Electronic/instrumental artist James Freeman may be relatively new to releases, but he’s already released an impressive number of releases since founding the “flexible musical entity” that is Gem FM. Since 2021, he has released four full albums and a handful of singles under the moniker. With a base in blues guitar and a ratatat-like the compositional style of analog and digital sound fusion, new sound Supersonic Detonation album shows him stepping up the electronic aspect of his style, with some interesting results.
During the production of the new album, my studio monitoring situation received a major technical upgrade. This has helped me enormously in refining my engineering and mastering efforts. I think Sonic Boom represents my best work to date when it comes to my mixing and engineering. That said, I recognize that there will always be room for improvement.
This update not only results in improved electronic production quality of work on Supersonic Detonation but in the creativity of songwriting and incorporating more dance elements than previous Gem FM works. This album goes far beyond a beat paired with a guitar, and Freeman says what was originally meant to be an EP has turned into a full, vintage-inspired concept album. 808 styling and EDM.
With titles like “SwagR”, “4banger” and “Slide on Down”, Freeman has certainly understood the EDM lingo. Listeners expecting some sort of punishing dubstep beat will need to expand their ideas of a “banger” soon enough, as we’re still very much in fusion territory. The electronic composition on most tracks, although much more prevalent than in previous iterations of Gem FM’s sound, is still there largely to showcase the instrumentals.
On “4banger,” for example, an 80s-style synthpop beat and new wave haromines serve as the basis for a floating panpipe line that flits across the staff, also accentuated by electronic manipulation. “Serrated”, meanwhile, has a kind of tropical rhythm with a digital synth of a sitar, played like a classic Beethoven piano and closer album “Slide on Down” has a kind of Zappa-like chaos that captures a great sense of musical play. Talk about merger.
Supersonic Detonation is the first album that doesn’t feature Freeman’s signature blues guitar in a meaningful way, and it shows that the artist is stepping out of his comfort zone. With this album, it’s clear that Freemand as Gem FM is ready to experiment even more with sounds, and given the diversity of their work already, “flexible musical entity” is indeed the right descriptor for this project.