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Is a Continuous Cycle Systemic with Totemic?


The city that Drake has popularized as ‘The 6’ has a new artist bursting onto the drum and bass scene by the name of Totemic. Having just released an EP in May entitled Falling, the artist whose real name is Doug Penny favours steadily releasing a few songs at a time in an EP format, as opposed to a lump sum of tracks generally associated with a conventional LP.

Totemic’s February release “Liquid Moonlight” graced a compilation album just prior to the critically acclaimed EP Shroud dropped later that same month.This rapid release of EPs is a clever media ploy to keep the artist’s name relevant, as well as sure sign of where the music business is now in 2016.

So with three EP’s and a stand-alone single already out in 2016, in addition to his two 2015 released EPs Spectre and Thunder, coupled with his independently released 2014 Past The Point EP, one can see from a marketing standpoint alone why it is advantageous to contribute towards the death of the full length album via the output of a plethora of EPs or mixtapes.

Totemic’s latest EP titled Continuous Cycle, clocks in at 21:40 seconds and contains some of the easier to listen to, albeit moodier drum and bass music one would like to hear. With darker tones and an underlying impending doom to his style Totemic carved a niche out early-on in his short career by incorporating the use of the violin with his DJing.

Cited as utilizing both minimal as well as dynamic drum and bass for the foundation of his work historically, on Continuous Cycle Totemic’s addition of tribal beats serve to complement the Arabic sound that the musician flirts with his utilizing his 20 years behind the bow of his violin.

Although it may sound counterintuitive to reference emotion when speaking on the drum and bass genre, there is a significant array of exactly that in Totemic’s emotionally visceral creations. Genuinely dark in nature, the artist still manages to cater to the genre’s important asset of danceability. A great fit for a dance sequence in a Hollywood underground club scene, it would not be surprising to hear of Totemic’s complex landscapes landing on celluloid some time soon.

Continuous Cycle is a very listenable albeit short helping presented by the Toronto native. The artist’s use of house samples and ominous synth orchestration compliment his polyrhythmic propensities to create interesting layers, allowing his music to expand beyond the regular parameters of the genre. In fact, it is often Totemic’s use of the violin that serves to lighten the mood in his music, as opposed to the violin very often inviting a haunting or nebulous disposition in conventional applications; of the impossibly difficult fretless instrument.

With an album titled Continuous Cycle, it is appropriate that it be bookended with songs with names like “Daybreak” and “Nightfall”.  It on the EP’s third track “Swords” where Totemic’s use of the piano during the introduction succeeds in capturing the imagination, and with the help of subtle synth undertones makes for a  successful contrast to the other three elaborately layered songs on the EP; in essence tying the four songs together.  

A very successful delivery by Totemic, with the prolific output of the Toronto native it will interesting to see what the dreadlocked drum and bass DJ will challenge himself with next.

If the electroacoustic violinist keeps his 2016 pace we can in all probability expect another Totemic helping towards the end of October. A fitting sound going into the season in which  the spookier aspects of our culture are embraced, Not since Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain” would the use of violins at Hallowe’en evoke so much chilling of the proverbial bone.