Despite the enjoyably grimy synths and Elderbrook's soulful voice, its relentless and infuriating hook leaves this track deeply disappointing.
Elderbrook, a former indie singer-songwriter who has turned from guitars to the embrace of ambient electronics, reportedly creates his music sampling unconventional noises. However, ‘First Time’ starts conventionally enough, recalling many other dark electronica-based moments of the last few months. Nonetheless, it is performed very well the song starts well with waves of grimy ambient synths and militaristic electronic drums, with Elderbrook beginning a nicely-sung verse which highlights his soulful baritone.
Unfortunately, things then fall apart very quickly indeed. The verse suddenly and abruptly cuts off, evolving into a persistent and squealing synth chorus which turns from bizarre to deeply irritating in record time. This persistent chorus line sounds like someone bouncing Alvin & The Chipmunks like a basketball, with none of the accompanying satisfaction of that mental image. This robotic, meowing falsetto is then pitch shifted up and down into odd and dissonant melodies of random vowel-sounds that mesh oddly with the menacing PBR&B styled backing, creating little in the way of an enjoyable hook and instead sounding like someone has pumped helium into a bass drop – albeit a bass drop that jumps up, down, and around repeatedly in no real order.
Elderbrook does reappear briefly with a reprise of his verse snippet, again impressing vocally but barely lingering long enough to make any further impression, before again descending into a minute and a half of the squealing hook, which locks into the drums and wobbles around in pitch in an unwavering march to the end. Arguably, the hook isn’t bad in composition: it’s catchy enough, if not exceptionally inventive, but the near relentlessness of it and its deeply irritating sound makes it a real struggle. Furthermore, this hook makes up nearly the entirety of the song, with its ubiquity making the flashes of verses and introductions seem like afterthoughts built to bulk up the song beyond the chorus line.
In comparison to some of his earlier releases (like the meditative and intriguing ‘Could’), ‘First Time’ does sadly feel a bit insubstantial, which is actually solved to an extent with the remix from London duo MANT, whose inclusion of clattering club-ready beats and downplaying of the hook, cutting the rampant pitch-shifting in place of a slow-boiling and genuinely brooding rendition, makes the song a bit more agreeable and intriguing. Elderbrook does seem an enjoyable new artist and there are touches of this track that are likeable and interesting, but unfortunately the relentless and frankly infuriating hook does make ‘First Time’ rapidly overstay its welcome.
‘First Time’ is out now via Mine Recordings