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SLAVE is well beyond his years & a master of his craft on journey-like debut album, ‘Transformation’ [Album Review]

From deep within the once tight-knit Bassnectar family comes an overflowing well of talented underground bass producers, all of whom have been using quarantine as a time to hone their craft and build their careers. Among those producers is Cleveland’s SLAVE (aka David Timko), a classically-trained pianist and self-proclaimed raver in his early days, who’s turned towards developing his tripped-out, amorphous bass stamp. Conscious Electronic has had sights on the sonic chameleon since early 2019 when we interviewed the Rapture Studios founder on being a self-taught electronic producer. Suffice it to say, SLAVE has been rolling out his debut studio LP, Transformation, for months now and the whole process has perhaps been our biggest anticipation throughout the latter part of 2020.

Now out in full as a self-release, SLAVE’s Transformation is one of the most impressive debut albums that bass music fanatics will hear all year. Like a three-act film screenplay, SLAVE’s 10-track sonic journey ventures through dark and heavy dubstep tracks, gorgeously melodious records, world-influenced breakbeat numbers, and beyond.

Amorphous bass producer SLAVEplays on Pioneer DJ decks

Since he began teasing the album back in mid-2020, Timko has been known for collaborating with fellow former bassheads to build hype around the LP. Namely, Ravenscoon on “Darkness” and Feelmonger on “Just Listen,” a track which CE premiered as part of Transformation‘s rollout. As the only two collaborators on the LP, Ravenscoon and Feelmonger are hand-selected for artistic inclusion into SLAVE’s well-developed sonic storyline. It’s clear that these are two artists with which SLAVE intentionally chooses to align himself, while the LP’s remaining eight tracks are meticulously-crafted solo originals.

From the beautifully cinematic and welcoming opener, “Welcome Change,” listeners know they are gearing up for something vivid, visual, and highly somatic. The title track, “Transformation,” turns the intensity up a notch with its drops that beg to fill big rooms with its expansive bass lines. So it’s probably fitting that the LP’s third track, “Rising Together” does exactly what its title suggests. That is, lift its listeners up while taking their heads straight toward the ground.

SLAVE – Welcome Change

SLAVE – Rise Together

By the album’s midpoint, “Waves” rolls listeners into the oscillating ripples of a flood. The four-and-a-half-minute number actually represents more of a cascading outpour of emotion, with beautiful top-line melodies and twinkling arps that make for a highly-embodied experience. In other words, “Waves” presents itself as another title that feels exactly like it sounds. If nothing else, one has to appreciate how perfectly SLAVE captures the entire mood of his individual tracks using one to two-word titles.

Moreover, it could even be argued that “Waves” presents the true turning point in the grand scheme of the listening journey. It is perhaps the album’s real point of transformation. There is no turning back for the listener, no return to normalcy, and no going back to how things were. “Waves” marks the baptismal moment when one is caught in SLAVE’s hypnotic web of metamorphosis, his magical motion of mutation, and his alluring magician-like spell. Listeners are never the same again.

SLAVE – Waves

By the time “Remember” comes in, listeners are already deeply entranced by SLAVE’s journey-inducing musical narrative. In a sense, Timko is like a siren pulling listeners to shore—which could end very tragically, one does not yet know. This world bass tune is littered with cinematic builds, wiggly drops to entice one to move horizontally, and clear Bassnectar-influenced tempos to make the track perfect for any large room. It’s wonky and weird, and yet delightfully verbose and diverse in its sound design.

By the final track, “Don’t Look Away,” SLAVE brings listeners to closure with a chiming downtempo tune that calms and soothes on the comedown. Simultaneously, SLAVE is sure to keep the heart rate up with intriguing cinematic elements that build an air of suspense for the future and tell the listener to “stay tuned” for more. What that is, is up for discussion. However, SLAVE told CE exclusively, “I can’t wait to show you the next one I’ve been working on. Next up we have a massive remix album of it [Transformation] coming.”

SLAVE – Remember

It’s always refreshing to come across a newcomer who is so relaxed and comfortable in their own sound design that they don’t feel the need to overload their debut piece with tons of collaborations. After all, Transformation is how the dance music world will forever remember SLAVE. Effortlessly psychedelic and deeply philosophical at its core, SLAVE’s Transformation is well beyond its years in terms of maturity, intuition, and storytelling. It’s a bonafide masterpiece from start to finish and Timko proves himself a masterful sonic narrator every step of the way. Listen below.

Also, be sure to check out SLAVE’s hour-long Electric Consciousness guest mix.

SLAVE – Transformation LP

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