in your favourite DJ’s sets over the next little while so expect to hear it often and be sure to watch out for any flying elbows.
After an intense series of atmospheric dance floor bangers, we’re again teased with a refreshing deviation from The Upbeats usual formula on “Interval.” Taking on a more chilled out and tripped out vibe, “Interval” allows the listener to breathe again and is a window into what other sort of sounds this album could have included. “Interval” is catchy, smooth, yet funky and sets the tone as we enter the second half of our journey through Primitive Technique.
“Falling Into Place” begins the next part of the journey as airy, fluttering synths and reverberating guitar strums unravel the track before echoed synth pads and filtered-underlying kicks swing and ripple into a smooth and salacious bassline. Accompanied by the warm, buzzing guitar riff from the intro, the synths dance and create a catchy melody over a rolling beat that feels as if you’ve been submerged into an ocean of ivory. After being cleansed in a liquid bath with “Falling Into Place,” next up is the pre-released single “Alone” featuring the always wonderful Tasha Baxter.
Again we’re presented with a soft guitar riff and landscape shifting synth progression that leads into head nodding kick drums and emotionally hammering snares in combination with the smooth and stretching vocals of Tasha Baxter to accompany the bassline perfectly. “Alone” is smooth yet thought provoking and it’s no secret The Upbeats can convey as much energy in their lashing tunes in a more minimal half time song like “Alone,” but much like the majority of Primitive Technique we’re treated to The Upbeats at their best, but not far off their usual path. That changes though on the following track “Castles.”
With everything fallen into place and now alone. Dreamy, cloud-like synths and distorted vocals accompanied with rock shifting/breaking samples introduce us to “Castles.” Another example of a deviation from The Upbeats usual formula, tripping snare drums that don’t always follow through, a dizzying synth line, and distorted hi-hats send us on a more hip-hop like breather. “Castles” is another reflective moment in-between a collection of bangers and gives the listener space which is of a rarity in such a complex and tight sounding album.
After “Castles,” we encounter the second climax of the journey that is Primitive Technique. Again featuring another fellow kiwi, The Upbeats team up with Dose on “Tangerine.” Signature quick changing and skank inducing drums combined with beheading bass stabs spring load their way into a soaring drop that’s lethally funky. With a contrastingly soft vocal sample that says “I feel it,” “Tangerine” smacks you around (especially at loud volumes.) “Tangerine” is another stand out banger in an album full of them, so expect to be hearing DJ’s drop this one frequently over the next little while.
After receiving a healthy dose of Vitamin C, our journey comes to a close with “Retrogade” and the pre-released single “Undertaker.” “Retrogade” is retro-futuristic because it is a nod to the simpler and transformative analog sounds of the past combined with the complex design and engineering tools of today. A warm and distorted bassline rolls out with haunting vocals and drums that hit hard as rock to create a seemingly simple but very complex “old school roller.”
Lastly, Primitive Technique closes with the neurofunk anthem that is “Undertaker.” By now you’ve heard this tune and if you haven’t then you’re in for a wild ride. Out of this world synths that are as sharp as they come combined with an electric and stretching bassline creates one of the largest neurofunk tracks known to man. The Upbeats certainly take you under with this one as their now familiar drums hammer you into the ground further with each hit. “Undertaker” is the true definition of a banger and wraps up Primitive Technique in an energetic and epic fashion while remaining true to its name.
Primitive Technique is a great album, but again lacks in feeling like one. Although all the above tracks are outstanding in their own right, we found that listening to this album isn’t one that many listeners will listen to front-to-back more than a couple of times. The album’s success lies in its ability to combine some elements of an album but remain dance floor friendly. Whether that was The Upbeats intention is unknown to us, but what Primitive Technique lacks in creative deviation is made up with a large number of incredibly well produced single tracks that will be enjoyed by many for a long time.