EP cover courtesy of artist
Review by Jorge Martinez
Electronic-music duo Nocturnal Status originally hails from Maryland but are based out of Miami, Florida. As they tour the eastern coast of the United States, they bring their dark, bass-heavy version of electronic music with them, “shattering brains” as they go, according to band member Rohan Bhatia-Newman. While I was riding on the bus, I sat next to Nocturnal Status who were on the way to a show in New Haven. By pure chance, we stuck up a conversation and I was exposed to their music and their fresh outlook on EDM. Together we were able to talk about the ins and outs of how Nocturnal Status dropped their new EP Brainz.
Rohan Bhatia-Newman and Benjamin Ricketts are students at the University of Miami who create some of the darkest, most techy music there is. According to Nocturnal Status, their obsession with bass is such that 70% of their music takes place below 50Hz. Together, they own 8 different basses, but the music they put on display for the world consists of custom synthesizers the two create in Ableton, an electronic music program. Their art is crafting unique sounds by editing the ADSR envelopes of their synthesizers, which is much like creating a brand new instrument. ADSR lets you change the attack, or how fast a note reaches full volume, the decay, how long it takes to plateau off slightly below the peak, the sustain, how long it stays there, and the release, how long it takes for the note to fade away. This wide flexibility lets them create a new style of music: rapid arpeggiated clicks on top of fluctuating bass-lines, at times interspersed with melodic choirs that disappear as fast as they arrive.
Nocturnal Status self-identify their music as a “darker variant of trip-hop, without all the mainstream fluffy crap.” At times, this means they risk losing out on a wider fanbase, but Ben and Rohan are okay with this. Rohan admitted: “We’ve already put down several thousand dollars on instruments and software, but we’re not doing it for the money, because then we would never break even.” Instead, they seem really passionate about creating something unique and indescribable, at least with the language we have today. Hopefully, Ben says, they’ll be able to “inspire a new genre of EDM that is less focused on the same stale melodies on an overused house beat,” and more about exploring the limits of what we can do with bass.
Brainz is only four songs long, but they are each independent and indiscernible from one another: if you were to play all four songs separately, you could definitely tell them apart, but if you were to play all four back-to-back it would be impossible to say where one song ends and the other ends. The album bounces around from some very heavy trap music to drum-and-bass and at some points even psychedelia and funk. The one thread that links these genres together is Nocturnal Status’s signature bass in the background, microwaving your brain.
The title song, “Brainz,” is one of their most popular songs to date. But ironically enough, neither Ben nor Rohan like it that much. According to Rohan: “It’s too mainstream; it has vocals.” None of their music can be referred to as even remotely mainstream, but it’s funny to see that they’ve set such high standards for themselves that anything vaguely resembling more typical EDM is immediately shut down as “mainstream.” The other songs in the EP are not as popular as Brainz, but their greater focus on heavy bass-lines and more unorthodox rhythms set them apart.
The next song, “Quest” branches off wildly from the Brainz formula, incorporating a fast-paced jazz drum beat in the background, smothered by guest Aidan Lombard’s trumpet. However, a minute and a half into the song, Nocturnal Status’s familiar wobbling bass comes back in, blending with the trumpet into a wild psychedelic mix.
Third is Rohan’s favorite song: “Hunting Plankton.” While Ben isn’t as much of an enthusiast about it, they both appreciate the trippy melodic choir that comes in at 0:50. From time to time, guest singer Alice K’s voice pierces through the backdrop like a siren calling from the depths of some dark, turbid sea of music.
Last, but certainly not least, is “Back on that BS,” a good old fashioned trap song featuring rapper DeeZ. While it’s still branded by Rohan and Ben’s hardcore drum and bass, it’s set to a different, faster rhythm. Ben said it best himself: “Yeah, it’s definitely our most danceable song. This is what I would expect to hear at a party, not any of our other stuff.”
While this album is definitely not for casual listeners of EDM, those who are willing to break free from typical house and trap music might enjoy it. There’s a certain beauty in floating around on a slower rhythm, feeling each new instrument subtly enter and exit, and just riding the ever-present bass.
Listen to their new EP on Soundcloud.