Cover Photo by DV Photo Video
French-Canadian producer and DJ, Snails, has been steadily climbing his way up to the EDM mountaintop over the last couple years. Getting his start in 2012 on Canada’s Kannibalen Records, he’s now landed work on Skrillex’sOwsla record label, and has released collaborations with Herobust, Big Gigantic, and Jack Ü. Snails’ personal brand of grimy, reverberating bass music, which he refers to as #VomitStep, has struck a chord with young audiences. His fans turned out with force at his sold out show last Friday at Terminal West.
One half of local dubstep duo Mantis provided support with an energetic set that I’m sure we will see headlining more shows soon. Following a recent trend I’ve seen coming from other locals like Ra, Mantis played a good amount of metal and hardcore mixed in among the dubstep. It’s so interesting to see electronic music returning to its roots in funk, soul, and rock & roll. I think we might be on the edge of another wave of heavy metal, but with digital instruments this time. As a sign of the times, Mantis is also the first DJ I’ve seen vaping on stage at a show of this scale.
During Mantis’ set, the flood lights and a few spots were already showing off quite an impressive show. Terminal West always does well on lighting production, even for openers, but the techs were giving Mantis a backdrop worthy of most headliners. The crowd filled in early and it felt like the main event, even as I arrived and grabbed some food at Stationside. When Snails took the stage, however, things escalated to a whole new level as a massive video wall came to life and previously obscure spot lights and strobes came into play. Custom visuals have become a mainstay of any touring DJs setup. Even though Snails’ video display wasn’t linked to the audio in any way, the green slime and bright pinks of the 3D renderings in his videos helped reinforce the #VomitStep brand identity, and were actually pretty funny at a few points.
Snails is definitely a dubstep guy, but his style is so unique. The basslines have an almost brassy quality to them that makes them sound more like horns than traditional dubstep synths. The songs he plays follow these same sort of qualities, so a very interesting thing happens at a Snails show. He’s such a technically strong DJ, that he managed to flow drop into drop with almost no breaks in between. It’s reminiscent of Excision’s precision, but rather than the songs being metallic headbangers, they are wobblier and bouncier. Excision is born of the Metal. Snails seems made of softer stuff, and he was able to keep a real dance floor going, breaking into future house and drum & bass for a few moments here and there without anything seeming out of place.
Just because he plays groovier tunes, shouldn’t make you think he doesn’t go hard. I saw the largest mosh pit I’ve ever witnessed at Terminal West. Instead of causing anyone to get angry or hurt, it was more like the entire crowd got to blow off steam for a few minutes and the dance floor came back together even happier than before. Interestingly, Snails' biggest collaboration to date has been with Big Gigantic, allowing to him to branch out into the broader music community beyond dubstep. I personally am not a huge fan of his music, though I do enjoy it. I respect any young producer that makes moves by being able to work with diverse artists across genres while still maintaining a consistent and unique sound.
I first saw Snails perform at TomorrowWorld 2014, where he played a daytime set on a side stage. Even then though, I heard people talking about him the whole weekend, and he’s clearly caught onto something special by somehow managing to make Dubstep more about the fun of dancing than about melting faces. The crowd at Friday’s show was exuberant and friendly, and even the lesser dubstep fans I talked to still had a great time. In an age of micro-genre chasing and a dubstep scene that often forgets that it’s a subset of dance music, that’s worth something. A Snails show is authentic and refreshing. His hair is a mess, but his mixing is clean. He doesn’t seem like he’s trying to hard to make anybody love him, but dancing to his music, I felt like he cared that we were all having a good time.