NotLö comes out swinging on Deep Dark & Dangerous with haunting 140 bass project, ‘Speakeasy’ [EP Review]
From the depths of her haunting landscapes and alienesque 140bpm dubstep tunes comes Alex Mantekas (aka NotLö). As bass music’s hottest newcomer of 2021, NotLö debut’s her most ambitious project yet with the five-track Speakeasy EP. With support from TRUTH’s own Deep Dark & Dangerous (DD&D), this blast-into-the-past EP stands as an instant classic with both old-school and new-school dubstep styles alike.
Bringing a brand new spin to jazz-infused energies with sauntering bass lines and other-worldly FX, NotLö’s Speakeasy EP will be played out in heavy bass sets for years to come. Mantekas has had an incredibly successful year, as evidenced by her position at the top of CE‘s best underground females producers (part two of four in our Woman’s Month showcase for artists in the EDM industry).
Despite having already covered NotLö’s Speakeasy EP on its day of release (last Friday, April 16), CE just had to go deeper with a full album review. Given the depth, delivery, emotiveness of this EP, Speakeasy stands to be one of NotLö’s most anticipated, most definitive releases yet.
The saturation is sizzling, the rhythms are blistering, and the hints of smooth jazz melodies seamlessly teleport the listener back into the flapper/speakeasy era with its eerie psychedelic New Orleans feel. However, the nostalgic jazz sounds have been completely re-envisioned with the kind of cutting-edge sound design that only a DD&D artist can deliver.
“I spent a year writing this project as a whole, and I wanted to give off a unique vibe with it as well. The theme is supposed to take you back in time to the flapper/speakeasy era – there are uses of jazz instruments and lush subs throughout the whole EP.”
There’s nothing more that fans and critics love more than to see an artist using their talent to craft truly unique stories with their releases. NotLö delivers on these themes ten-fold in Speakeasy, with Mantekas playing up her traditional dubstep approach in a brand new way.
The EP launches with its title track, “Speakeasy,” which instantly places the listener into the intention of the entire project. Orchestral samples are run through tantalizing FX and are sprinkled throughout the track, creating a strange sense of syncopation. Daunting, deep, and dirty, with synth-created leads that come straight out of a classic horror movie, the track is a beautiful introduction to an unearthly adventure.
“Remainder” is up next and, right off the cuff, NotLö shows off her talent with some triplet wobble-magic. Marked by FM synthesized bass lines, which combine old-school dubstep with signature space-bass sonics, this one is as haunting as it is beautiful. A jazz piano is introduced during the track’s outro, bringing all of the chaos back to fulfillment. All in all, “Remainder” is a deep serenade that is as mysterious as it is undulating and heavy.
There’s nothing bass heads love more than that triplet, off-beat sub-wobble that moves them into low-moving submission. The third track on the EP, “Limits,” nails this technique with precision and vibrato. Featuring sparkling, delayed synth leads, the track sounds like a science experiment gone wondrously awry. Up to this point, there is seemingly no end in sight to the depths portrayed with these initial three tracks and NotLö’s execution is relentless.
“After Hours” entrances the senses by focusing on the fusion of melodic elements and swingin’ drum breaks. Ethereal piano chords and highly altered vocal samples interact with the spooky, deep wubs for an overall sound design that seems to be found somewhere near the “edge of the universe.” This is NotLö’s specialty, hands down.
Equipped with laser-basses, droned-out landscapes, and percussive elements that sound like they came from the ocean’s deep, dark depths, “Screening” is one of the more entrancing selections on the EP. The song itself serves as an instant reminder that bass music can tell an incredibly deep tale by focusing on rhythm over melodic progression. In doing so, it creates an entirely new sense of wander within the listener– one that is designed to compel and relax.
On the whole, the contrast that NotLö seems to create so effortlessly throughout the entire EP project makes for a masterfully-manipulated journey that plays on emotion, tension, intellect, and historical memory. It’s almost suffocating, and yet, Speakeasy feels like an entirely breathable universe. If Speakeasy were the Hunger Games, then NotLö is the Game Maker.
“The NotLö project is not only a source for my musical productions but it’s a whole feeling. I have a very outgoing and weird personality.“
– NotLö, Voyage Denver
Be on the lookout for more of NotLö as she is set up to be a recognizable force within bass music culture for years to come. After a year of massive waves in 2020, the next year is for her taking.
NotLö – Speakeasy EP (DDD077)
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Lover of all things strange and electronic. Writer/A&R for CE by day, freeform bass producer by night.