Despite not technically being over, the COVID health crisis and all the mess that went with it is starting to feel like a distant memory. Festival season resumed in full force this summer, the surviving retailers, restaurants and clubs more or less got back to fully operational and people are attempting to pick up where they left off when the lockdowns started. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’ve seen the last of COVID-inspired art.
There are still loads of releases coming out that were either made during the height of the pandemic or are a reminder of its lingering effects. Or maybe, as is likely the case with Forbidden Society’s upcoming EP Dystopia which drops next Wednesday, August 31 on his Forbidden Society Recordings imprint, they are warnings that it could easily happen again.
Out this Friday, August 26, it’s nearly impossible to escape the now-familiar feeling of a post-apocalyptic world Forbidden Society creates with Dystopia. The track names alone are enough to conjure up those none-too-distant memories. “Distanced,” “Last Breath,” “Trapped?” Is he trying to give us all flashbacks? Fans can take heart, however, as the sounds on the afore-mentioned viscerally names tracks are not all scary and completely without hope. While the intros are generally pretty ominous, there’s a lighthearted minimalism to the beats in the opening two tracks.
In the title track, though there’s loads of desolate sound design and and the rolling sub synth has a definite warmth to it. “Distanced” also connotes a sort of empty feeling with its sound design, which is a sort of fog of quiet that settles over the largely liquid track. We all remember this feeling of being distanced, looking out onto empty cities and towns but seeing small glimmers of life in our neighbors’ windows as the world waited in its induced coma. There were points of light even then.
Forbidden Society has stuch more to drum & bass in Dystopia than in other recent releases, with even the non-D&B tracks being halftime and D&B-adjacent rather than 174 techno or one of his other more experimental machinations. “Trapped” and “0606” are still plenty experimental, however, and plenty on-theme for Dystopia. “Trapped” is almost a performance piece of the psychology of feeling trapped. Chaotic, full of tension and industrial-inspired, it’s yet again another track many can relate to when the lockdowns got to be too much. “0606,” meanwhile, brings a good dose of FS’s characteristic dark bass as it closes out the EP.
One last track and the bridge between the D&B and 140 halves of Dystopia is our YEDM premiere, “Last Breath.” No guessing needed for what this one’s likely about. An homage to those who lost their lives in the pandemic or still have breathing problems post-COVID, “Last Breath” is also a message to those of us who survived: appreciate your life. And your lungs. Technically, this is where the heavily syncopated steel drum-style drums are introduced and become a theme for this EP and stylistically where, through the minimal beat structure, D&B and halftime meet.
If it was indeed Forbidden Society’s intent to give us the journey of COVID in musical form with Dystopia, he’s done a bang-up job. From the progression of hope and rest that comes with the beginning tracks to the full physical toll hitting us in the middle to the frustration and madness that came as it all dragged on a bit too long. At one point or another, most people equated the pandemic with apocalypse, and in the middle it certainly did feel like that was where the planet was headed. Seemingly clear of global catastrophe for now, artistic works like Dystopia aren’t just a reminder of recent events and a way to process those feelings, but a secondary reminder of how quickly it could happen again. Here’s hoping we make the most of it.