Wave Racer’s early ascent could be summarised as fervent activity followed by silence. In 2013, the Sydney future bass producer known as Tom Purcell became hot property in EDM after uploading ‘Rock U Tonite’ and ‘Stoopid’ – bouncy bangers with phosphorous synths and basslines inspired by ’90s video game aesthetics – to SoundCloud. He went on to tour extensively, remix Snakehips’ mega-hit ‘All My Friends’, and drop the 2015 ‘Flash Drive’ EP on Future Classic. Then he vanished, Jai Paul-style.
Purcell eventually re-emerged with 2019’s hyperpop ‘AUTO’ – reminiscent of his pal Porter Robinson, all ravey beats and idiosyncratically spiky guitar. Closer listen to the android vocals reveal a darker subtext, Purcell quasi-rapping about battling industry pressures: “Counterfeit / Make a hit / Yeah, automatic bass drum / This is fun / Yeah, supersonic / Feeling this / It’s a hit.”
The song appears on the first Wave Racer full-length, ‘To Stop From Falling Off The Earth’. Purcell picks up where ‘AUTO’ left off and delivers a meta-commentary on accelerated fame and its attendant pressures, external and internal – not necessarily the most typical subject matter for a debut. In the wonky opener ‘All That I Can Do’, with his voice pitched down, he laments, “There’s something irresistible / About pretending that we’re miserable / ’Cause when everything is visible / That’s how to be an individual / Is it socially acceptable / For a petrified millennial / to be completely un-relatable?”
- READ MORE: Wave Racer: “I had to destroy that barrier I was used to hiding behind as an electronic musician”
Purcell hasn’t recorded an archetypal DJ/producer album, stashed with buzzy guests. On this album of disarming glitch ’n’ guitar, he’s the sole vocalist, musician and producer, focusing on songs over tracks and a broader sonic horizon. He revels in an apparent nostalgia for MTV synth-rock and ’90s pop-punk, delivering punchy melodies, flashing keys and prominent guitar – see the ballad ‘Tell Me The News’ and the instrumental ‘What Are We Waiting For?’.
‘To Stop From Falling Off The Earth’ marks Purcell’s first time writing lyrics, and he’s gone for a transparent and sincere approach. The album charts his experiences with doubt, anxiety and seclusion, in an era when, following Avicii’s shock passing in 2018, mental health is no longer a taboo subject in dance music. Purcell expresses emotional depth, but retains that old whimsy and exuberance. His outlook is proactive and optimistic. The pulsating ‘Look Up To Yourself’ is a hooky incantation against destructive hyper-perfectionism: “Maybe I’m the reason / That I find myself dissatisfied / With every aspect of my life / and I’m just waiting for the perfect time.”
Other songs, albeit less original, capture the aftermath of a broken relationship. ‘Left Behind’ is especially raw, only Purcell isn’t about castigating, but catharsis: “’Cause you cut me open / Tore me up and you left me broken / Yeah, you kicked me out / Took me down, six feet underground / And I’m tryna get back all the pieces of my mind that I left behind.”
With its modishly hybridised production, ‘To Stop From Falling Off The Earth’ can be read as a strategic manoeuvre that gives Wave Racer opportunities to cross over, like Alison Wonderland or The Kite String Tangle. But, ultimately, the album succeeds because of its humanity, and how it transforms private tribulations into empowering pop that fosters connection in a time of isolation.
- Release date: October 29
- Record label: Astral People Recordings/[PIAS]