We all love a good sine wave synth in drum & bass and even in rave music in general. In D&B, we’re partial to the sine wave sub synth which builds tension, lets us know of the drop, transitions phrases without losing the bass-based aggression we love so well and screws those screwfaces right up into proper bassfaces. A lot of us may not even know that’s what we love about our beloved bass synths; hell, even the controversial foghorn is technically a very low, rumbling sine wave. It can fade in or rush out and vice versa, and like it or not, it always adds drama.
Generally speaking in drum & bass, sine waves are as described above: heavy, gravely, possibly honky and definitely in the bass register or perhaps the low mids. Sine wave swells that are in the higher mids or high registers of a track are generally the reserve of other, more standard EDM tunes: big room house, progressive stuff…Kaskade and Martin Garrix and the like. If we do find high register sine waves in D&B, they tend to be in the backing sound design or made of very short lines within another melody. Vegas-born and LA-based producer Frank Royal, however, is here to challenge that norm with his new Floating EP, dropping this week on Play Me Records.
Frank Royal comes from an unconventional background for a D&B producer, and it may explain his similarly unconventional composition style. His Beatport page is riddled not only with techno and house (progressive house even! Clutch those D&B pearls) and riddim tracks but with loads and loads of drone. He has his own small drone imprint as well, aptly named Drone Parade, with all the glitchy, experimental, vapor wave and sine wave glory those of us who like the weird stuff could desire.
Now, we’ve said all that to say this: Floating is a solid, heavy D&B offering, more than up to Reid Speed’s exacting label standards. He’s remixed and collabed on Play Me and Play Me too a few times since 2018, including with Ms. Speed herself on her track “The Great Void,” so it’s likely this EP has been in the works for a while. Being solid D&B as it is, none of the tracks on the EP seem particularly weird or experimental. Melodic, heavy dancefloor chuggers, all three. But they’re is something different there, and we think it’s in those sine waves.
“Lumiere” goes right in with some seraphimic high-pitched sines accompanying the opening vox, followed by more standard-sounding neuro-style sine synths. In the body of this quite ravey and semi-throwback beat pattern, we also find some very short, whip-like reverse sines that start loud and fade back quickly. It’s sort of like those starbust you could get from an old Casio keyboard. Dog Piano anyone?
In “Autumnotrie,” Floating‘s closing and namesake track, Royal plays with sines in both the manipulation of the vox in its high registers as well as in the main synth. Said main synth is cut up in a really interesting way and you can really see Royal’s love for drone here as the sine abruptly stops and starts to create a secondary beat for the track, causing a sort of choppy, spacey feel as the high register vox goes super-high and celestial. This track must sound incredible on a rig.
The most obvious high register sine play comes with our premiere, the EP’s opening track, “Quoriant.” Here is where Mr. Royal uses the siren sine waves much in the same way foghorns have been used recently. The sub synth combines crunchy notes also modded by our friends the sine waves but as the track rolls on, over top of the vocal samples and neuro noise and growing ever louder, this siren sine wave grows to full rave volume, almost hearkening back to the late 90s and early 00s when that siren was in every track on every dancefloor and had ravers constantly looking for the cops. It never fully goes off, however, teasing the listener almost to the point of madness and then dropping into the drony dubstep coda section or whipping through the cyclonic snares like a howling wind. Ever-present and somehow both eerie and beautiful, this is what the apex of sine wave can sound like in D&B, and this is why it’s good to know your drone.
Since we’re not closing in on 800 words for a premiere now, we’ll keep the closing short: we like sine waves, they make good D&B and Frank Royal is gearing up to be a great asset to said D&B. Reid Speed was right to pick these three droney, siney tracks for Floating and Frank’s official entre into drum & bass. Listen and love.
Floating drops this Friday, April 8 on Play Me Records. Click here to pre-order or pre-save.