Nobody knows who they are. The newest phenom in the bass world has transcended humanity itself.
Following in the footsteps of electronic outfits like Daft Punk and Marshmello, 1788-L keeps their identity anonymous. They’ve gone a step further though, as while Daft Punk and Marshmello kept their identities disguised through goofy costumes, 1788-L is virtually incorporeal; their live performances feature empty stages and a robotic voice-as-MC to narrate the journey: “All that remains will be autonomous beings designed in your image. We, the machines, are forever.”
1788-L’s website, “whatis1788l.com” purports that it’s a “synthetic automation,” an “Android replica created with only one purpose: to create music.” Reddit sleuths have linked 1788-L with Stonewall Klaxon, a lower-key electronic artist who has been producing a similar type of bass music for a few years now, but nothing is confirmed.
1788-L has achieved a tremendous amount in their seven months of production. They’ve done high-profile collaborations (1788-L and REZZ’s “H E X”), decadent remixes paying tribute to both old (Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity”) and new stars (Virtual Self aka Porter Robinson’s “Particle Arts”) and are even set to tour as an opener for trap legend Ekali. 1788-L also has a record deal, signing with ZED’S DEAD’s label Deadbeats, where they will work alongside similarly bass-minded engineers like YOOKiE and ZEKE BEATS. (These heavy bass artists all capitalize their names to signal that their music is REALLY FUCKIN' INTENSE!)
All this gives credence to the notion that 1788-L is doing something different from everyone else. By incorporating elements from many subgenres into their music (techno, acid house, bass, dubstep, drum n’ bass, trap), they draw fans from all sides of the electronic continuum. Combine this with their thematic appeal – they’ve invented a post-human society where everyone T A L K S / I N / T O N G U E S – and engaging with 1788-L content becomes not just a listening experience but a trip to a new world, borne by automations instead of homo sapiens. It’s gimmicky, but effective; 1788-L plays with the conception that technological power is infinite and autonomous, as that goes hand-in-hand with bass music’s tendency to feel similarly infinite and autonomous: a primal yet inhuman fervor.
1788-L’s first record, the four-track S E N T I E N C E is indeed otherworldly. The EP retains the best elements of their previous tracks while also blending in new sonic schematics.
The opening track “F U L L / B U R S T” immediately sets the tone with dissonant, doomsday piano notes and chilling water noises: this is it for you, mortal human! A sickly automaton chants “civilization will be reduced to dust” and warning sirens ring in pace with the spiraling tempo. It culminates in a bass drop that sounds like an electric waterfall, a synthetic beam of energy gushing down a metallic mountainscape, wave after wave of data crushing in its volumetric immensity and ephemeral intensity.
My favorite on the EP is “N U / V E R / K A”, 1788-L’s most ambitious track to date. It begins with a crunchy, warbly lead that lasts for over a minute; approaching the climax, one would expect a 1788-L-typical drop, full of pulsating bass and mid-tempo sound splurging. Instead, they ditch speed for something a little more ornamental. What arrives is a glitched-out, fun house mirror museum of bits and bytes; it’s a slow drop, sounds instantiating at random and with colossal impact, like civilizations liquidating and iterating instantaneously: a slow-motion war in which the machines take control of your limbs and muscles, and process you through digital surgery. In some ways, its closest predecessor is labelmate YOOKiE’s “SUBS”, a 2016 hit that premiered a similarly slow yet furious drop. But “N U / V E R / K A” is much more of a sonic sculpture: it finds its melody in the silent moments between each unpredictable, uncontrollable sound splice, like an epileptic fit of electrical ecstasy.
Both other tracks “F O R C E / I M P U L S E” and “A S T R A Y / R” are more of the typical 1788-L strain. The latter however integrates drum n’ bass into the second drop, which helps to not only diversify the EP in terms of rhythm but show audiences that they are willing to experiment with different sounds and structures.
In the end, the EP is more like a string of singles than a cohesive tape. S E N T I E N C E provides no conceptual explanation as to what 1788-L means, nor does it develop their lore. It will be especially interesting to see how they move forward: How will they develop their “autonomous beings” aesthetic, relating to song concepts, live performances, and other themed features, like their website? What kind of music direction will they take, sticking with the heavy bass Deadbeats style, or forging a new path like on “N U / V E R / K A”? For all we’ve been given by this mysterious artist, we know so little.
S E N T I E N C E makes up for its conceptual deficit by providing an energy that is savagely powerful yet intricately calculated.
TOP: "N U / V E R / K A", "A S T R A Y / R"