Glasgow’s Tom Marshall, aka Dam Mantle, made a name for himself opening for Gold Panda with his epic, beat-friendly soundscapes in the vein of his former tourmate, a darker, distorted Toro Y Moi, or, drawing slightly further back, Caribou or Four Tet. However, there’s something vaguely hip-hop about the beats that Marshall sinks into the electronic mires he creates that distinguishes him somewhat from those other artists. In the end, though, the clarity and depth of his compositions on the We EP are what really set them apart from the pack.
The EP’s title track relies on a dripping beat and a pulsating chord progression, one eerily similar to something off of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack. The reversed, down-pitched, creepy vocal samples that come halfway through the track only serve to further that comparison, though the overlong conclusion that swims off on acoustic guitar is surprisingly calm, drifting off into the ether.
The buried vocal samples on “Meet Me in the Ambulance” come across like a distorted choir, the pitched-down versions dripping with atmosphere. The twitchy percussion and accordion-sounding chords that open the track sound like they could back a high-speed Busdriver verse or some similar fast-paced rhymer. “Somnambulate, My Dear” sleepwalks ahead, lushly drifting into dreamy, high-flung theatrics. The slippery, groovier “Not a Word” chops and flips vocal samples like a Books track, but the song’s sonorous bells, clanging percussion, and polyrhythmic tones are more dance floor ready than introspective.
That’s not to say that “Not a Word” (or the EP as a whole, for that matter) lacks depth or ideas. Instead, We manages to combine some seriously fun beats with some serious feeling, the rich, powerful soundscapes sending the imagination on a trip through dark, vibrant nights in some bombed-out future.