Sometimes, setting the visual scene of an album is as essential as creating the sound. But it’s not always a simple task. Soundscaping a haunting atmosphere for an album to live that compliments both an energetic beat and forlorn lyrics is even more ambitious. With this in mind, meet London-based producer Bearcubs, aka Jack Ritchie, who makes it seem effortless in his forthcoming EP ‘Chroma.’
“I wanted the energy of the club, veiled within the context of a sad song,” Ritchie says sets the tone for the entire record in the title track. ‘Chroma’ marks his second EP release, following popular singles such as Touch and Paper Walls. While Ritchie experiments with new sounds and samples, listeners can still expect his inventive approach to integrating percussive elements with distorted synths.
Thematically, Ritchie admits many of the tracks were imagined visually before making them musically. Chroma is meant to mirror personal experiences of a “grey, chaotic London” diverged with “the noisy colour of synths and electronic drums and poems.” On the more upbeat track Sirens Calling, this is especially noticeable, with its abrupt and sharp beat and intergalactic sounds, which Ritchie suggests works best at night or early morning.
“I like the combination of the breakbeat and garage rhythms, clattering like trains in the night, staring out from rooftops, searching for similar souls.” Alternatively, the closing track, Fades, seems to describe a somber late night walk in the city with a ghostly tempo similar to Chroma. While more vague lyrically, it sounds like an internal monologue that Ritchie says describes the “hardships of finding something meaningful for oneself, and a path for art, amidst the noise.”
But Chroma is at its core is a creative and collaborative effort, with Ritchie featuring guest artists on two of its tracks, London singer/songwriter Secaina Hudson and D.C. rapper Beau Young Prince respectively. It’s as if he creates a world for them to interact within, and help build up.
“Working with Jack is always a challenging creative experience because his productions are complex,” Young says of working with Ritchie on Peaky, which is described as an unapologetic bass track. “The beat has a real bouncy, almost grime-like feel that allowed me to use my flow within the spaces he provided.”
What’s just as interesting as the aural and visual make-up is Ritchie’s lyrical commentary about modern relationships in So Long including Hudson’s sultry voice. “Why’d you take so long to call last night/are you really busy? Is it a lie?”
“The track follows on along the same lines as ‘Peaky’ but we wanted something more melodic – I wanted the pop melodies to float above the electronic sounds,” Ritchie says.
Through all five tracks, Ritchie draws on an eclectic blend of electronic genres, from soul to indie R&B, but still feels very indie-pop at its core. At the same time, between the intertwined samples and Ritchie’s ghostly and soulful voice, it seems as though the method was the spookier the better.
Chroma will be released Nov 4, and is the first release with the new London-based label, All Points.
Want to be in our gang? tmrw subscription club is open. click here.
Words by Leah Lalich