In their new collaborative single, the robustly surreal “The Bottom,” producers Michael DeBarge and WiLL Music aren’t shy about applying lo-fi melodies to an experimental song structure in liberal doses. Where most trip-hop music of this particular strain tends to draw more influence from concepts rooted in minimalism than it does any ambient indulgences, the opposite is the case with “The Bottom.” From the start of the song, there’s an almost acrylic finish over the synthetic melody at the top of the master mix. This texture is almost impossible to ignore, and even when it’s countered with a lush lead vocal, there’s rarely a moment here where it isn’t just as expressive a component as any of the singing parts are. DeBarge lives up to his well-regarded status in the industry quite easily in this latest release, and while it isn’t the only song in his discography worth taking a peek at this season, it’s definitely one of the more interesting I’ve personally reviewed in the year so far.

MORE ON MICHAEL DEBARGE: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5544580/

The biggest draw in “The Bottom” is probably its exquisitely defined tonality, which is presented to us in a fine pop polish but never feels as though it were manufactured from within the confines of a recording studio exclusively. DeBarge and WiLL Music have an excellent chemistry they’re exploiting rather seamlessly here, and I think it’s obvious that they share a lot of the same values and ethics when it comes to producing and songwriting in general. There’s nothing abrasive in this mix – contrarily, every component of the music is stylized as to be as soft, buoyant and accessibly postmodern as possible without devolving into predictably ambient territory.

This is definitely a track you could sleep to, study with or employ as a backdrop to any introspective afternoon spent in front of a bay window (or a bonfire, for that matter), and though it’s not the lone lo-fi single capable of suiting multiple situations, it’s far and away one of the more versatile to come from an indie player in the last few months. Michael DeBarge is known for a lot of things, but in this capacity, he sounds more comfortable and focused than anywhere else.

“The Bottom” is short (three minutes), simply constructed and acerbically stylized as to keep us on the edge of our seats from beginning to end, and although the American indie spectrum is producing numerous points of intrigue this April, it’s one of my favorite new songs of the season. Michael DeBarge and WiLL Music make a perfect team in this single, and while you’re likely to hear plenty of other gems from both of these players in the future – separately and together – I think this is a good indicator of what we can expect from their collective output moving forward. For some artists, keeping up with the status quo is a challenge all by itself – for others, quality is as important as any artistic narrative ever could be. DeBarge is definitely in the latter group, and that’s made more than obvious in “The Bottom.”

Nicole Killian 

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