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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

Getting up from your "Falls" is what counts

With a more restrained, yet emotive break, ODESZA reminded me that nothing is to be gained from wallowing in one's pessimism.

In my relationship with modern electronic music, I've tended to neglect the less massive, not as beat-heavy side of the genre umbrella.

Having first been drawn to electronic and dance styles through mainstream house in the EDM heyday of the early- to mid-2010s, this only makes sense. I was in it for the heart-pounding rush of huge beats, whether they were dark and abrasive or bright and uplifting. It took me until a couple years ago to begin to come around to the steadier, deeper side of progressive and tech house through producers like CamelPhat, RÜFÜS DU SOL, and Elderbrook.

When it came to the 2010s invention known as 'future bass,' I had a similar experience, only it took me longer to come around to future bass at all in the first place. My more judgmental adolescent self didn't give future bass the time and respect it deserved for a while — I have a feeling I was sick of hearing the Chainsmokers on the radio. Once I finally gave the sound a real chance, I came to really enjoy it. However, like it was with house, I gravitated toward the massive productions and bigger beats of ILLENIUM and similar artists.

Enter today, though, and I didn't want to hear that big sound. As a rocky day of classes and life came to its conclusion, I thought to myself that some calmer, less hard-hitting future bass would help work me out of my pessimism. The more atmospheric productions of ODESZA came to mind — I'd fallen asleep to some of their calmer tracks before. I began going through their catalog to see if one of their songs would speak to me today. Soon enough, one of them did: "Falls," featuring singer Sasha Alex Sloan. As I continue to work through a somewhat depressive episode, the sweeping yet serene "Falls" was a welcome reminder that I'm not alone in what I'm going through.

"Falls" may not strike listeners as being on the calmer side of the genre on first listen, with its big horn synths and its kick drum-driven buildup. Admittedly, "calm" may not be the greatest choice of adjective, but I think the word is still adequate given the overall mood the track evokes. It doesn't start particularly soft — its opening section is atmospheric, yet already feels like it's growing — but it also doesn't get too large or loud in its break, largely because the use of percussion is more reserved. I feel the track hitting its dynamic peak in the measures before the instrumental break, when the kick drum speeds up; when the break itself begins, it feels a good deal calmer by comparison, with more spacious percussion and more time for the various synths to breathe. In my head, I tend to judge how grand or hard-hitting a track is by its instrumental break, and with the break here comparatively holding back, "Falls" strikes me as being expansive, but not massive. I nod my head to it, but I don't get out of my seat to dance or jump to it.

The more reserved break makes sense given the song's theming. The title word comes from Sasha Alex Sloan's chorus-opening line, "Everybody falls down, all the way down / You've just gotta hold on tight." A song with that as its defining lyric isn't meant to have an earth-shaking break — a more held-back, yet resolute sound is more fitting, especially in terms of how the rest of the chorus is configured. The title may be "Falls," but the hook is ultimately about getting up and affirming to yourself that "we're gonna make it through this time." The light is always there at the end of the tunnel if one is willing to see it and work toward reaching it. I hear the soaring French horn synth as being a sonic embodiment of this message, rising above the more solemn bed of chords and instruments to provide a color of hope. The pitched-up vocals work to a similar effect, and I find this track uses that production gimmick better than most. In keeping longer phrases of Sloan's pitched-up line rather than chopping it up like many producers do, the vocals remain lyrical and work in tandem with the horn synth in the break.

Between its calmer break and its ultimately optimistic lyrics, "Falls" proved to be a good track with which I could end my day. It allowed me to escape a bit from my stressors and my depressive state, helping me feel better about myself after one of my rougher days. I also hope that its reminder that "everybody falls down" helps me remember that my friends and peers may be going through similar episodes at times, whether now or in other periods throughout the year. I hope I can help them approach their more difficult times as this song helped guide me through mine, by looking at the bigger picture and helping me see above and past my present pessimism and depression.


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