Thom Bullitt – Nightrider 2021
In the words of Thom Bullitt, Nightrider 2021 is “inspired by my experiences with hallucinogens and late night speedruns” and it was “designed to imitate the mental changes that occur through a long night out on the town. Blending synths with hip hop I can honestly say this is my most unique and creative EP to date!”
Nightrider 2021 shows a true artist at work trying to break past boundaries and explore new territory.
I’ve been following Thom Bullitt ever since he released his EP, Roses, which was a unique sound in its own right. The blend of outback experiences and hip hop, country-style guitar with smacking beats—Bullitt has eluded genres since his beginnings, hybridizing and experimenting to create a sound and style all his own. The Cooler King and The Cooler King 2 added depth and layers to the sound that he introduced in Roses, and being the unique sound and style that Bullitt was carving, one would think that he would continue developing in that direction. Nightrider 2017, and now, Nightrider 2021, however, sharply turns into a completely different direction.
“Return of the Nightrider” opens the album with a spacey fade-in leading to a four-to-the-floor beat that lays the foundation for Thom Bullitt’s characteristic vocal sound that simply needs to be heard to be understood how it fits into a space all its own. Trying to describe Bullitt’s vocal sound is a great effort: it is rap, but has an off-pitch feel to it, as if he purposefully—yet very naturally—selects pitches different to the musical scales that drive together with him.
As the album’s lead track, “Sunset,” sets in, this becomes all the more evident—a recurring ostinato of vocal delivery expressing the feel of the lyrics perfectly, “riding into the sunset.” It is a mesmerizing and soothing experience that gives a true feeling of heading down a long road into the sunset, inviting the listener with Bullitt on a captivating trance-inducing entrance to a new dimension.
The music slows down in “City Lights” but Bullitt’s vocal delivery goes up a notch in energy, once again emphasizing Bullitt’s artistry, bringing something different each time to what you expect, yet making it sound natural and that it simply works. High-pitched backing vocals and samples of a car driving away are like cherries on the top of a track that continues the driving feel of all of Bullitt’s output, and the tempo of “City Lights” makes it fit authentically into the blend of the album at track three.
“Floating” begins with a mellow rising mild-synth-stab riff on delay that sets the scene for a truly floating track expressing the freedom of getting high into the thick of the night. The hook of “Floating” leaves a memorable mark, in its first appearance at the opening lyrical stage of the track, which leaves you thirsting for its successive return throughout: “Floating through the night with the wind in my hair, walking in the clouds, it’s a breath of fresh air, another pack of weed got my mind crystal clear, the night slowing down till the world disappear.”
“Midnight Rhymes 2” changes up the atmosphere of Nightrider 2021 with an epic and motivational feel. It is as if a reminiscence of the come-up as a rapper while driving high in the night with a friend. That friend is featured rapper, OchiTommy, who integrates into the song lyrically and in a call-and-response manner—a refreshingly upgraded approach to introducing a featured rapper on a track, that he lives as part of the track, and weaves in and out with Bullitt, and not like so many features where the featured rapper simply lays down their verse around the general theme of the track.
Although once again starting with delayed synth stabs and arpeggiated synth sequences, and still holding the characteristic driving feel that Bullitt holds consistently not only throughout this album, but throughout his output in general, “Battery Acid” still manages to successfully introduce a different emotional aspect. This time, optimism penetrates through more than anything else. Accompanied by a new kind of bassline that travels around the low-end up-and-down in octaves of four chords that cycle throughout, Bullitt describes a high feeling of being above everything in the midst of the night. Lots of seeming metaphors weave together lyrically, from the title, “Battery Acid” supposedly blending between high on acid as well as keeping with the recurring driving theme, and the driving themes of eyeing the long road ahead optimistically—it is very easy to relate to as looking forward to higher long-term goals that a person moves to. And those are just tastes of what could be interpreted from this gem.
Each track successfully gives a different feel while holding a common theme: the common elements of four-to-the-floor beats, delayed synths, and Bullitt’s consistency with lyrical themes, and the differences notably come from a distinctively different BPM in each time. Producers would be wise to take note of the BPM changes from track to track in order to learn how to change up an album so innately while maintaining a consistent integrity of theme. The album’s closing tracks “Highway” and “Sunrise” manage to continue this theme throughout the album. Also, by the time you reach the closing track, “Sunrise,” you start feeling how you just went through a whole night with Thom Bullitt, literally from dusk till dawn. And Bullitt continues an inspiring head-held-high approach at every stage of the journey, inviting the listener to join him.
By this stage, I feel exactly what Bullitt mentioned, that the album was “designed to imitate the mental changes that occur through a long night out on the town.” It truly succeeds to encapsulate that feel, musically, lyrically, and also structurally.
Stream Thom Bullitt – Nightrider 2021 on Spotify: open.spotify.com/album/4LQ8W03qGTPdSZlfkPaYhs
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