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Review: Rough Love not afraid to take risks that sometimes work, sometimes don’t

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Tyler Valley, also known as Rough Love, recently released all of his recent tracks to download for free on SoundCloud. Many of the tracks are remixes of popular hip hop and/or R&B songs, and he also has several originals in the collection, too.

Tyler Valley, aka Rough Love
Tyler Valley, aka Rough Love

Listening to these tracks, the first thing that comes to mind is a dreamlike state that many of the tracks seem to draw inspiration from. Secondly, the word I keep coming back to upon listening to these songs is “experimental.”

Rough Love mixes together sounds in ways that are sometimes interesting, sometimes aggravating, sometimes trippy, and sometimes humorous.

That’s aside from a few of the remixes that don’t stray too far from the source material, such as the track “Down Low Double Life” which is a techno take on R. Kelly’s “Down Low Double Life.”

With more than 6,000 listens, the “Down Low Double Life” remix is far and away his most played track.

I’d argue, though, that it’s his least personal one because of the light remixing involved. I feel that the success of that track in particular is less about Rough Love and more about R. Kelly.

Which, isn’t to meant to take away any of the freshness behind what Valley chose to do with it. He still had to make choices on how to remix it, how to adjust the layers and how to make it sound different in a noticeable way.

But, if you contrast that song with “Just Another Summer Night in Montana,” maybe my favorite of Rough Love’s, and you start to see a clearer picture of what Valley’s capable of doing creatively. This song is one of those rare tracks that seem to get better the more you listen to it.

Valley is at his strongest when he’s unleashing a whimsical, almost trance-like sound either over the vocals of such artists as Usher or D’Angelo, or simply with the instrumentals themselves.

In fact, his remix of Usher’s “U Got It Bad” had me laughing out loud.

If you can imagine Steve Harvey singing Usher with electro-techno beats behind it, that’s the level of absurdity he takes with this well-known love song.

Speaking of love, many of Rough Love’s tracks revolve around the idea of love and sex and the contentious strain between the two. Many of the remixes take the vocals and alter them in such a way to make them sound distant, alien or uncomfortable in some way.

It’s an interesting idea in that it’s almost like Valley is expressing the real-life difficulties of dealing with love and relationships through the way he stylizes his songs.

Of all the songs that live up to this idea of “Rough Love” it’s clearly “Please You.”

The entire track straddles the line between pain and pleasure. The first half of the song, with it’s dramatic beats and keyboard strikes, makes you uncomfortable, but soon eases into a sense of relief around 1 minute into the song, along with a woman’s voice repeating the phrase “I want you to come.”

What follows after that is an 80’s vibe with what seems like 20 sounds playing simultaneously in the background. Perhaps that’s the only thing that hurts the track — it’s got a bit too much going on. By the end it feels like you’ve just got done with a difficult workout and you need time to catch your breath.

But, that brings me to my next point — Valley, as a musician, is anything but safe. If there’s anything consistent throughout his catalogue, it’s that he’s willing to try many different things.

Picture a professor in his lab combining liquids that sometimes explode, sometimes change colors, and sometimes do nothing, and that, to me, is a good representation of what Rough Love is about.

If I were to offer any constructive criticism, I’d say that he could use a bit more focus on what he wants to achieve. What makes a successful song work is that it’s able to transmit one or two feelings or ideas. That delivery then plants a seed in the listener’s head that, upon further listens, sprouts into a growth that gets attached to things outside of the music.

For instance, when you hear a song like “Gangham Style,” you tend to remember where you were when you first heard it, or all the times you heard it in the club and danced like a fool in front of all of the attractive ladies wearing tight skirts and high heels, or something else that is personal to you and you alone.

Rough Love’s songs are close to achieving that kind of attachment, but as I said, they could use a bit more focus. Instead of trying four different solid concepts in a song, if he tried paring it down to two concepts, it’d make it easier for more people to attach themselves to the music.

That’s assuming, of course, that’s something he’s interested in doing.

Not every song has to hook the people listening to it. Some music can be strange or disturbing or both. Some music can be distant or, for the lack of a better word, rough.

And, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, can music be too experimental? Can a remix have too much noise and not enough “music,” if there’s such a thing?

How do you define music vs. noise?

Some of Rough Love’s tracks, to me, are hard to finish. Tracks such as “Iiyoshi, Kiyomi” or “Dreams.”

But, make no mistake. The tracks that do work, work well, which, when you’re throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks, is what you want to happen.

If that means there’s going to be six songs for every one song that leaves a dent in listeners’ consciousness, then the failures, to me, are worth it.

So, take a listen to Rough Love, but keep in mind that there are some tracks that go too far, do too much, or don’t go far enough with certain patterns, ideas or sounds.

The process of creating these tracks, though, makes me want to hear more from Valley, and makes me want to see what kinds of things he can achieve the more he keeps trying new things.

Not every hit can be a home run, but, as the cliche goes, you miss every pitch at which you never swing.

Rough Love isn’t afraid to swing, and sooner or later one of those hits could explode into something bigger than anyone could have ever imagined.

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