In Early April, throngs of neon clad young people poured into the Roseland Theater in preparation for a night of chest-rattling bass music.
Snails is a Montreal based producer and DJ who has reached critical acclaim through pioneering a new sub genre of bass music which he calls: “Vomitstep.”
Vomitstep is a play off of the name dubstep, but he calls it vomitstep for the the signature descending synthesizer wobbles that when hummed, sound like someone projectile vomiting. He combines these guttural growls with massive hip hop rhythms, squelchy bass lines, and off kilter synthesizer leads.
Snails first gained his fame by being one of the earliest artists to write electronic trap music in 2012. His sound was always fresh, but his early tracks were much more mainstream electronic.
With each successive release, however, his sound has grown darker and weirder. And with each step in his own direction, he has gained more and more support from some of the industry’s biggest names.
Do Androids Dance, an electronic music blog and tastemaking collective from Brooklyn, said:
“Snails has a style of his own, flexes synth work that most people can’t even begin to duplicate.”
Snails is signed to Skrillex’s record label, OWSLA, and has carved out a niche in the electronic music community with his Vomitstep. His unique sound has brought him to all of the world’s biggest festivals.
Furthermore, one of the biggest electronic music blogs, This Song is Sick, which started in Denver, Colorado in 2010 and tracked the rise of American dubstep, said: “The attention gained support from the likes of Kill the Noise, Adventure Club, Datsik, Flux Pavilion, DJ Snake, and others since the initial debut leading up to today’s delivery.”
At his Portland show, Snails began by playing a VIP version (a VIP is when an artist retouches their own work for a live performance) of one of his biggest tracks: “King is Back.” Snails’ live version began to build in the normal way, but instead of dropping to a slow and heavy hip hop rhythm, it dropped to a blisteringly fast double time explosion of bass and harsh synthesizer screeches.
The next ninety minutes was purely unrelenting thick bass music. Many artists who specialize in aggressive music will hold off on the bass for a few minutes to create melodic breaks in their sets, allowing their audiences to recharge. Not Snails. Each track was increasingly brutal and the bass only stopped for short periods of buildup before another torrential downpour of low end energy. For the most part, he played his own slow Vomitstep and mixed in songs from the Riddm, Brostep, and Trapstep subgenres.
To get the crowd hyped, Snails would play hits from some of the biggest names in bass music such as LOUDPVCK, Megalodon, 12th Planet, and Getter. Occasionally he would mix in vocals from pop songs such as “Shots” by LMFAO, and “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics to increase the crowd’s energy.
The members of the crowd itself were dedicated, hardworking, and passionate in their wildly fast-paced dancing. The concert hall was packed tight, and everyone present either knew the music, or were excited about discovering it.
The center of the dance floor was not for the faint of heart. The dancing would frequently devolve to mosh-pits where a sweaty scrum would push each other as hard as possible during the violent bass drops. Over the course of the night, the weak and the calm were weeded out from the center until it was purely diehard fans who were content to rage the night away.
Throughout his show, his visuals portrayed a loose narrative of an army of snails rising up and destroying the world using vomit as a weapon. As he started his show, his visuals displayed a highly edited video sequence reminiscent of “Godzilla” with a crowded city in panic as vomit was unleashed and flooded down the streets. Another popular sequence was animated snails attacking world monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Washington Monument, and more with vomit and slime.
It is hard to tell whether Snails will attempt to start a vomit revolution, but if he does, there are many in Portland who would join his cause.