Sonaris Music Review: deadmau5 while (1<2)

deamdau5 while 1 2It’s not what you’d expect. I’ll let the professionals say it, whatever it is, first.

“…the world’s most unnecessary Nine Inch Nails tribute act…” harsh words from Rolling Stone.

“Sprawling, ambitious and mostly well-executed, While (1<2) may confuse his fan base’s Ultra-attending electro house contingent, but deadmau5’s double album undoubtedly marks his most mature and forward-thinking release to date. ” said

The reviews are mixed, it would seem. Makes sense, because I think this album created some confusion among the media and fans. I’ll be the first to admit that, while I appreciate deamdau5′ work on a few different levels, I’m not the type of dude who follows the hype about an upcoming album. Whatever. I pre-ordered the CD on Amazon when I heard it was coming out in a couple of weeks. Not even entirely sure how I found out about it, because it wasn’t being promoted as heavily – at least not paraded in front of my face – as some of his previous works.

Anyway, I was definitely a bit surprised after sticking the first CD into my car’s probably sub-par sound system, fully expecting to be entertained with some chords and lively energy which often is heard in deadmau5′ works. What I got was pretty melancholy, relatively slow, ambitiously beautiful in its simplicity – but definitely not “EDM”. Whether that’s a good thing or not, is arguable – and honestly – I’m not going to get into whether deadmau5 “should” have gone in this direction.

To me, the two-disc LP sounds like something deadmau5 wrote for himself, but really wanted us to hear. As a producer, I get it. As a producer who doesn’t like to stick to the same formula for too long, I really get it. Sometimes I just get bored of doing the same thing over and over – I know I can do more. Whether more should be done, and how it should be done is always a grey area.

Obviously, many fans become fans because they like a particular track or at least a style of sound an artist is putting out there. So, to take some fans of progressive house and then suddenly offer to feed them dubstep might be a hard pill to swallow. There will be some fans who will ultimately be turned off by an experiment like this. There will be new fans found. There will be fans who listen to the album and say “It’s not for me, but I get it and I appreciate the effort.” At the end of the day, none of that really matters, in the grand scheme of things.

As someone once wisely pointed out, the only constant in the world is change. deadmau5 is not the first or the last, by any measure, to make a departure from the usual formula. This is a good a time as any for deadmau5 to branch out and show he’s capable of more than just pushing play and repeating the same successful formula over and over. Like an actor, a producer is only as valuable, in the long run, as he or she is versatile. Experiments like this are required, timing is the only barrier.

That all said, on to the music itself. I initially thought the first CD would be a bit more mellow, artistic, experimental, expressive, etc… and the second CD would be full of grand slam energy. Again, I was mistaken. Both discs on the double LP flow smoothly, the whole thing meticulously planned and structured – as are deadmau5′ track themselves. The “production value” if I can just throw that general term out there, is as high as always. Basically, it sounds like deadmau5 is taking all he’s learned about structure, combining various musical elements and mixing and creating a new package, saying “this is what I can bring to the table with the skills I’ve acquired from working on electronic music”.

The result of this effort is a well crafted project. Perhaps like Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories this album is either ahead of its time or the timing just isn’t right for this type of record. The main difference between RAM and while(1<2), aside from the name, is the distinct lack of a big single or two to help propel the album in the charts. Is while(1<2) a tribute to Trent Reznor? I’d say that’s pretty far fetched, as many different influences can be heard here – Eric Prydz’ Pryda immediately comes to mind.

The album is filled with moody melodies, interestingly placed sound effects, and repeating motifs. The album maintains a constant theme of change by touching on various genres of music and expressing various emotions – of which there are many – while keeping a consistency through structure and mix. My overall take is that the album lacks energy, it feels fatigued in some places, like it’s giving up. It feels like a lot of salad and not enough meat. But, at the same time it introduces some interesting new production ideas, which – in my humble opinion – is something a good album should do.

while(1<2) is not just a message to the casual listener, but a signal to EDM producers which subtly suggests “Hey, why not try something new and different, for a change?” I’ve defended Daft Punk’s RAM and I’ll defend while(1<2) because while these albums may not be the summer energy DJs crave, they provide the catalyst for generating new ideas in EDM.

Now, if only deadmau5 released a remix/sample pack of the album for producers to mess around with! While the record itself isn’t particularly dance-y, there are so many interesting elements to play with, that it’s honestly a remixer’s dream project. Whether deadmau5 will choose to let people manipulate the sound he crafted, to mess with his feelings, is to be seen. In the meantime, I’ll take a Moment To Myself and listen to the record a few more times – soaking in the mesmerizing dynamics for which the mau5 is known.

Edit: Decided to take a stab at remixing something from this album with a downtempo/chillout take on Superbia.

Sonaris Music Review: The Witches Son by Cinder Ghost

“The Witches Son” is the title track taken from Cinder Ghost’s upcoming E.P “The Witches Son” – due for release August 10th.

Even though the majority of my own projects are in the mid-bpm range (between 125-132 usually) I often find myself drawn to the slower tempo when relaxing or trying something new. Something about the lower bpms which allows for more “feeling”, atmosphere and ambiance. Don’t get me wrong, there are many house producers who achieve amazing ambiance, but something about the spacing between the beats in slower tempo tracks is just pleasant.

This single from Cinder Ghost achieves that which I personally enjoy about downtempo/chillout electronica. The track starts off with a nice, filtered, warm ambiance. The bass wraps my ear canal, like a warm blanket on a chilly day. The reversed synth melody supports the plucking melody, the vocals fitting neatly between the layers. This relaxing chillout track is a great first entry for the upcoming EP. Check it out, below – there is even a [limited] free download of the WAV file available, at this time.

Hey, Soundcloud! An open letter – Fix yourself.

As a paying Soundcloud customer, I am unhappy. Here are what I think the problems are, and then some possible ideas for improvement, as well, so it’s not just a complaint.

The issues I have with Soundcloud:

  • The comment system is terrible (needs up/downvote system like reddit)
  • Bugs everywhere (problems logging in, seeing other people’s profiles)
  • Notification for getting stuff in my dropbox is non-existent so I miss a lot of demos people send in
  • For a long time I had problems uploading, no idea why
  • No real sense of community, at all
  • No rewards for good music, no competitive aspect like charts, etc…
  • No real place to share ideas and have discussions as a group
  • Discussion groups, like facebook, would be huge (right now I mostly communicate with labels and my music licensing group via Facebook, which I hate)
  • No real way to promote music aside from tedious adding of every track to a hundred groups and not getting that many plays out of it
  • Non-existent customer service/support system
  • No way to grab people’s emails in case they want updates in the future
  • My links (Website, FB, Tw, etc…) are not highlighted enough
  • A lot of non-musicians have no idea how to use Soundcloud, and they don’t like making a profile to <3 a track or download it
  • Analytics are piss poor, especially given I’m paying for it, should have Google Analytics integration at the least!
  • Embedding playlists on my website is not customizeable enough in terms of how the player appears
  • Barely ever works on mobile, I’ve heard this from many people
  • No way to sell music via the site itself

Here are some ideas on how I feel Soundcloud could be better:

  • Beatport has a near-monoploy on EDM, which is annoying because their website also sucks balls, and it’s all very nepotistic where you have to know someone, for the most part, to get any sort of promotion. People go nuts about being on the chart there, though, it’s the holy grail for EDM producers to get on the Top 100.
  • Bandcamp is pretty cool, but it’s extremely limited in nearly every way, and there is no community there. Unless I have a ton of followers (which I don’t, because I don’t perform), bandcamp doesn’t really help me much.
  • Work on getting ins with music licensing companies; this is how I make 90% of what I make creating music. There are lots of movie studios and ad agencies out there looking for ways to license music, and they are still having to do it in an old school way, via a middleman, or an outdated site like audiosparx. This could be a huge incentive for artists to use your site.
  • Make giving away music fun for the artist (I give away almost 50% of the stuff I make, just to get my name out there); some kind of reward system for giving out free stuff would be cool, even if it’s asking a person to leave their email address in exchange for a free download, or tokens to promote my music on your site
  • Have producer remix battles, where people on the site can challenge one another to a remix battle of any track on the site, (if a remix pack is available) and let other users and visitors vote for their favorite.
  • Do free contests (remix competitions, etc…)

Sonaris Music Review: Bad Case of Fabulous by Junksista

Junksista Bad Case of Fabulous Sonaris ReviewI’ll be the first to admit that it’s not every day I get to review electro-c*nt-rock, in fact I’ve never even heard of it before. But, what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. This next adventure in music comes to us from the Denmark-based duo Junksista. Junksista is one part Boogu (producer) and Diana (vocalist).

“I’m naked. I’m wet. I’m hot. I’ll do ya, right here… oh yes, I am a slut.” This is just a small sample of the hypersexualized vocals you can expect to hear on this album. The vocals are complimented by a bouncy electro-pop beat with a smathering of effects, guitar riffs, and four on the floor beat. No mindblowing builds, breaks or transitions here, just raunchy vocals with heavy effecting and older-style electronic production.

The whole thing is very reminiscent of Cherry Bikini who also happen to be a duo, who I happened to “follow” back in the day on some random, long-vanished music social network. Much like Cherry Bikini, Junksista’s production relies heavily on the appeal of dirty, edgy female vocals. The type of setting in which I picture this music being played is a dimly lit Hollywood Hills pool party with skinny supermodels and seedy Hollywood types.

On a personal level, I don’t really get it, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience out there for it. I feel like there is potential for this album to sound better, at least in terms of having a modern sound. This is somewhat accomplished by the many remixes on this album. For as many original tracks as there are, there are thirteen remixes, quite the bang for your buck, if you will – and a few extra mixes.

The only remix which really stood out I felt was the Pernau mix of Naked Wet Hot, which had a distinct atmosphere, some deep house elements and was mixed pretty well.

All of that said, there is a pretty good chance you’ll never hear any of this on your local radio station, but I am not one to tear down underground music. What this album is, is distincitvely anti-mainstream, anti-norm. Some of the productions are akin to something Lady Gaga might try to force some poor mainstream producer to pump out. Clearly, a lot of work went into producing this album and certainly nothing about it is lazy. There is definitely an audience for this type of music out there and I am sure they will be delighted to hear this release.

Links to buy the album:

Links to social media pages:

Sonaris Music Review: Dance in Haze by Ebola Ape

Ebola Ape Dance In Haze (cover art by Bartosz Polak) Sonaris Music ReviewThis next review comes via the epic soundscape that is Ebola Ape’s Dance in Haze, out in all major shops on February 1st, 2014. Ebola Ape is an emerging Polish producer of “eery, nocturnal atmospheres”. He describes his work as “Music of the night. Reverbed emotions of solitude.” Original productions, using analog synths and original vocal samples.

This album is heavy, goes hard in the paint with some seriously deep, massive, gooey soundscapes. Almost immediately upon cranking my WinAmp up a notch, a heavy cloud of ambiance, trap beat, choral vocals and jungle animal sounds fills my head, in the form of the opening track, Lombok,  instantly relaxing me. What an opening. Boom! This is Dance in Haze.

Lighthood is as deep as they come on this album, with dark organ sounds accentuated by reverberated female vocals and a tightly wrapped trap beat. This is the music of 2014, stuff I haven’t heard before. There is some Enya-like influence in there – a mysterious vibe.

Honest is a hard-hitting spoken word/rap/trap style track with some slick and sick vocal fx, meticulously and accurately laid out. The vocals shine through the deep atmosphere and come across as clean and crisp as it gets. Back to Uluwatu is another, similar vocal rap track – truly a unique production.

Sigh is one of my favorite tracks on the album, because not only does it use all of the elements described before, but it also introduces a melancholy melody which shines a dim light on the overall heavy production. Irian is another, similar track that really stands out, melodically.

This album took me on a true aural journey, transcending and undermining so much of what is now mainstream electronic music. Whenever I hear someone say that electronic music is going downhill, I laugh – to myself – because I get to take these secret weapons of electronic music and unleash them on the world through my reviews. This album is a stand-alone in a crowd, deep and unforgiving, mocking the cookie cutter world of mainstream electronic music with it’s sheer primal, animal rawness.

Whatever you’re into, this slow-paced – worldly- album is one you at least want to hear once, but as for me – I’ll just be over here playing it again. This is music licensing gold, so don’t be surprised if you hear this in a film or show in the foreseeable future.

Dance in Haze on Bandcamp:

More information about Ebola Ape and his label:

Ebola Ape on Soundcloud:

Ebola Ape on Facebook:

Sonaris Music Review: Crutches by Hunter

Scott HuntScott Hunt aka Hunter is an American composer, songwriter, singer and producer – releasing albums for almost two decades. Recently, a friend of Scott’s reached out to me, asking me to check out what he felt was an overlooked album, which should be heard. After listening to Crutches, I have to concur.

While Crutches is not an album which I would personally categorize as electronic dance music, per se, it does feature some elements of dance music (namely disco), and does contain some electronica components (lots of analog synths). Whether it is or isn’t EDM isn’t really what’s at stake here. What it is is a brilliantly produced retro-sounding indie, music-nerd-style treat.

The album starts off slow with Never Believe, a filtered intro with some psychedelic backing choral vocals, definitely feeling some strong 60’s/70’s influence here with the bouncy bassline and flanged vocals, the Beatles style panning.

The album is arranged in a nicely flowing way, with one track seemingly more interesting than the last.

The highlights of the album, to me, are:

the vocals – the vocals shine on this album, and add at least half of the album’s appeal, it just wouldn’t be the same without them

the panning – Scott’s attention to details is very evident by the meticulous and deliberate placement of each little element in its own place on the track

the beats – loved the drum sequences on this album, the timely fills, builds and breaks, the crisp sound of the percussion

the basslines – each track has a unique feel, while keeping to the same theme, driven in large part by the bouncy basslines

All of the tracks on the album are honestly outstanding in their own way, so it’s hard to pick favorites, but if pressed, I’d have to say that No More Rider and Three Finger Hands were my top picks.

I can appreciate the effort and love that went into producing this album. I would say it’s easily on par with many indie albums on regular radio rotation. The sound is professional, and it begs to be heard.

I could see some interesting remixes coming out of this, if Scott were to release a remix pack for some of the tracks.

At $7, this album is a bargain for anyone who is interested in hearing some original, creative, “good” music. You can grab a copy here on Scott’s Bandcamp.