Stereo Underground evokes stoicism in debut LP, ‘The Art of Silence’

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Stereo Underground evokes stoicism in debut LP, ‘The Art of Silence’The Art Of Silence Artwork Cover

Stereo Underground, born Yariv Etzion, has always been somewhat of an enigmatic talent despite his far-reaching influence. A co-founder of Israel’s BPM College, now one of the country’s premier musical institutions, Etzion and echoes of his expertise are already present among the thousands of students he’s taught over the years. It wasn’t until 2009, however, that he began shining a light on his productions under his current alias.

Now, a decade-long track record of excellence in the house arena has led to the mysterious artist’s most expressive project to date: The Art of Silence. The album marks his first foray into longform composition, and unveils Etzion’s stoic pedagogy across its 11 tracks.

The Art of Silence lands on the distinguished Australian imprint, Balance, setting expectations high for the unencumbered debut. Stereo Underground demonstrates he’s here to rise to the challenge, offering up a spacey, cinematic record meant to be savored, to be paid attention to. Its haunting, ambient opener “Flying Glow” toys with empty space, as the title suggests. Sparse soundscapes are punctured by dissonant notes that hit the ears at different angles, making for quite a textured piece despite its minimalism. It catalyzes a deeply contemplative mindframe—a theme that persists through the considerable length of the album. The Art of Silence is certainly evocative of the lonesome, countryside setting within which it was written.

Etzion’s penchant for precise aural architecture enters as the album builds in intensity. No element feels jarring; emotions swirl. “Above the Sea of Fog,” for example, feels a bit wistful and nostalgic, perhaps bearing images of young love or carefree childhood reverie. According to Etzion himself, the track was inspired by a painting of a similar name, created at the height of the Romanticism movement. Its warm, analog synths and cinematic arrangement feel fitting in any case. “Echoes,” inspired by Pink Floyd, is psychedelic doused in subtle melancholy, illustrated through its minor key and undulating, legato notation. “Wanderlust” feels like an adventure, taking listeners on a 7-minute ride that emulates the excitement one gets when traveling to new places.

Ultimately, the album is an introspective, aural meditation. Stereo Underground takes his audience with him as he reflects on his own life and place in the world. In doing so, The Art of Silence urges his fans to do the same.

Order a copy of ‘The Art of Silence,’ out on Balance, here

Andrew Bayer Once Again Demonstrates His Mastery Of Electronic Music With His ‘In My Next Life’ LP [Review]

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Andrew Bayer has always been, and will most likely continue to be one of my favorite producers. In fact, reviewing his track ‘Once Lydian’ was the article I submitted to EDM Sauce with my resume in hopes of starting to write about dance music…the rest is history. Now, nearly 6 years later, I find myself

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GRiZ Beautifully Blends Music & Culture With 5th Studio Album ‘Ride Waves’

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Multi-instrumentalist producer and performer GRiZ has released his fifth studio album, Ride Waves and it does NOT disappoint. Drenched in the creative passion and cultural connectivity of the artist, the LP sees GRiZ immerse himself into the soundscapes of his influences and the causes of today. Everything that GRiZ does encapsulates a feeling. Whether it be

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Super8 & Tab Time Travel In Their Compilation “Past, Present & Future”

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One of the oldest traditions in DJ culture, mixtapes have given listeners a consistent window into the musical thought process of countless of the planet’s top electronic artists. Super8 & Tab are continuing this tradition with their new compilation album, “Past, Present & Future”. As you might pick up from the title, the album reflects

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Best EDM Albums Of The Year 2018: EDM Sauce Critic’s Choice

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This year has been specifically special for album releases in the world of dance music. We saw the return of legends after decades-long hiatuses as well as brilliant debut efforts from both new and established artists. Over the last two months, we asked out staff to on their picks for the top honors in 2018.

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Alan Walker Releases Debut Album After Meteoric Rise To Fame: Does It Live Up To His Hype?

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I can see it now. Someone in the Pitchfork offices just finished listening to Alan Walker’s debut album. They are licking their lips, possibly even gently moaning as they plan how to systematically break down this album in the most brutal way possible. Seeing how they can produce the next viral sensation that was the

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ReOrder delivers his debut album – ‘IAMREADY’

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Biding his time, ReOrder hasn’t been hurried into sending his first album out there. It’s been ten years since the Slovakian studio head began making impressions on the scene, most recently through his outings on Black Hole, FSOE, Subculture, Monster and others. It was time well stayed: a period in which he honed his craft,

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Dirty South shows his dark side on brooding ‘darko’ LP [Album Review]

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Dirty South shows his dark side on brooding ‘darko’ LP [Album Review]Dirty South Darko Album Review

Dirty South is a man of his word. He promised fans two albums before the year was out, and suddenly darko arrived right in the nick of time. Just a month after releasing the stunning XVthe cinematic house titan submitted yet another chapter to his long player history – and it’s unlike any project the producer has helmed to date.

For some, it may have made sense to release both fall albums as a double LP. Yet Dirty South’s decision to separate the two projects makes perfect sense when listening. Both are worlds apart in feeling, tone, and flow. XV was brilliantly bouncy, often bursting with waves of elation; darko, on the other hand, is something different with a more anxious mindset all its own. The mournful synth swells of “Temps” announce the project’s ethos immediately, and the feeling of unrest permeates throughout the rest of the journey. On “Cassetta,” the intro burns slowly before ascending chords spread the tension on thick. “Piksi” follows directly behind, which is shaping up to be one of the darkest tracks in Dirty South’s repertoire.

Despite the unity of darko‘s world, trademark Dirty South touches abound. While the beaming brightness of past hits like “If It All Stops” is nowhere to be found, the “Kino” shuffles and grooves as undeniably as any of the artist’s dance floor weapons. “Lava” is a rhythmic tour-de-force, despite snarling horn-like synth blasts tethering it firmly into the album’s aesthetic. But despite Dirty South’s mastery of vocal-infused efforts show in past releases on labels like Anjunabeats, darko remains starkly instrumental. The move feels calculated as the arrangements ebb and flow freely, leaving the listener to wonder if any lyrics could speak single-handedly for the soul of the record.

The producer admitting the record is his favorite to date could indicate this new sonic direction — also showcased in songs like his recent remix of Lane 8’s “No Captain” — is settling in to stay awhile. The relentless cohesion of darko is something Dirty South had yet to do at this level. As “Corda” looms into sight to cap off the album, it sets the mind on fire. There’s a sense that the gravity of the sum of its parts has seeped in, and the effect after listening to the LP’s entirety is vivid. It’s gripped in an atmosphere of anxious and electric yearning, soundtracking a feeling of introspection and raw hunger. Beautiful but stark, dark but restrained, mournful but energized; whether or not these tracks invade the same playlists and dance floors Dirty South has presided over all these years is irrelevant. For a statement as nuanced and unified as darko is a triumphant highlight in and of itself.

Richard Durand Releases 1st Album In 6 Years With “The Air We Breathe”

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Allow us to catch you up… It’s been six years since Richard Durand sent us his boldly high-concept ‘Richard Durand Versus The World’ album. It’s reasonable to say that in the meantime his outlook on many aspects of life – both personal and professional – have shifted. Over that period he has circled the planet

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The Prodigy update the familiar on ‘No Tourists’ (Album Review)

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The Prodigy update the familiar on ‘No Tourists’ (Album Review)Notouristsmain

When an artist has released a vast body of work over multiple decades, engaged multiple generations of fanbases, and driven their genre forward for so long, it is hard to know what to expect from a new album. Was the genre-bending production just the music that came to them at the time, or is there a commitment to experimentation and subversion beyond the first few albums? For the Prodigy, lead by Liam Howlett the answer is somewhat clear. On the band’s seventh studio album, No Tourists, the Prodigy reach for the familiar and inject it with a dose of 2018.

A classic Prodigy record, No Tourists is jam-packed with energizing breakbeats, punk-leaning vocal hooks, and synth and guitar work that could fill the largest of warehouses. In this regard, the album is not a departure from anything the group has put out in the past. Big, high-energy sounds are what put the Prodigy on the map so many years ago. So as a listener with an array of old Prodigy tracks in my music library and a recently purchased vinyl single from 1991, what keeps bringing me back to this album? Why, when this album seems to be textbook Prodigy, do I not toss it to the side for the iconic originals? The answer lies in the production.

While the boisterous sound of Howlett’s production is nothing new, there is something cleaner and more refined about the entire sound of the album. Even compared to their 2015 offering The Day Is My Enemy, the samples are crisper, and the bass lines straddle that perfect line between distortion and clarity. Take the album’s lead single and opening track, “Need Some1.” With sloppier production, a track with a big, slow, hip-hop breakbeat, a variety of vocal samples, and explosive synths may have sounded cluttered and disorienting – but Howlett creates the perfect amount of space and depth to make the track work. And while an all out assault of noise may have been what drove the Prodigy’s success on Experience and The Fat of the Land, the musical landscape has changed. The Prodigy’s audience is no longer blasting tracks on massive speakers in their garage or at warehouse raves – this is an album for the headphone generation, exemplified greatly by tracks like “Boom Boom Tap” and “Light Up the Sky.” Sounds from every sector of the EQ spectrum shine through, with intricate synth work not feeling overpowered by the forceful low end. With the streaming economy making on-the-go listening more accessible, a crowded project full of distortion and a less precise mix could lead to an album that does not connect in this new era of music consumption.

While the album is sonically solid, No Tourists does not push the boundaries of what can be expected from the Prodigy. There is a small part of me that is disappointed that Howlett and the band did not take the group in any new direction. After seven albums, I (perhaps foolishly) expected a bit of deviation from the stylistic norm. However, a standard offering from the Prodigy is not anything to be scoffed at. I’d take No Tourists over ‘The Prodigy goes festival trap’ any day of the week. And when albums like Tom Morello’s feature-laden The Atlas Underground are missing the mark without a distinct sound or direction, a cohesive yet familiar project from the big beat progenitors may be what we needed. We are just lucky that, when it comes to the Prodigy, the familiar still hits hard.