Over the course of the past year, Charlotte-based duo Clicks & Whistles has charted an interesting trajectory. The pair's debut single, "Cranberry Goose," made a splash on Distal's Embassy label with its infectious combination of vintage videogame melodies and Southern rap-indebted beats. Followed by some quality remixes and the announcement that Clicks & Whistles would be joining the impressive artist roster of Kingdom's Fade to Mind label, the producers appeared poised to become one of the US' breakout bass-music acts. Then, things started to get a little weird.
Last autumn saw the release of the "Neva Get Caught" b/w "Raw Passion" single on T&A, an imprint that has made its name largely on third-wave Baltimore club, hip-hop-influenced electro, and, more recently, moombahton. While the EP's original tunes were solid, T&A isn't exactly the first label that comes to mind when it comes to forward sounds, particularly those influenced by the current UK bass spectrum, and that showed in the EP's puzzling selection of remixers. (That being said, the Starks & Nacey rework remains incredibly solid.)
Now, Clicks & Whistles is offering the Can't Believe EP, a three-song release on the even-more-confusing Party Like Us, a label headed up by Trouble & Bass cohort AC Slater. On the bright side, there are no questionable remixes to be found, as Can't Believe contains only original Clicks & Whistles material. Unfortunately though, it is a far cry from the duo's best work. The EP's press materials cite similarities to artists such as Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, and Girl Unit, but the Can't Believe EP simply can't match those producers' inventive output.
"Can't Believe" kicks off the release with lots of crunchy, distorted bass, some twinkling synths, and a chipmunked R&B vocal snippet. It's a passable effort, but wears its influences so brazenly that it ultimately sounds like a knockoff. The same goes for "Relief" with its stabby, HudMo-esque bassline. Sound quality isn't a problem here, as the wistful synth melodies and snappy drums all work as intended. What's holding these songs back is a lack of inspiration, which is unfortunate when the duo has previously shown such promise. The EP's best track is the closing number, "Saved," which utilizes some bombastic synth melodies that wouldn't be out of place in a early-'00s trance anthem and lays them over some nicely popping percussion.
Only time will tell if the Can't Believe EP is a sign of things to come, or simply a subpar aberration from an outfit that is normally pretty solid. One could theorize that Clicks & Whistles purposefully chose to cull together a few of its more mediocre productions, knowing that its core audience doesn't consider Party Like Us a premiere outpost. Regardless of what happened, the Can't Believe EP is a disappointment. Moving forward, the duo would be well served to choose more carefully, both in terms of labels and song selection.