Local producer Basic Soul Unit makes dance music sexy again.
The early 2010s is both the best of times and the worst of times for dance music.
On the one hand, the genre now broadly known as EDM (that is, electronic dance music) has had more commercial success—at least in North America—in the past three years than ever before. On the other hand, it’s mostly being represented by its biggest, loudest, most skull-crushing proponents. And while big-room electro-house and dubstep are fun while you’re fist pumping and high out of your mind, they’re not exactly subtle or sexy.
Toronto’s Stuart Li, better known as Basic Soul Unit, has been DJing since the late ‘90s, and releasing singles and EPs for almost a decade. On his first full-length LP, Motional Response, he dips back into electronic music’s past to create a sound that’s more of a groove and less of a pound.
“Intersection” borrows from the best of Detroit techno, with a minimalist snare beat backing a wave of sweeping synth chords and digital bleeps. “All Over Me” sounds remarkably like something Giorgio Moroder could have produced for a Brian de Palma film in the early ‘80s. (We mean that in the best way possible. Moroder is the king of electronic music.) “Intersection,” meanwhile, has a bass-and-hi-hat beat that compels you to move, and a synth riff you can get lost in.
The highlight, though, is “Breathe.” Both the slowest song on the album by some margin and the only one with vocals, it feels like classic vocal house, but slowed down by roughly 20 beats-per-minute. The result is a sizzling, keyboard-filled disco-type jam that gives you the overwhelming urge to make out with someone on a dance floor. (You can listen to “Breathe” by clicking on the sample above.)
In an age when big, dumb, and fun rules the clubs, Basic Soul Unit reminds us that you don’t need to hit people over the head to get them to move their asses.