The Glitch Mob
“If our last album was introverted, then the new one is definitely extroverted ,” Justin Boreta explains of one of 2014’s most anticipated electronic-music albums: The Glitch Mob’s Love Death Immortality, to be released February 11, 2014. Boreta represents one -third of The Glitch Mob’s core members, alongside Ed Ma (aka edIT) and Joshua Mayer (aka Ooah). Together, this supergroup trio of instrumentalist/producers have in Love Death Immortality created the ideal follow-up to The Glitch Mob’s 2010 debut full-length LP, Drink The Sea. That album proved the group’s breakout: Drink The Sea spent numerous weeks atop the iTunes’ Electronic chart – and still remains in its top 10, nearly three years since its release. Put out completely independently on the group’s own Glass Air imprint (which will also handle Love Death Immortality), Drink The Sea would go on to sell over 80,000 copies and counting.
In the wake of the success of Drink The Sea and its 2011 follow-up EP We Can Make The World Stop , the group propelled to the upper echelon of dance-music touring acts. In addition to key spots on major-festival lineups spanning Coachella and Lollapalooza to Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra, The Glitch Mob also headlined their own major tours across the U.S., Europe, and Australia – selling out prestigious venues ranging from New York’s Terminal 5 to Colorado’s legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It was that experience on the road that led to the bold, inviting approach infusing The Glitch Mob’s new material. “Drink The Sea was a personal, introspective, headphone-listening experience, whereas we wanted our second album to be a record made to be played live,” Ma notes. “After touring for two years, we learned what worked best on stage. It’s our same sensibility, but designed to bang on a festival sound system in front of 50,000 people.” “We spent a couple years soaking up the fans’ reaction to our live show, and Love Death Immortality is what came out of that,” Boreta adds. “It’s not so much different as it is a sequel exploring new characters and narratives. Where Drink… was more our personal journey, this one is more inclusive and universal, telling the story of the collective Glitch Mob experience.”
Indeed, that experience has found The Glitch Mob and its devoted, passionate fanbase moving from underground club parties like Los Angeles’ famed Low End Theory alongside Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing to stadiums and major festivals – in the process becoming what Chris Martins of the LA Weekly called “[the act] that undoubtedly found the largest audience of any L.A. beat scene artist yet.” Initially coming together in 2006, The Glitch Mob forged a unique sound transcending EDM trends and genres, “pairing the richness and headiness of the best dance music with the head- nodding backbeats of hip-hop,” as The Los Angeles Times noted. After a series of acclaimed remixes and mixtapes (“Grab the Crush Mode mixtape…. One of the first things to really get my blood going,” raved New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones), The Glitch Mob redefined their sound anew on Drink The Sea, merging live instruments, psychedelic textures, and expansive arrangements into an intimate yet epic widescreen vision.
After that success – which, in addition to sold-out shows and impressive album sales, resulted in ubiquitous song placements spanning GoPro Cameras to Captain America, and beyond – The Glitch Mob went into artistic hibernation, occasionally emerging to experiment with new songs and styles on official remixes for the likes of Daft Punk, TV on the Radio, The Prodigy, and Bassnectar. Work on what would become Love Death Immortality began in earnest, however, during a month-long songwriting pilgrimage to Joshua Tree, California, where the group made field recordings of desert ambience and cranked out the blueprints for nearly 50 songs. “In Joshua Tree, we wanted to explore new territory,” Boreta says. “In the end, we sorted through all the sketches we’d done and rebooted our sound.”
Despite its fresh approaches, Love Death Immortality remains pure Glitch Mob in its essence. That’s clear from the album’s first single, “Can’t Kill Us” – which combines loping, 75 bpm breakbeat crunch and a speaker-shredding bass throb with rock swagger. “‘Can’t Kill Us’ represents the classic Glitch Mob style,” Mayer says. “Of all the new songs, it’s the connective tissue to our earlier material.” “It’s the perfect bridge from our past to now,” Boreta adds. “You can tell it’s still us, but it prepares you for what’s about to happen.” Other signature touches include the use of live instruments – from the distorted guitar feedback that launches the album’s epic opening statement “Mind of a Beast” (“Just pure attitude,” says Ma) to the floating Rhodes keys percolating through the coda of the soaring, cinematic “Skytoucher.” “Using real guitars, pianos, and horns humanizes things a bit,” Ma says. “Texturally, it’s what makes what we do trademark Glitch Mob – a nice juxtaposition to the face-melt aggression.”
The signature instrumental motif of Love Death Immortality ultimately proves to be what Ma calls the “glory lead”: bold, screaming synth lines that generate infectious hooks straightaway. “The majority of the songs have this keyboard – created melody right upfront in the mix,” Ma says. “They create an element you want to hum and sing straight away.” Where Love Death Immortality really breaks ground, though, is its embrace from jump of rhythms and tempos new to the Glitch Mob sonic arsenal. As such, “Mind of a Beast” erupts from a surprising 140 bpm drum-and-bass break into a slamming half – beat grind. “The song does a total 180,” Mayer says. “Right off the bat, that strong contrast let’s the listener know not to get too comfortable.” Elsewhere, tracks like “Skullclub” – which Ma calls “our ode to Daft Punk,” with its pulsing sidechained synths and vocoders – and “Carry The Sun,” experiment with 4/4 cadences; meanwhile, “I Need My Memory Back” and “Fly By Night Only” incorporate fully mirror-balled disco funk. “‘Yacht Sex’ was actually the working title for ‘Fly By Night Only’ – that’s kind of the vibe,” laughs Boreta of the song featuring seductive vocals from upcoming artist Yaarrohs. “We wanted to explore something a little more fun and soulful amidst all the serious intensity. Contrasting that with something more sexy keeps everything from going full testosterone.”
That balance is clear from the album’s featured vocal collaborators, all of whom are female – a decidedly purposeful choice. “When the music gets really aggressive, that injection of female sensibility provides a crucial balance,” Ma says. “Becoming Harmonious,” for example, flaunts the eerie tones of Bay Area avant-darkwave chanteuse Metal Mother. “She’s got the whole weird, Oakland Goth-psych thing on lockdown,” Ma says. “What she did on that song is both evil and angelic at the same time; it plays with your head.” Album closer “Beauty of the Unhidden Heart,” meanwhile, forges connective tissue to the vintage downtempo feel of Drink The Sea favorite “Between Two Points,” highlighting the dreamy, ethereal voice of Terra Lopez of Pitchfork favorites Sister Crayon. The most significant collaboration on Love Death Immortality, though, comes from Aja Volkman of L.A./Las Vegas rockers Nico Vega, who appears on both the alluring dancefloor filler “I Need My Memory Back” and the driving uptempo anthem “Our Demons” (for which she recorded initial vocals on the tour bus while Nico Vega was on the road opening for her husband Dan Reynolds’ band, Imagine Dragons). “Aja’s singing is so raw, gritty, and powerful,” says Ma. “She doesn’t have a traditional EDM voice, which we loved.”
In an era of disposable dance-music singles, Love Death Immortality is, like Drink The Sea, created with the intent to flow as an album – one designed to be listened to from start to finish, taking the listener on an aural voyage in the process. However, it’s clear from the songs’ dynamism that The Glitch Mob is itching to take Love Death Immortality to its natural home on the stage, in all its crowd-pleasing glory. That’s exactly what’s going to happen when The Glitch Mob kick off their biggest tour yet in March 2014: accompanied by massive production from Martin Phillips of Bionic League – who’s developed staggering concert visuals for the likes of Daft Punk, Kanye West, and Deadmau5 – expect the Mob to dominate festivals and large venues well throughout the new year. “We’re taking a more hands-on approach to the live show this time around,” says Ma. “The whole experience is going to be personally curated by us. We’re designing really cool video -interaction apps to integrate the experience, really letting the audience in on what we’re doing onstage.”
That immersive approach – combining massive technological scale with deeply emotive themes of redemption and triumph – expresses the overriding Glitch Mob philosophy that permeates Love Death Immortality. “It’s in the title – everyone is touched by love and loss,” Boreta says. “What we do is personal, but meant to be shared by our community. We want to take people somewhere else, beyond their everyday experience. People have written us to say how our music helped them get through the death of a loved one; a soldier in Afghanistan sent us an email saying he was considering suicide, but our music turned him around. That really touches us, and informs everything we do.” “You know when you get a new Glitch Mob record, or go to one of our shows, it’s not going to be the standard fare,” Ma adds. “You’re going to get transported to another world. We work hard to take the listener to a different place that’s all our own.”