Recently I had the pleasure of coming across a truly impressive duo – Garret Meyer and William Thompson – a.k.a.Artifakts. Hailing from Wisconsin and South Carolina, little is known about how these guys do what they do. What is for sure? It’s friggin sweet. If you dig electronic groups like Gramatik, Pretty Lights, Emancipator, or Thievery Corporation you’re sure to get down to this sample-based down-tempo trip-hop. For sure? For sure.
Their debut EP, Like This If, dropped on 9/2/12 and you can download it for free (or donate if you so choose) at artifakts.bandcamp.com. Not convinced? Preview their tracks on soundcloud.com, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.
The first track on Like This If, entitled ‘Out of Sight,’ starts the album out strong. Thirty seconds in, the beat drops. The best of the best of electronic music is at work here. You have your samples, and you have your ‘womps’ but the dubstep never really kicks in. Rather, Artifakts holds it down pretty low key the whole time. When the womps do come, they’re not mixed louder than everything else like you might expect, in fact it’s really just a tasteful bass effect. It’s pretty rare that a producer doesn’t go off the deep end with the latest effects and techniques. In that respect, Artifakts are an endangered species: they dabble with everything from samples to dubstep and balance it well. Not just well but CORRECTLY.
This is a great album to put on while you’re doing almost anything. You can work out, or you can weed out. Either way, your head will be bobbing the whole time. It kind of sounds like the soundtrack to a spy movie; it conjures images of clandestine meetings under bridges at night, trench-coated men in bowler hats exchanging unmarked packages, and driving with blurred neon signs in the periphery.
Now the second track, ‘Pushin’ On,’ sounds like what might happen if J Dilla and Pete Rock’s DNA had been spliced together into a slightly more electronic clone. I wish Gil Scott-Heron was alive to hear this. New hip-hop with an older sound – you just don’t get this anymore people. Jazz and dope beats put together? It’s almost easy to forget that people have been doing it forever, that’s where hip hop came from, and Artifakts manages to excavate that tendency to weave ambient samples with relatively dirty beats into something that sounds fresh, but reminds you of something an your older cousin might have been listening to sometime around ’92. Hieroglyphics crew – Souls of Mischief instrumentals for 2012 is a good way to think about it. And I can’t stop thinking about it…
If you want something to get your body moving, put on track six: ‘Ax About Me.’ There’s your sample based hip hop beats, as well as your driving keyboards that sounds something like what you might hear in the background of a Jay-Z or Kanye West beat. Oh snap, it is! The whole track is a hustler’s manifesto without lyrics. ‘Ax About Me’ channels the energy of the streets into your headphones. You can almost feel how warm a North Face bubble vest is on street corner during a cold night. You can almost hear the sirens.
Looking to get dirty? Throw on track 10 ‘Higher Than Most.’ It starts with a scrambled sample for about the first 30 seconds, and then the beat drops on the tail of lyrics “Fly as a mothafucka” and the bass picks up. Be ready to trip for about a minute and a half until the womps kick in at 1:58. Cut up between intermittent “Ooh’s,” the womps only last about 15 seconds, but it’s enough to break your neck. ‘Higher than Most’ fades into the last track, ‘Light-Brite Night,’ which has a heavier bass effect than most of the rest of the album, but manages to keep it chill. With bits of delay and and a good amount of old school DJ production, “Like This If” will inevitably snap you out of reality and eventually bring you back, but to a more subtly beautiful one: more relaxed, but with the feeling that you were just on the dance floor with exactly the right person, and maybe came real close to getting in a lot of trouble, but you didn’t and all that’s left is the adrenaline.
The bottom line is Artifakts is purely good. Between all the genres they touch on, from trip-hop to dance music to some seriously underrated hip-hop styles, they manage to hit everything you’d expect to hear on a ridiculously good EP.
Be Sure to Check Out ARTIFAKTS new EP Like This If (artifakts.bandcamp.com). DUDE, IT’S FREE, but it doesn’t have to be. Shoot them a donation, the boys deserve it.