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Need U

by Duke Dumont
feat. A*M*E

What intrigued me about this unconventional retro-dance hit was its characteristically stodgy and harmonically ambiguous low-end texture (most strikingly exemplified at the climax of the song at 2:20-2:47). There are four main elements involved:

  • The syncopated minor-triad-based rhythm riff you can hear most clearly at 0:32-0:47. Though the character of the sound is definitely governed by its midrange frequencies within the mix, it’s actually a synth bass patch, with the closely spaced fundamentals of its two-bar Fm-Gm-Ebm-Cm progression around in the 65Hz-148Hz range.
  • The kick drum’s low resonant pitch, a constant ‘F’ at around 44Hz.
  • A sporadic off-beat low electro tom-style sound (first heard at 0:10) which plays its ‘C’ pitch on the fourth beat of every bar during the main groove, its fundamental being around 65Hz.
  • The open-fifths bass line you can hear most clearly at 1:49-2:05. The root notes follow a C-Ab-Eb-F pattern every two bars, which puts the note fundamentals into the 65Hz-156Hz region.

The upshot of all this is that the rhythm riff is playing Fm-Gm over the ‘C’ open-fifth, and then Ebm-Cm over an Ab-Eb-F5 open-fifths progression — underneath all of which is an ‘F’ pedal note. No wonder the low end sounds so foggy! In almost any mainstream musical style I’d categorically label this a mixing mistake. In this case, though, the low-end murkiness acts as a badge of the production’s ‘more bass than normal mortals can handle’ underground credentials, so if you’re after that effect, then building these kinds of harmonic disagreements into the low-end arrangement my actually be in your interest!