Music, dance music especially, operates on emotion and intuition, it exists to generate reactions that writing and rhetoric cannot. Music, again, dance music in particular, is also profoundly contextual. A record that is written for loud clubs and late night dance floors may not exactly click when heard through earbuds on the subway, but, when listened to in its proper context, feels like a masterpiece.
Most of the time, when we at DA are reviewing an album, we listen to it alone, through headphones. sitting at home. Listening to music in this context invites analysis, invites rationalization, and can trick us reviewers into thinking that it is our duty to explain an album. We mention this because First Landing, the debut LP from Ajunadeep star Moon Boots, is an undeniably accomplished piece of music, but a difficult one to write about. It’s an album that isn’t looking to be explained. It’s meant to be danced to.
First Landing, although decidedly its own entity, is rooted deeply in the long disco tradition, and its greatest strength is its ability to deploy the techniques of old school disco, R & B, and soul, without losing its contemporary, current sound. Moon Boots demonstrates a prodigious understanding of tonality on this record, evident everywhere from the lush, complex chord progression that introduce the first song, “Fortune Teller,” to the melodic runs that bridge phrases in the album’s closer, “Red Sky.”
Like all great songwriters, Moon Boots both upholds and subverts our expectations of musical convention to maintain interest and hold our attention. Note the stair-stepping bass line that propels the verses of “Keep the Faith,” its elliptical syncopation, the way it runs through scale tones without ever settling on the note it seems to be leading to. Then, when the chorus hits, it gets right in step with groove, emphasizing chord roots and giving the choruses a richness and fullness that contrasts wonderfully with the counterpoint of the verses.
The album is full of deceptively clever uses of counterpoint, of divergence, that pervade it with a dynamism and complexity that more than make up for the predictable schmaltziness of the written-for-radio lyrics. The cast of guest vocalists all do a fine job, but it doesn’t really matter what they’re saying. Moon Boots treats the vocals as just another instrument in his arrangement, and seems, above all, interested in the timbre of the voices, in their harmonies and phrasing.
In its own way, First Landing is dance music at its most elemental. its interest lies only in its pure sound, and the response that sound evokes in the listener. It’s rhythm and melody, point and counterpoint, not in the service of something greater, but for their own sake.
First Landing is worth a listen, even if it’s through cheap headphones on your commute. But we think that a better way to listen to it would be somewhere you can dance, somewhere with lots of people, and speakers loud enough that you can feel the beat in your core. In that context, it might just sound like a masterpiece.
The 80s are back in Neon Tiger‘s debut album titled Paperback Sunset, as the album artfully combines Indie Rock with electronic music to create a unique blend of genres. Neon Tiger is an indie-electro hybrid spin off from Australian DJ/Producer Maarcos. Paperback Sunset brings lyrical emotion to the fore, with songs like “Neon Rose” and “We Can Run” telling stories of love. “Summer”, along with some other tracks on the album, also feature Neon Tiger as a vocalist. Other vocalists featured throughout the album include Coyle Girelli, Sunsun, CONWAY, Color Drive. Norman Doray, and Barbara Tucker.
Paperback Sunset features 14 tracks, and if you purchase the album on iTunes, you receive a free digital booklet as an extra.
Hardwell is one of the few EDM superstars whose brand eclipses the genre he operates in. After years of hard work and shrewd marketing, the Dutch sensation has reached a point where every single musical endeavor of his will inevitably be praised by his devoted fan base.
This massive popularity had led to some creative complacency with his initial releases of 2017, but the producer has reined it in with the release of “Make The World Ours,” last month.
His latest work, Hardwell and Friends Vol. 1, might initially strike listeners as a halfhearted marketing ploy, but it would be better to look upon the album as a showcase of the talent and musical diversity Revealed Recordings has to offer, which include names like Kura, Kaaze, Atmosfearz and Maddix.
Hardwell’s name on each song simply gives the artists the reach and exposure that would they would struggle to attain alone. It’s beyond endearing to see Hardwell dedicate his brand name to promoting breakout producers operating in an increasingly oversaturated genre.
With her signature style of industrial bass music and her iconic, hypnotic goggles, REZZ has quickly risen to the forefront of the electronic industry. As she continues to tease her forthcoming debut album, Mass Manipulation, the 22-year-old producer has released a new single from its track list every Friday.
As only a week remains until the LP’s release, Isabelle Rezazadeh has unveiled its final advance single, “Drugs!,” a collaboration with rising producer 13. The single draws heavily from REZZ’s previously-stated Bassnectar influences as she and 13 create a formidable, bass-laden single. With simple conceptualization, but complex sound design, the formidable bass-laden latest creation inspires great fervor for the full album’s imminent release.
Featured image via Rukes.
Former Swedish House Mafia member Steve Angello has confirmed via Twitter that he will in fact be releasing a new album this year.
Had a little vacation from typing. not much of a typer. been making music and playing shows. not been selling anything either. #AlbumComing
— Steve Angello (@SteveAngello) July 19, 2017
Tensions were high last year when rumors spread that the coveted Swedish House Mafia would be reunited, followed by a hefty lawsuit against Angello. Being the powerhouse that he has become, these small feats were no match for the producer. During the course of 2017, Steve Angello has performed at many distinguished events including Summerburst Festival, two international legs of Ultra, Digital Dreams, and Tomorrowland to name a few.
Fans can expect the new album to be released within the coming months. Not only is the album close on the horizon, but Angello confirmed “Feel At Home,” a track that debuted at Ultra 2014, will finally see the light of day on its tracklist.
H/T: DJ Mag
Steve Aoki has been teasing his new album Kolony for months now and today, fans finally get to hear the full thing. The ten-track album released on Dim Mak/Ultra Records is Steve Aoki’s first entrance into rap.
“When I was in the studio working on this project or a song with someone that made it to the album, they brought their own crew, and I’d turn around and be like, ‘this squad is like a colony,’” explains Aoki of the album’s title. “We’re like a colony, because it just felt like the energy in the room was more vibrant. It was a lot of energy from people flowing from the studio, and I loved that think tank, that group collaboration, and spirit.”
Aoki has released a few of the tracks already, including “Lit” with Yellow Claw and Gucci Mane and “Without U” with DVBBS and 2 Chainz among others withan extensive number of collaborations with the likes of Bad Royale, Migos, and ILoveMakonnen.
Beneath the linear framework of time, life often operates on a more complex scale where one’s evolution is driven by cycles of self discovery and reinvention. This pattern is unquestionably the case with Dubfire, or Ali Shirazinia, who is amidst a transition into his next artistic manifestation. Ali has had nothing short of a storied development over his twenty-six years of playing an active role in the electronic music scene.
After reaching commercial success during his years with collaborator Sharam under Deep Dish, he needed more than to answer his innate calling toward the darker and more minimal side of dance music. His strong work ethic and passion for his craft led to a good deal of prestigious nominations, as well as global recognition for his overall precision and drive in using technological innovation in his sets. His SCI+TEC label is recognized today as a reputable force in helping recruit the next generation of technically-inclined producers.
Now, it’s time for Dubfire to explore new territory. He’s slowly ending his HYBRID live shows and bowing his head down to focus on his new album, which will introduce the new direction he’ll go creatively as well as in a live setting. After commemorating his career thus far with the release of his Above Ground Level documentary and retrospective album HYBRID: A Decade Of Dubfire, he opens up about his journey as a solo artist, the gastronomy of techno cuisine, and what his “third life” as an electronic musician will bring.
Photo via High Fidelity Dance Club.
Ali’s creativity at a young age catalyzed his traveling down the path he’s still on now. He spent his youth teaching himself bits of guitar and piano, eventually finding his way into the artsy, “alternative” community of his school. It was here that his love affair with electronic began. “All of them [“the alternatives”] exposed me to the music – a lot of them were bedroom producers or played in bands, so I started out by playing in bands. Then, I started getting more and more into electronic music and playing around with drum machines, synthesizers, sequencers, etc,” he recalled with an air of nostalgia in his tone.
To him, getting into the electronic scene was “was a very natural progression.” He attended shows at underground clubs at the time, closely observing their habits and incorporating it into his own. “Over the years I learned how to program – I learned from a very young age, typically playing open-to-close sets. I understood how important flow is in setting the right vibe for the night,” he described. He held these tools closely throughout his career’s progression, and continues to abide by the philosophy of flow being a cornerstone in piecing together a set.
Photo courtesy of Dubfire.
Outsiders often look at iconic artists and think of them as having achieved an ultimate state of bliss – they’re successful, well-known, and are living a rockstar-esque lifestyle doing what they love. However, many of these artists are not without internal struggles of their own. Shirazinia had been carrying an empty feeling inside for quite sometime – he was in a creative rut, and tired of the repetition he experienced in his situation at Deep Dish. So, in 2006, he made the leap of faith into rebuilding himself as an independent artist, and his Dubfire alter ego became his full-time persona.
His first task was to find somewhere to begin anew; a clean slate of sorts. “I think I made the move because as I was reaching the end of that creative cycle with Deep Dish and going solo as an artist, I really wanted to escape not only Deep Dish, but the states,” he thoughtfully explains of his desire find himself abroad.
He divulges further: “I was looking for inspiration, specifically in Ibiza, and there were a few summers where I completely submerged myself into all the different techno parties on the island. I was going to as many of these events as possible and taking it in.”
Through heavy participation in the island’s thriving and transformative club scene, Shirazinia had found what he sought. “It was like the friend I needed, that I felt I didn’t have anymore when I was in Deep Dish toward the end,” he reflected fondly.
Photo via Peter Liu.
Dubfire exudes a humble force of determination and has displayed his immense work ethic time and time again. These traits served him well at the beginning of his tenure as a solo artist, where he had to keep his head down and deal with a good deal skeptics within his new world who doubted the intention of a commercial artist re-entering the underground.
Luckily, he was embraced by many artists that did matter: “A lot of these guys mentored me, like Chris Liebing, Richie, Sven Vath, Loco Dice, etc,” he notes. “They all really supported me when I needed it, and that helped to give me the right motivations to pursue this music and why I fell in love with it in the first place.”
However, while Shirazinia had many key mentors, he acknowledges that his shift toward commercial success in techno was cause for suspicion in some:
“A lot of people were cautious about what my motivations were because I was someone they looked up to in the older days when making initially deep house and techno stuff. And then we reached all this commercial success and the music, and everything, kind of changed and then here I was again going to these techno parties, so they were a little cautious about my intentions.”
By 2007, he’d established his Science+Technology imprint, known now as SCI+TEC as an outlet for his swiftly growing collection of releases. Soon thereafter, Shirazinia had earned nominations for the best Techno & Minimal Artist of the Year for his efforts in pioneering a brand new “jet black, polished chrome” version of techno, as DJ Mag lovingly dubbed it. Dubfire had officially made it as a well-respected artist of his own, hailed for his forward-thinking take on sound design and track production.
Photo via WARDA.
Many know that Shirazinia is as much a gastronome as he is an electronic artist, and as such, he likes to draw parallels between the arts of fine cuisine and electronic music. Modern cuisine often involves the futuristic fusion, deconstruction, and re-envisioning of pre-existing dishes, much like technological advancements in gear are slowly giving way to a new approach in DJing and production. One thing that will always remain consistent for Dubfire is his eagerness to try new technologies as they’re coming out, if he believes in them. He and his like-minded peers like Richie Hawtin are always looking for “something that inspires us and our creativity in the DJ booth,” after all.
Take his progression through the years in terms of equipment: after starting on vinyl, Ali “graduated to CD technology, and even before that I had a portable DAT player that I was playing unreleased music on.” After that, he “jumped onto laptop technology, which allowed me to carry my entire music library and at a moment’s notice play a total classic record that I just have in my library, or be able to manipulate that or contemporary records in a unique way.” Dubfire’s setup now is intricate as ever; he combines four different decks uploaded through production software that give him the free rein he craves to essentially create music on the spot as he weaves his sets together.
Photo via Ryan Muir, courtesy of Coachella 2016.
Much like chefs today are aiming to break new boundaries in their food experimentation, Shirazinia is always keen on breaking out of his comfort zone and being as receptive as he can to new influences and sources of inspiration. Creating an “organic feeling” is his ultimate creative intention for his shows and productions. He uses back-to-back sets, for example, “as a challenge to see how far the other person can take me outside my comfort zone.” He and his partner “are conscious of how we begin, how we build, how we peak, how we break down, and how we end,” he stated, because people want to feel “like there’s only one DJ playing.”
Through this process, one can “discover new comfort zones within,” Dubfire asserted. Especially when working closely with artists on a similar plane as him, such as the aforementioned Chris Liebing and Richie Hawtin, he observed that, “we absorb a musical perspective that we can then take into the studio, or when we play solo sets after that.It serves as a great tool for inspiring us to go down uncharted roads.”
Additionally, learning from others during back-to-back can help enhance their quest in “creating the right atmosphere” as a DJ during a show. Like a 10-course meal, believes Dubfire, a true DJ follows a logical progression for their night that tells a shamanic story by way of percussion and synthesizer.
“You can go to a nice restaurant and sit down, but they’re not going to give you the main course right away,” Shirazina quips. “If they know what they’re doing, maybe they’ll give you a glass of champagne or another cocktail.”
“Then,” he elaborates, “they’ll follow with an amuse-bouche – you know, little tiny things that are sent out of the kitchen to open up your palate a bit. Then, they’ll continue with the appetizers and main course, then bring it down with a desert, and later coffee at the end. So there is a very logical, natural type of progression within DJing and how you create the right atmosphere and how you tell that story from the beginning to end of your set in a logical sequence.”
Photo via Felix Hohagen Photography, courtesy of Time Warp.
Much of the future remains uncertain for Dubfire. “To be honest with you, I’m still trying to figure that out,” he admitted when questioned about his new trajectory. His new album will be dictating a significant portion of it though, or so it sounded as he animatedly illustrated his thoughts and his creative process. “What I did a little bit last year and a little bit this year was go into the studio with a blank slate, turn on the machines, and focus on what came out of me creatively,” he began. He then carefully tracked the elements of everything he came up with.
Some works he finished and felt proud of, but “felt like they weren’t necessarily ready for my new album – even though I don’t know what my new album is supposed to sound like.” Other concoctions of his intrigued him, like a piece he wrote that has a “classic techno” vibe to it.
“But I’m not trying to be classic or nostalgic,” he advises. His mind is open, nonetheless – of this odd turn toward the past, the artist comments, “I’m not sure how that’s going to trigger the direction of the rest of the album, but once I’m done with the summer, I’ll be coming back to that material and seeing how I can further it.”
However the finished and cohesive body of work turns out, he wants to make sure that it is built for his vision of the future. One emerging technology, 3D sound, is something his keen eye has fixated on recently, as well as production using different stems of songs that can help enhance the surround sound experience.
“I’ve already met with different people, a couple people here in Barcelona actually,” he affirms when discussing his research into utilizing this new advancement. One of the people he met runs a software company whose product “creates a really unique way of performing your music in a surround sound kind of setting, creating an immersive experience.” He continues, ”I think that it’s something the team and I are going to be focused on, and that I’m thinking about as I’m producing this new artist album.”
The way his new album turns out will directly influence whatever his new live incarnation will be like, says Shirazinia. “Now there’s an added layer with the live show in terms of how I re-worked the old material and how I mixed it and sequenced it into a DJ set or a live concert type of show,” he notes of his current performance methodology. “When I’m producing this new material, I’m envisioning it as being performed by me during the next live show.”
This is a new approach, he says, and one which he’s “still feeling my way around,” but is “definitely there in the background whether I’m discussing what I want to do with engineers or something else. It’s part of my thinking process when I’m in the studio.”
Photo courtesy of Movement.
Ultimately, he wants to be able to take what he’s learned over his first decade as Dubfire and use it in a refreshing, brand new way, which he said he “wasn’t thinking about before in that initial decade of being a solo artist and making all that music.” Shirazinia used to not be too keen on the idea of an artist album given the singles-dominated market climate, but he now looks at things differently and from an angle where this new project will serve as a concrete launching point for his next artistic iteration. “I’m really excited about that prospect,” he agrees.
The conversation wraps up with some sage optimism on the scene itself. A hot-button topic that has virtually plagued the electronic scene since its foundation is the issue of over-commercialization, especially now, in a climate where DJs are achieving superstar levels of fame and VIP culture is infiltrating clubland.
However, Dubfire has always maintained that things “right themselves out.” He asserts that artistry in DJing is here to stay, and “you only have to look at how big techno and underground, and credible artists and labels have gotten overall as part of the scene,” he quips when drawing attention to the fact a revolution is clearly underway as “a reaction to ‘EDM.’”
His points ring true: “Fans are supporting it, and you’re seeing [this in the] numbers of events and quality around the world with events like EDC… all of them are investing so much into techno.”
The reason for this, Shirazinia posits, is because the genre attracts “so many people, and to all of us, this is a religion.”
“It’s something we pour our blood, sweat, and tears in,” he continues, “and we don’t want to see it fade into the background. We want it to be as successful as possible.” Indeed, true passion always has a distinct way of shining through in the industry, and it has successfully gotten electronic music through threats of commercial corruption in the past.
Photo via Felix Hohagen, courtesy of Time Warp.
As he continues to pour his soul into keeping such a raw, organic spirit alive while also pioneering the path to a more refined future, Dubfire’s transition into his next incarnation will undoubtedly be one to watch. His enthusiasm for being part of the scene and reinventing himself artistically after a decade of learning his way as a solo act is infectious, and his track record thus far points to future excellence and clever arrangement. It’s more than evident that electronic music will only continue to relentlessly progress as long as people like Ali Shirazinia are staples in the scene – artists who are thankful for what they do, and committed to paving the way technologically and spiritually for those that will eventually take their place.
Words by Christina Hernandez.
Featured image by Damien Gilbert, courtesy of Secret Solstice 2017.
One of the influential Drum & Bass acts of the 2010s, Austrian duo Camo & Krooked have created quite a formidable reputation for themselves over the past decade, culminating in an Essential Mix debut two months ago. Part of their success is their unique style, which borrows heavily from other bass music sub-genres like trap and future bass, allowing their work to transcend the audio confines of regular Drum & Bass.
Their fourth studio album, Mosaik, encapsulates why this eminent duo is well respected within Europe’s tightly knit DnB community. Some of the tracks like “Come Together,” “Mandala,” and the supremely sensual “Honesty” bear a striking resemblance to The Upbeats’ genre defining De-evolution series, while other tracks like “Slow Down” have a very distinct pop flavor. Another rather remarkable aspect is the beautiful minimalism and fanatical attention to detail in each and every song on this gorgeous album; focusing more on enchanting the listener with subtle elements rather than overwhelming them with powerful synths and deafening bass lines.
To call Mosaik a Drum & Bass album doesn’t quite do it justice, simply because there is so much more going on with each of the captivating tracks on this fantastic album.