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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

June 29, 2010 at 10:22 AM

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The-Dream's "Love King" songs of note #1: "Abyss"

Posted by Andrew Matson


"Abyss" by The-Dream

Atlanta man The-Dream releases his third solo album "Love King" today, and it's full of endlessly heavy piston-pump happening-in-a-vacuum futuristic R&Bemo.

The producer/singer's stylistic tricks remain fascinating as ever — wet-cork drums, hive-of-bees synths — but "Love King" is also notable for its advancement of The-Dream's angry/goth program, which had major mainstream breakthroughs on "Single Ladies" (ominous synthesizer undertow) and "Umbrella" (shatter-pattern drums, minor-key melody) and finds perhaps its darkest hour on "Love King" standout "Abyss."

As far as I can tell, the story in "Abyss" is that The-Dream's mistress talked to gossip media outlet(s) about their relationship, and now he wants her to die. The language he chooses to express this is startling:

"Cry 'til you drown your face / bitch, I give a damn how harsh his may seem / I'm here to put your heart in its place / chained up at the bottom of the lake / now let the water flow / abyss, abyss, abyss"

There is no more goth image in mainstream music right now than The-Dream's vision of a heart chained up at the bottom of the lake, and his embrace of outright cruelty in its construction — it sounds like he's saying the meanest thing he can think of — and the unmistakable knife-twist in his tone of voice gives the track an uncomfortable energy, a mix of fantastical violence and bristling emotion that doesn't usually accompany fingersnap synth pop teen music that namechecks TMZ and US Weekly.

Production-wise, it's stuff we've heard before polished to the highest degree — Timbaland's stutter-speed synths and the world's most organic snaps feature prominently — but there's some weirdness in there, too — the open-throat buzz in the chorus — and deft arrangement in the chorus' stereo-panned tambourine and background string tumbles. I really like how the song is heavy without relying on massive slabs of bass. I love me some booming bass, but hitting sub woofers with the drums was the right move. There should be nothing pillowy or blankety about a track as dark as "Abyss." It should be all gloss and stab, and it is.

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