According to Webster, a rascal is a noun that by definition means a mean, unprincipled, or dishonest person. It’s quite commonly equated with children (most likely due to the influential United States television series and movie of the same name) and is at times spun to simply affiliate itself with a mischievous character. Despite it’s name, Iamamiwhoami’s “Rascal” shows anything but immaturity. Though it poetically articulates itself as one, the sonic perspective and deeper foundations paint a profoundly becoming protagonist, and a discerning outlook on preceding events.
The introductory segment in the song finds itself fading in what sounds like a field recording of some sort of body of water that’s EQ’d in with white noise. It’s a bit far back in the mix for the length of time it’s present, but the affect it plays overtime in the track greatly impacts and opens up the mix because of it’s ability to have a narrow frequency range that opens up a world of versatility for it’s potential throughout the duration of the song. It doesn’t seem to go away, but instead is replaced with an even louder form of itself that is compressed up with a slow attack and fast release time, in order to place a rising and falling dimension around it. You can hear this effect starting to take place at the start of the first verse and presses on, longing for fine-drawn attention through the rest of the measures. It also seems to be parallel compressed, with the kick sample being the trigger.
Three layers of instrumentation mantle themselves through the first few measures of “Rascal”. The most subtle of them is one that gives off a whirling effect and is slightly panned to the left channel, and lowly mixed to blend in with the bits of noise in the previous paragraph. Reverberation carries it and allows the stereo image to become a touch bit broader, as the outboard/plug-in used on it gives wet representation to the right channel.
The two other layers are the ones that rank a bit higher in the mix. More importance seems to be placed on the second layer that plays like an ambient siren. It contains an unforgiving stereo delay that’s lightly distorted and is the predominant signal of the track we’re about to unfold upon.
Once the kick drum, bass stab, and supportive percussive element play on the first downbeat, the seventh track from the project’s debut album Kin takes the form of a downtempo sensation that recalls the distinction of early Tricky records, but is clearly an Iamamiwhoami production because of it’s more aggressive mixing technique and strong use of equalization techniques to ensure each bit of the mix has it’s own frequency hollow. A quick stereo synthesizer is automated through the last two beats of the second measure and is paid close attention to by the mixing engineer, as it digs itself through the mix at various volumes and creates a humanistic depth to the mix that wouldn’t have been accomplished if it weren’t for this sort of approach to finding this element of the song fitting.
Panning plays an important part in “Rascal” in that the first few vocal harmonics hold a main focus on the right channel of the song, which allows for a rhythmic synthesizer to capture the focus of the left channel (though it’s not really all that panned), and the later background vocals to throw themselves to the opposite position of the stereo image where the original “hmm..” voices are placed. Throughout the first verse we hear this sort of open space technique to mixing present itself during the second background phrase in which Jonna Lee sings “leaving is what you do” through the left channel, while a rising, quick-synth drone fades in through the opposite side of the mix and a shooting-synth throws itself from the right side, quickly spacing itself out to the left as the chorus hits.
In the second verse, we hear bell synth play in the quieter sections of the song through the right channel, which causes a growing, melodic line in the measures after the bells demise that start on the left hand side of the mix and makes it’s way toward the other side as the rest of the verse goes on. It then explodes into one of the most important pieces to end the second verse and make way for another, brighter layer of instrumentation that appears during the second chorus of the song and if you’ve followed this complex session..you would’ve guessed that it outputs through the left speaker.
Needless to say, ebb and flow are important parts of this song and are massively used to bring different sections and sonics of “Rascal” together. It’s such a minimal song on the surface level, so these mixing techniques are used to completely engross the listener and use what’s available in terms of engineering techniques to present a better aural depiction of available mood.
There are two sections of this song that provide the most enticement. The first being the vocal samples that start and run through the breakdown of the song. It’s an extremely unexpected turn of events, as pitched, semi-vocated, and sampled Iamamiwhoami vowel pronunciations are thrown into the song to start off the song’s finale. Larger, whole note “ahh” supporting vocals are also thrown into this section of the track, which offers a legato feel while staccato elements are brought into play.
The other interesting part is something we haven’t heard in an Iamamiwhoami song yet. Jonna Lee confesses “I’m taking all, am I taking you all. I was the rascal taking all, am I taking you all?” and her vocals are not effected. Sure, there’s compression applied to provide cohesiveness, but she’s singing in a lower register and has no bells and whistles. It provides a raw, broken down feel to the comedown to the song.
Lyrically, it’s a self-grieving and questioning song that struggles with the notion of leaving bygones alone. It’s the second part of the last chorus that provides the most information, in which it states “Shut your eyes fast, it all goes blank. And channel the vision, feel the scent of someone who dares to lose it all. Someone who’s ready to take the fall for it.” It’s apparent that the songstress has been afflicted by a moment in her life and is having a conversation in which a confession of ambition lead to disappointment.
“Left this wound. Abandoned my ideals for what?” is the first line in the second verse, which is also an important part of the narrative, as it speaks of an individual who’s sacrificed moral standpoints for a goal not worth it.
Though, there’s a lot of different ways to interpret the song, signs again, point back to sociological standpoints of acceptance that have cemented themselves as a reoccurring theme through the Iamamiwhoami material thus far. The background lyrics vocalize this point completely with lines like “Leaving is what you do” and “Why do we just like you? ..Everyone just like you”.
Through it’s four minute and forty-six second run, it’s organized in a structurally standard process, but comes across as refreshing and vulnerable. “Rascal” proves to be another solid state within Iamamiwhoami’s Kin release.
Required reading: ForsakenOrder’s wonderful video analysis of this simple, but layered video.