Electronic, Reviews

Escapism III EP | Sam Gellaitry

In 2015, a still young Sam Gellaitry nicked a calculated ambient stream of strings, synth, and other instruments with hard hitting trap on debut EP, Short Stories. It was immediately followed by the first of a series of three Escapism EPs, all numerically progressed. Escapism III, the latest and final collection in the trilogy, harnesses the construction of the Scottish producer’s past installments and takes them to an explosive victory. However, III links more directly to I than it does with II, in part because II stripped away much of the hard hitting trap beats for a more subdued outlook. That return to early stages bodes better for the final product, as it sounds more confident and pushes the trap ambient fusion on a more complex and festival-friendly plane.

Jungle Waters” was thoroughly discussed via one of the first Monster Bunker episodes, where it was given so-so reviews and had sounds picked apart by the sand guzzling Ellis (inside podcast joke). Upon hearing it again, this time within context, the repeated violin crescendo brightly opens the EP over a cinematic landscape where weird frogs yelp and trap heightens the dense atmospheric layering. The fusion of ambiance and dance put the dueling roles in effortless encapsulation, working oddly well together.

Midnight Racer” is exactly what we hear–a bright lullaby of synth evokes a starry night and surges as if inside an engine. It then combusts into faster pops and loops of sonic electronic elements, collapsing dramatically through embeds of vocal distortion and previews of the next track–“Acres.” It is by far the strongest and possibly the most intricate track on the EP.

The aforementioned “Acres” solidly prologues what “Midnight Racer” touched upon in the end. Sam Gellaitry pushes the soothing vocals to the forefront alongside some sappy piano and guitar for a more romantic design.

Escapism III borrows many points from the previous EPs and mutates them to fit Gellaitry’s maturity. There’s a sense of polish surrounding the experimentation that wasn’t sought after in preceding works. It’s that roughness that got him to think differently. But you can slowly begin to hear a much firmer (and confident) grasp over the amalgamation he introduced two years ago.

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Electronic, Reviews

Good Evening | Deorro

It was in 2014 when Deorro released “Five Hours,” a 5 minute speed-changing rotor blade of memorizing synth and distortion. Ever since, random SoundCloud uploads and a curious unofficial EP ensued. Good Evening is the first time the Panda Funk maestro placed his work above more serious ground, or through the lens of an actual concept. Erick Orrosquieta‘s intention to include past material, including a version of “Five Hours,” could’ve backfired if it wasn’t for strategically placed interludes and like-minded originals. The key was to take the eclectic route, that way all past material created without the album in mind can easily fit within the bounds of a not-so rigid narrative. In actuality, the free-flowing setting (a concert hall or decadent black tie gala) was what established flexibility. However, Erick’s lack of big picture editing kept the debut from becoming an instant classic.

The beginning and ending interludes (“Good To See You” and “Pause“) clearly establish a show of sorts. A smattering of applause or cheering is generously embedded within both of them. “Pause” is not even a track but just applause that slowly fades out until we’re left with complete silence lasting longer than a minute. In the case of the title, it acts as an ending but it really is a deliberate pause to clear the air for a so-called encore.

The final two alleged tracks, “Bailar” featuring Elvis Crespo and “Five More Hours” featuring Chris Brown, are the most popular among fans as they were promoted outside the SoundCloud realm. Yet, they don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the album despite Erick’s eclectic proclivities, suggesting that their addition is for the sake of familiarity and housing (since they weren’t released in a previous EP or LP). Also, they’re not the originals which clearly confirms the two tracks as mere lure. The radio edit for “Bailar” is used instead of the extended version–which is much better and includes more lines from Crespo. “Five More Hours” is terrible, and does not contain the abrasiveness and uniqueness found in the original–the very version that carries Deorro’s name to this day.

It’s not easy to pick only a few tracks from this jukebox monster. Previously released “Goin Up” featuring DyCy and “Butt Naked” are infectious; and the new “Bomba” fits well among the best of them with its delicious halt after the first street drum beat, before diving into a sublime arrangement of hip-hop and twisted synth. “Turn Back Time” featuring Teemu grabs a hold underneath a tuning radio layer and supplies sonic loops for a truly psychedelic pop song.  Yes, there are many more tracks that deserve to be mentioned, including the ballad “Tell Me Lies” featuring Lesley Roy and the jazzy farmhouse number “Rise and Shine.”

It’s impossible to label a singular genre for Good Evening. There isn’t one sound replayed and each track is virtually different. He tackles dubstep, progressive and future house, electro, bass, and even a light semblance of trance on “Find A Way.” Such a vast mix is rare to find in a producer’s catalog, and he surely should be rewarded for making it look easy; though more from the Mexican-American producer’s cultural roots should’ve taken precedence. However, what’s more exceptional is the integration. By using interludes as connecting pieces (perhaps could’ve done without a couple), Erick melts together each sub-genre into one strange but ridiculously fun party. GOOD.

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Electronic, Reviews

Queen | Ten Walls

A cry out for forgiveness is what I saw in the title. If the fallout never happened, perhaps, the album would’ve been different. In my opinion, personal struggles should have no basis (or interference) when it comes to reviewing the work of an artist; but the purposeful intermingling of the aftermath throughout Queen is undeniable. It even began with the title–a word that’s practically in every gay man’s vernacular. So it’s important to understand what happened in 2014. Ten Walls made a homophobic comment (or rant) on Facebook, where he referred to gay people as a “different breed,” which led to an instant dismissal from his booking agency and record label, as well as several music festivals he was set to play, including UK’s Creamfields. The complete career shutdown was unfortunate for Marijus Adomaitis, especially since he was a budding new producer who broke through a couple of months prior with the effective “Walking With Elephants.” It’s the kind of thing that can completely destroy you and force a promising future to end (the queen is the most powerful chess piece after all). So it’s no shock he slightly devoted his debut album to the incident particularly after his public apology wasn’t widely registered. Queen is an hour and a half long cleanse broken down into two parts that teeters between meditation and self-help.

It’s not an album where one song in particular shines. “Rhapsody” begins the endless ambient stream of sound that seamlessly drives into the next track, something out of deadmau5’s playbook. It’s only a mere instance in a 24-track compendium. So much so, I don’t remember the track at all. It blends incredibly well with the rest that it’s hard to distinguish one track from another. Especially when only tiny shifts in direction and sound show any distinction. The whole album can be identified as one track. It seems like Marijus scored for as long as he could and then sliced the product into 24 random parts. The titles at times even feel like he was running out of ideas (one track, “Rocky,” plays before another track, “Balboa;” and there’s even a transitional track called “Transition.”). Arguably, the album, chiefly the second part, had its insight from Castlevania-inspired “Trevor C. Belmont” and “Italo” which were the only tracks previously released.

Adi” is the closest resemblance to an apology. A man (presumably Marijus) identifies yoga and asserts that “sometimes I will say something, and I don’t mean it” in a plain spoken voice. He follows up with “before I say anything, I observe myself before I even speak to you.” It seems like he’s learned his lesson. But a smattering of tribal drums exploits the ‘sincere’ verbiage and celebrates his straight-forwardness shamelessly.

It’s not an album that should, or can be listened to in one sitting; otherwise a sleep induced sleep will ensue. A little at a time throughout a work day will be beneficial, if anything to help alleviate tension. Ultimately, it wasn’t necessary to make Queen this long. By the time “Observing” and “Still Waiting” rolled around, the point of the origin has faded. It enters a completely different domain, possibly one Marijus had in mind before the infamous escapade. It’s two albums, not two parts, attached to each other. The first part devoted to the scandal; the second part devoted to himself. Queen is blisteringly consistent and extremely polished but parts of it occasionally seem disingenuous. The vulnerability is talked about but it isn’t truthfully experienced. OK.

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Electronic, Reviews

Love Is Alive EP | Louis The Child

The point of an EP, technically, is to show listeners capability across multiple lines of thought; meaning an EP doesn’t have to be cohesive. It’s a platform that allots a few shots to spawn something notable and get the name circling in hopes of acquiring the capacity to produce an LP. Of course that has changed over the years and EPs can be as profound as a record with 12 tracks. Regardless, Louis The Child are taking the old school route with their EP debut, Love Is Alive. The 6-track collection tackles different classifications of chill while intermingling universal scenarios and political nuances.

Phone Died” features Blaise Railey rapping about a situation we’ve all experienced one too many times–a phone running out of battery. It’s a straight-forward nod to broken communication over subdued synth and fast hip-hop beats. It’s also the only style of its kind found throughout the EP in regards to sound and humor. But even with its funnier nature, the line “don’t confuse my phone with my love” takes a deeper look at the first world crisis and criticizes what people with 100% charge are always thinking.

Fire” and “World On Fire” come off like a Michael Moore documentary, speaking out against the way movers are shaking lives. Evalyn sings “I’m leaving this whole mad city to burn, and I’ll watch it go down” on “Fire” in hopes of surrendering to the stars and leaving behind a frustrating life of late paychecks and costly rent. The capitulation develops further in “World On Fire” with Ashe delicately cooing, over a track with Norah Jones levels of chill, “We’ll hide behind the money that’s the way it goes. The world could be on fire and we wouldn’t know.” The immediate signs of desperation in both tracks capitalize deeper struggles than simply a phone dying. The two tracks, which couldn’t be more clashing musically, tightly pack some heavy duty issues and seem slightly out of place from the rest of the EP.

From “Phone Died” to “World On Fire,” Louis The Child play around with two opposite extremes of chill. Their voices are always clearly established. But because there is a lot of divergent content and sounds mixed together over the course of 6 tracks with average-lengths, the EP comes off overwhelming and too deep for its own good. Its message is overly condensed with far too many pieces of information under told. The title track, which ends the EP, expresses a yearning for love–exactly what each track before it is crying out for. And it would be more impactful if the journey for salvation took its time. OK.

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Electronic, Reviews

Above The Blue EP | No Mana

No Mana tackled the mau5 aesthetic with his first EP last year as a sort of initiation. It’s not as if he didn’t originally have the repeatable heavy bass buzzing and beat knocking over stretches of synth mentality–mau5trap tend to pick artists who sound like their maestro, deadmau5. Game Over was careful about only utilizing that kind of sound by effectuating vocalists during production, rather than as an after thought. And so is Above The Blue, which breaks away further from dense arrangements, not just with vocals but direction and selection of sounds too.

MOOn“‘s pulsing vibrations tickle the ear and synth chimes help escape the density. A random embedding of a monster made completely of garbage swishing mud–at least that’s what it sounds like–perpetuates the space ship; while the rest of production fills the room with dark hypnotic adventure. Its complex layering burns the bridge between No Mana and Joel, who likes things a lot more simple, and sets an impressive distinction that will carry the alchemist through the rest of the 6-track EP.

Unlike “Constellation,” which departed dark bass for a lighter piano arrangement to accommodate Winnie Ford‘s innocent vocals, “Clear” puts on a loop of chopping synth and uses guitar to replace the boost of menacing energy that bass usually inflicts. Zashanell, whose vocals were also utilized in Game Over‘s “Over & Over”, provides a haunting sensation that matches the composition’s tangibility incredibly well.

Above The Blue isn’t as grounded as Game Over, which works to its benefit and narrative. It’s a more mature product from No Mana that brings possibilities like instrumentation and quirky lyrics into the mix, fabricating a stronger force against more seasoned players. GOOD.

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Electronic, Reviews

stuff i used to do | deadmau5

As the title suggests, stuff i used to do is a compilation of older work to slightly more recent work that deadmau5, real name Joel Zimmerman, had been allegedly hiding for practically the last 20 years. It’s not odd to see an artist traipsing through unreleased territory. But it is peculiar when there already exists two compilations of suppressed tracks (technically three, but Project 56 was a mix of originals and reissues from debut Get Scraped intended to cultivate 56 really short tracks for “short attention spans”).  Deadmau5 Circa 1998-2002, or Halcyon441, was released solely on SectionZ, the SoundCloud of the mid-2000s, in 2006. That same year, er, that same day, A Little Oblique was released, also on SectionZ. But since SectionZ has been defunct for some time now, stuff i used to do is clearly the most accessible out of the bunch. So it’s no question why Joel stuffed stuff with a handful of previously released ‘unreleased’ tracks. In fact, only 3 out of the 16 tracks (according to some research on my end) were completely withheld.

Messages from nowhere” was originally issued on the CD version of Get Scraped (for which there only were 500 copies made). So no one could’ve possibly been able to hear this one before (unless you’re the owner of at least 1 of those 500 copies). Either way, it’s a rock-induced electronic coma mixed with incomprehensible vocal samples, and it’s just delightful.

Appearing initially on Halcyon441, “Screen door” is a staccato play on cutesy synth that would fit too well in a soundtrack for The Sims. It’s perhaps the furthest Joel has gone away from his idiosyncratic dark synth and brooding bass. The robotic vocals sound as if random sentences were typed into some amateur text-to-speech application, which provides additional humor to the track’s already lighthearted output.

A true blast from the past, “Squid” makes a sweet transition as a short, action-packed sequence of drum n’ bass. It capitalizes on the kind of structure Joel mostly used in his earlier work, including Get Scraped and Project 56. Even though it was originally released on A Little Oblique, it triumphs on nostalgia.

The sampling reaches its peak and humor in “Sometimes I Fail;” and it’s the last time samples are incorporated for the remainder of the compilation. Joel takes you through a prehistoric lesson on what is considered “uncool,” while a disturbingly pleasurable array of synth and bass fill the dialogue’s outer rim.

HaxPigMeow” is when Joel really starts to sound familiar. You can tell by its length and repetitive synth swings that it was created more recently in comparison to other material. The 10-plus minute track, which wasn’t previously released, reverts back to his old ways, and effects the way the rest of the album is perceived. Even though the bulk of the last 7 or so tracks are from pre-existing compilations or albums, there’s a similar construction in the way this track was created in most of them. However, it’s not a drawback. Especially when it comes to the remix of Rubik’s “Obsidian.” That bit of earworm is worth getting stuck up top.

Some previously released tracks are even better this time around. The remastered version of “Creep” strips away small electronic elements and leaves the piano solo as is. By distorting the notes like he did on “Screen door,” intensity is added, rendering the original quite the bore.

The only downside is the title; it should’ve been called stuff i do now. It is seriously the most entertaining deadmau5 album we’ve received in some time–even though it’s a compilation. Joel finally strikes a balance between fun and long-winded. He was close with W:/2016ALBUM/, for which I wrote a review detailing why (yes, I used to write for EDMTunes). But since most of the tracks weren’t that good to warrant anything special (and Joel himself thought so too), his eighth album will fall by the wayside. With stuff, the different attitudes and approaches-to-sound mixed together is exactly what would not only lift his spirits, but gain him even more followers. One can only hope he’ll be inspired by the work he showcased to move in a more experimental, and complex, direction. GOOD.

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