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The dubstep/trance chameleon

Californian producer Jeff Montalvo, aka Seven Lions, has merged trance sonics with dubstep beats 'n' drops to forge his own deadly, big room subjugating sound — and he's poised to roar into the upper echelons of dance royalty in 2013...

In the valley of the dance producer, words like “hybridization” and “cross genre pollination” are king.TYran For Jeff Montalvo, such phrasings ring far truer than most. To box-and-ship the 25-year-old Californian’s sound as dubstep would be as much a disservice as a misnomer. Trance-step, prog-step and glitch-hop — likewise, all significant oversimplifications.

Montalvo took to his debut production (and breakout moment) with the type of producer-sans-frontières mindset that marked the early studio-ware of Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Afrojack. With his top-to-bottom reimagining of Above & Beyond’s ‘You Got To Go’, he drew as much from the chill-out, breakbeat and trance quarters as he did from dubstep. That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air at one time. But juggle them with absolute precision he did, arriving with something as innate and uncontrived as it was intuitive and downright danceable. 

The genesis point for this fresh-minded studio perspective came courtesy of a distinctly non-dance upbringing. With punk and metal bands lighting the way throughout his school years, Jeff didn’t see the inside of a mix-comp cover or nightclub until 2007. Reference-wise, that counted out the first 20-odd chapters of dance music’s ‘manual’, which, when you think about it, is an intriguingly uncluttered standpoint to produce from. 

Last spring’s arrival of the ‘Days To Come’ and ‘Polarize EPs’ saw a sea change again.

Never being a slave to dubstep, he used it as an often-present element as opposed to a foundation. Drum patterns morphed from 4/4 to two-step and back, all in the space of five minutes. Spawning a Zane Lowe Hottest Track In The World with vocal collaboratrix Shaz Sparks, ‘Below Us’ from ‘Polarize’ ensured no further convincing was necessary. Trance music’s upper echelon came knocking… and then hammering. This skewed Seven Lions’ stylistic barometer once again. Alternating buzz-sawing-ing dubstep devices with rug-pull ambient sequences, synth-trance and keenly crafted melodics, Paul van Dyk, Tritonal, A&B (again) and others became beneficiaries of some very, very different remixes.

As for Seven Lions’ immediate future ― know this: if a workable pigeonhole for his music is ever successfully coined, likely Jeff Montalvo will have already recorded something to undermine it. Stay safe and file under “dance”.