Future Unlimited EP
It’s impossible not to think “eighties influenced” when you listen to Future Unlimited. The elastic planar synths and pulsing bass can’t help but evoke that comparison. For all that though, you never really feel like this music would be at home on a dance floor. This luscious, relentless music belongs in the speakers of a convertible that’s being driven aimlessly west. It is, of course, sunset, but you have no idea who the driver is, but that passenger seat is exactly where you need to be, though you don’t know why.
“Maybe what we’re craving isn’t meant for us to have,” sings vocalist Dave Miller on the EP opener, “When it Calls,” and in many ways this EP seems to have been built around that line. Each song expresses a different flavor of restlessness and discontent and something of a solution, but the Nashville group is generally content to leave things expressed instead of explained. Their songs defy satisfying climaxes and catchy choruses, content to let mood rule the day, never placing too much importance on any one event or element in the song. It’s an aesthetic which seems to comply with Miller’s question and answer on “Into the Sun,” “So, what is left? Just a memory.”
The songs, thanks to their distinct aforementioned eighties characteristics, all have an apparently similar sound, yet they each hit at different emotional registers. “Golden” swells and builds energy like someone finally unloading some repressed sentiment in one crazy night, but whatever satisfaction that brought fades away by song’s end, like a drug trip winding down late in the night. “Flashing lights and the wild nights / Only you and the thought of dreams that spread. / And we all know that’s it real inside your head.”
'Future Unlimited' demonstrates a willingness to experiment in order to achieve fuller expressions of complex emotions...
While the instrumentation on “Golden” very much lives up to the promise of its title, the song before it creates a much darker atmosphere. An electric guitar grates across the chorus of “Easy Ways” and roaring synths swell up and disappear like a craving for whatever easy ways the character in the song is running from. “It’s got a hold, it’s got a hold on you,” cries Miller over one crescendo, but we’re taken straight back into the relentless beat that came before that declaration. The words have no lasting effect on the mood of the song, and the listener is left with a twitching beat that builds to a point and then simply dies.
Both “Golden” and “Easy Ways” have an M83-esque, almost soundtrack feel to them. The music works with and against the open-ended lyrics, giving the songs a sonic fullness and complexity which offer a sharp portrait of a vital emotional life. In other places on the EP though, Future Unlimited don’t seem to quite achieve that same sense of unity.
“Into the Sun” and “The Coast,” the last two songs on the EP, simply aren’t as interesting as those before them. They both would be at home in that fantastical convertible mentioned earlier, but that message tires easily—you’d be skipping those tracks by the third or fourth play cycle. The chorus of “There’s a chill in the air, there’s a sparkle in the eye” and the relatively vanilla production, in comparison to the rest of the EP, do not give enough to the listener.
While those two songs indulge too much in hazy, chill wave vibe, it’s still hard not to be excited about Future Unlimited. The EP demonstrates a willingness to experiment in order to achieve fuller expressions of complex emotions, and that is to be applauded. ––Matt Conover
Stream and download the 'Future Unlimited' EP here.