Attack’s dance music theory guru Oliver Curry breaks down one of the biggest underground house hits of the year to figure out what makes it tick.

The Breakdown is a series in which we deconstruct well-known tracks, showing what makes them so effective. Unlike our Passing Notes series, the emphasis isn’t on practical tips. We’re not trying to show you how to copy these tracks, but simply examining them to find out what makes them so special.

This time around we’re looking at Julio Bashmore’s ‘Au Seve’ – a flexing, bass-heavy roller of an underground house track which has been virtually inescapable throughout 2012.

Call and Response

One of the most immediately recognisable features of ‘Au Seve’ is the call and response structure employed in the riffs.

Call and response is a technique employed in many genres of music, perhaps most noticeably gospel. For a great example of how it usually works, check out Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s fantastic version of ‘Down By The Riverside’, in which the choir responds at the end of each of Tharpe’s phrases:

The similarities between Sister Rosetta and Julio Bashmore may not be immediately obvious, but things become a bit clearer when we consider what’s going on with the main bass part in ‘Au Seve’. Call and response describes a song structure where non-overlapping phrases alternate with each other. Traditionally this usually meant two instruments trading melodies, but in electronic music the definition is slightly looser. Call and response in dance music can mean alternating between different synth sounds, different processing effects (such as one clean phrase then one distorted) or even just different styles of playing (staccato then legato, for example).

We can quite clearly break ‘Au Seve”s bassline down and think of it as two distinct sections. The first is the ‘call’ (click the images to enlarge):

Which sounds like this:

And the second is the ‘response’, which operates in a higher octave and plays a slightly busier pattern, especially at the end of the four bar section:

Put them together and they sound like this:

Note that the descending synth melody only plays at the same time as the call part of the bassline. As such, it could also be seen as part of the call and response.

Call and response is one of the most simple structural techniques to employ, but it can be hugely effective. ‘Au Seve’ perfectly demonstrates how it can add movement and continuity to dance music.

29th November, 2012


  • The main man’s back… Another great column that’s inspired tonight’s studio time 🙂 (Not that I’ll get *quite* this level of quality!)

  • This is great. I love this column.

  • Another amazing tutorial!! Sick track

  • Fantastic article, as always from Attack, but I heard this again only a few weeks ago and and realised another reason why it was such a massive tune – the production sounds amazing outside.

    I doubt this was intentional but if you think of all the festivals, carnivals, boat parties and clubs in the world with outdoor terraces, just how much music is actually consumed this way, then something that bites through that sweet spot is going to be huge.

    Probably not the practical piece of advice for most producers but if you want to write next summers hit, test your mixdowns and masters in a field on a Funktion 1.

  • very nice! 🙂

  • great article!

  • A great breakdown of a great track. Could anyone point me in the right direction of a similar synth that produces that round bass sound?

  • Cylon, give TAL U-NO-LX a try – you should be able to get pretty close.

  • How do you set your settings in tal … i tried allot of patches and tweaking but didnt get the layerd bass pulse sound.

  • Yes what Jack said. I tried some pwm and pitch on the envelop to try and get it to punch the same as your bass sound. I have ended with poor results. Am stumped. :/

  • I’ve listened to this song a million times, and have noticed a lot of what was said in this breakdown, but this really explains. Great work.

  • The bass synth is accompanied by a relatively quiet parallel compound major 3rd sine, which is, for me, the main reason why the phryggian return to the tonic at the end of the bassline riff is so quality – it lets this harmony sing out of the accompanying 4th, resolving to major 3rd – in contrast to the darker minor harmonies that preceed it. This is similar to the ‘tierce de picardie’ that is used at important cadences in renaissance music.

  • Thank you David Mountain for adding to this thread. It’s what I love about this site: like minded music lovers coming together to share (and best of all, expand) knowledge. And maybe one day I wil make a track like this too.

  • Hey David,

    Great observation, I suppose the harmony you noticed of the 4th (B) over the flat 2 (G) on the bass, together with the minor 3rd (A) in the synth, would perhaps then very subtly suggest a G major 9 chord then resolving to the F sharp major. Great stuff!

    Cheers for sharing!


  • You’re very welcome!

    Yes I just worked out that the particular note I’m on about is the A sharp in the F sharp major chord (not present throughout the song), which is then followed soon after by a conflicting but effective A (natural) in the vocal part in a lot of the track, all adding to the fluidity of the transitions between 8 bar sections in general I’d say.


  • amazing

  • Wow
    I am a happy person tonight that I have found this mag.
    Every article I have read so far has been Wicked.

    I love this music theory stuff. Ever learning.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Hi David, I am very curious to know what you used for the bass synth sounds? I would also love to pick your brain about other call and response techniques. I have been a huge fan of speed garage and two step for ever and I always feel like I can’t figure out how to use the call and response properly. I start to wonder if it’s because I’m American or something lol. I have so many examples to share and I listen over and over yet I still for some reason can’t figure it out and it’s driving me mad. Thanks! Aaron

  • Decent example of call and response between the orchestral strings and bass on The Steppenwolf by Epoch:


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