For this week, I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing the newest album of one of my biggest influences – HarleyLikesMusic’s new ‘Steel City Zone’ as released on Thebasebit. I’ve known Harley for a few years now, first meeting him just before he got into making music on LSDJ and to say his music leaves an impression would be an understatement. After two wildly successful albums released on the Cheapbeats label, Harley is back again with his old tricks – and some new ones too. As someone who cites Harley as a major influencer of my own techniques, I think I’m quite lucky that I get the chance to talk about this with you – it’s not often one gets to discuss someone who has brought so much to the LSDJ game.
This year instead of going along the same road Harley has developed a four track EP, poignantly named ‘Steel City Zone’, after Harley’s hometown Sheffield, known for making the famous Sheffield Steel. For the whole EP, Harley has focussed his efforts on adapting the sounds of Sheffield’s underground music and making something new in his own style.
Moving into the crux of things, here are three tracks off album that really captivated me
The first track is the song, ‘Hello’, which immediately hitting off with some thumping drums, bass and lead. I love this intro as the hollow tones really ring out and set a direction as to what the rhythm will be. It then proceeds into some odd and funny samples from one of Harley’s friends calling out, saying; ‘Hello’ and ‘Harley, you there man?’ Whilst sounding slightly out of place, they feel more as if they’re an in joke against one of Harley’s mates. This is something Harley usually does quite a bit, as heard on, ‘Super Dooper Double Dooper’, in which he uses a excerpt of James York’s (of Cheapbeats fame) daughter when asked, ‘how hot is the centre of the earth’. The main hook of ‘Hello’ is something that utilises both the pulses channels as well as the WAV, to create a frankenstein combination of epic proportions. This whole sound and tone seems to be crux of ‘Hello’, as Harley constantly uses it as well as building upon, to great effectiveness.
Moving on we next have the second signal track, ‘Steel City’, which uses continues the same tricks and techniques of, ‘Hello’. However unlike ‘Hello’, it features a heavier pulsating beat, helped along by the heart pounding bass. The hooks of ‘Steel City’ serve as the high addictive driving force of the song – each melody and hook is eclectic, bouncing off the sampled drums and working with the rhythm to produce a mixture of frightening combinations. For me ‘Steel City’ has to be my favourite track off the album as nothing at all seems to let up, firing on all cylinders and giving a banging track one could immediately get hooked onto.
‘Infinity Tricks’ is probably one of the bounciest tracks I’ve heard in some time. It instantly kicks off with a extremely funky and melodic hook, before announcing itself with a ‘yeaaaah!’ sample, which incidentally was taken from Harley’s YouTube intro. Whilst ‘Infinity Tricks’ centres itself around the main the hook and its sound, it is constantly shuffled about going as far as to making a complete new song just before the 2:00 mark. This is especially more true around 3:00 when a new hook, more captivating than the first is introduced, with Harley changing the sound from a pulse to wav sound. One final thing before I finish reviewing this track; we can’t possibly forget the impromptu melody at 1:36 sounding a lot like 2 Limited’s ‘Unlimited’, because reasons.
At just 20 minute run time over 4 tracks, ‘Steel City Zone’ was a great listen. Harley’s previous albums have usually been longer, but I feel the culling of tracks for this EP, allowed him to focus on refining a small selection. I’ve always said that instead of producing a quantity of an album, you should instead focus on the quality of one. It’s also one of the reasons why I’ve been taking a while to release my material! Maybe this year…I hope.