It is unbelievably easy to be a fan of CHVRCHES (pronounced cha-ver-chiz) partly because they’ve spent the past decade making the same song over and over again. Was this a very rude statement? Yes, but it was said out of pure love. I think CHVRCHES has a very specific style of synth-pop that they’ve perfected to such an extent that they’ve made a career out of it. Once again, this isn’t a criticism. I am personally amazed at their consistency and the how each song is so subtly different that you can’t fully replace one with the other. And to their credit, rather than stagnating, I think they’ve been getting better.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.