Wednesday, 20 November 2013


So yes, I'm a bit late on this one, considering the album came out in 2008 and they've released a follow-up album since (which seems far more average to me). But fuck it, I've just listened to the album on Spotify and decided to buy it, so why not talk about it.

DIOYY? are an English band that straddles the boundaries of electro and rock, sounding like a more muscly incarnation of Digitalism. The music is very raw, and has a distinct live sound. Its this that gives the album such impact, everything feels very real and honest (even when using layers of synthesizers and vocoders). 

"Battle Royale" sets the tone for the album, with various distorted noises layered over a Justice-esque drum beat before launching into a riff of syncopated stabs of synth. The guitar solo at the mid point of the track adds a suggestion of the rock music yet to come, before launching back into the typically mid-noughties punchiness. Following this is a personal favourite of mine, "With A Heavy Heart (I Regret To Inform You)," in my mind the heaviest song on the album. The song features an intense vocal performance from frontman James Rushent, some very chunky bass guitar, and absolutely shitloads of distortion. The aggression literally pours from the track as it seems to run out of control, the rising "Oh God!"s building the tension to the sort of instrumental chorus that makes you want to riot. It's one of my favourite "lose-your-shit" songs.

"We Are Rockstars" was the making of DIOYY?, the one that got them big and that actually drew me to them. Distinctively French in its sound, the song is something like a robotics experiment gone wrong, everything very synthetic and yet sounding very organic at the same time. It's still a great track. Then comes "Dawn of the Dead," the first of the more melodic pieces on the album, and its yet another winner. The casual nature of the vocals brings a great deal of honesty to the song, and the layers upon layers of sounds make it a very rich song to listen to, with the reverb-filled clap and backing "Oo, Aa" on the chorus sounding particularly cool to me. This is followed by another melodic track, but "Doomed Now" has a suitably darker tone. This song would be average. But the vocoder is nothing but superb, its strained sound lifting the song well above what it might have been.

Kicking off the second half of the album is the quirkiest of interludes, the awesomely named "Attack of the 60ft Lesbian Octopus." Taking influence from the sort of music you expect from a Scooby Doo chase sequence, the organ sounds and intense speed seem on the one hand ridiculous, but on the other immensely cool. This is followed by the far more conventional indie club tune "Let's Make Out", featuring some great vocals from Death From Above 1979's Sebastien Granger centered around the shouting of the song's wonderfully youthful and reckless title. This is combined with the same sort of sassy aggro we were introduced to at the outset of the record. Definitely one that get's stuck in your head... let's make out, let's make out, let's make out...

"Being Bad Feels Pretty Good" is one of the weaker songs on the record, but is by no means a bad song. Some of the nicest sang vocals on the album are layered over brighter, sparklier synths. The chorus is the highlight, the harmony of the various parts resulting in a really nice, unconventional yet conventionally indie sound. This is followed by "Weird Science," the most dance-y track of the album. The strange melody has grown on me considerably, and the tones of the synthesizers used are excellently varied, all chunky and glitchy. Much like "Let's Make Out," it displays the band's funkier side, and really wants you to just have fun. And lastly we have "Epic Last Song." A slight disappointment, I think 'epic' is an overstatement. But DIOYY?'s knack for good choruses shines through again, and the song still manages to be good, just not as downright amazing as some of the of the other tracks on the album.

In summary, it's just an all-round great album. It's got a great deal of edge, and really makes you want to move in some shape or fashion. Even without a 'break' from the intense sound, it's wonderfully varied and plays with the notion of electro-rock in every possible way. It may not be a ground-breaking sound, but it's a wonderful one that feels just like home to me. A total winner.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Another French producer - but a very good one. Born in Lyon, Mike Lévy started out by experimenting with synthesizers whilst taking vague inspiration from classic techno, and it's this creativity that's evident in his work. Having remixed various artists from Justice to Lana Del Rey, along with small releases on Turbo, the 28-year-old producer is on the brink of releasing his debut album 'Aleph' (that's Hebrew for 'Alpha').

There seems to be considerable hype surrounding the guy, which to my mind is perfectly justifiable. Whilst techno isn't normally my thing (I find it a bit too sparse and minimal... i.e. boring), Gesaffelstein takes the genre and makes it his own. That is why I fell in love with his first single from his debut, 'Pursuit.' How I met it, I don't know, but when I did, I certainly knew about it. It's ridiculously abrasive, chugging and throbbing with industrial precision. The drums are definitely key to this: they're huge. And the atmospheric rest in the middle just makes the return of the syncopated bass line even more powerful. The more you listen, the more it hypnotises.

Most recently, Lévy has released 'Hate or Glory,' which runs in the same veins as 'Pursuit'. But where the latter feels hypnotic, the former has a real edge. The sound is purposeful and driven, making excellent use of silence to heighten mood. And towards the end, the relentless hi-hat rolling and distortion make for a brutal climax. These two songs both remind me of Daft Punk, a fusion of 'Homework' and 'Human After All' - definitely a good thing to be reminded of.

Combine this with Gesaffelstein's dark image and intense art-house music videos, and he's managed to take dance music to the next level. It shocks and seduces, blurring high art with beats and distortion into something quite exciting. And this is what, in my eyes, makes a producer special. It's not just dance music, it's deeper than that, more intelligent.

The Aleph-male of techno.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


So, following his various singles, I expected good things from this album. An owner of his self-titled debut, which is a great drum'n'bass album (whilst flirting with other genres), I automatically pre-ordered Torus. And it didn't disappoint...

So, my thoughts:

The album opens with the beastly title track. The first minute of "Torus" is a perfect example of how to open an album - eerie, intense, and intriguing. As the track progresses, it looses it's way a teeny bit, but it's still a powerful opener and also sets the tone for the album - this is not a stream of huge drum 'n' bass CHOOONZ. Next is the first d'n'b offering, the awesome "Safe in Sound." At this point in time, this is my favourite track of the album - the operatic vocals, the anthemic chord progressions, it's brilliant. I cannot listen to this track enough, seriously. Third is the first of the album's numerous pre-released singles, "Endorphins" featuring Alex Clare of "Too Close" fame. The track really is textbook chart-step. No issues with that, it's expertly produced, but it's not an album maker-or-breaker for me.

Next is another single, "Out The Blue" with guest vocals by Alice Gold. This sounds much more like Douwma's first album, albeit a bit more chunky and fleshed-out. Another choon that'll be a favourite of the mainstream Sub Focus fans. Following this is "Twilight" - an interestingly minimal track, full of clicky drums, washy pads, and big wobbly sub bass. Track 6 sees yet another switch up in style, with the immaculately produced "Close" featuring MNEK. This track leaves me unsure - on the one hand it's excellently produced and very very good. But it also has a whiff of unoriginality. This could very, very easily be Disclosure. But it isn't. Then comes another favourite of mine - the deliriously up-beat "Turn It Around" featuring vocals by Bloc Party frontman Kele (which makes it understandable as to why I love this song so much). I can understand the song might be a bit pop-y for some, but it still has the Sub Focus feel and the second drop makes for a wonderfully uplifting ending.

Into the second half of the album, and we move on to the surprising "Out of Reach", a collaboration with Welsh up-and-comer Jayelldee. The track is a complete departure from the bass-centric tendencies of the rest of the album, featuring some excellent african influences and some nice live drumming. Another stand-out track. And then we all recieve whiplash as we move to "Falling Down," a previously released single featuring Kenzie May. This is very much dubstep, and good too. Then another change to "Turn Back Time," a confusing mix of late 80's/early 90's dance and the type of bass music favoured by today's crowd. This is a track that I'm still undecided on, mainly because I feel the drop isn't as heavy as it seems to intend to be. There's clear intent for the sort of big-kick-drum-with-syncopated-stabs sound that we know from track's like Knife Party's "LRAD". But it isn't quite there. Following this is the slightly weak collaboration with Culture Shock and TC, "You Make It Better." Some nice vocals, but an otherwise cold track.

The penultimate piece is the song that got me to sit up and pay attention to Sub Focus again - "Tidal Wave." This is a track that as soon as I heard it, I fell in love. Alpines heart-felt vocals soar across the hypnotic pulsating of pitch-bent synths and bass, before dropping into the typical drum 'n' bass ending that takes the song to the next level. And closing the album is another strange track - the heavily 80's-influenced "Until The End" with vocals by Foxes. Where I was expecting a surging, all-guns-blazing, punch-in-the-air kinda finale, we are instead greeted with a very smooth ballad. A disappointment for some, but I think it makes for an interesting close. And the track fades into the sort of sounds and effects one could expect from The Chemical Brothers, swelling before suddenly cutting out in one of the most sudden endings I've heard.

In conclusion, this is an album that I'm glad I pre-ordered. There are no 'bad' tracks, and some excellent ones that I won't get tired of for some time. My main gripe is that it jumps around a lot, taking sounds from the 80s, 90s and 00s, and from all walks of electronic music. In many ways, this makes the album fantastic, but it means that as a whole, it doesn't gel very well. It isn't greater than the sum of its parts. And as much as I don't want to say it, and it may not be true, but there's a niggling sense of chasing commercial gain by making everything that's popular. But I doubt this is the case. And regardless, these are some excellent, excellent tunes, by anyone's standards.

HIGHLIGHTS: Safe In Sound // Turn It Around // Out of Reach // Tidal Wave


Tuesday, 24 September 2013


So, this isn't gonna be an accurate list, I'm not considering this very hard. This is simply what I feel to be my favourite ever albums at this point in time. Literally, this minute. Like, now. And I'm not saying these necessarily contain the best music ever - I just happen to love these albums in their entirety, as a complete body of work. What's more, this is not some rundown. Fuck am I choosing 1 favourite. Choices are absolutely not my speciality.

An obvious choice that very very few people could dispute. An album adored beyond the EDM world, it broke ground for dance music like nothing before it, and defined Daft Punk. It was no surprise that Random Access Memories couldn't top this - it went on to influence pop music, dance music, even Kanye West. That's pretty impressive. Oh yeah, and the actual music is superb - pop perfection that still sounds fresh after 12 years. And the accompanying film 'Interstellar 5555' is great too.
HIGHLIGHTS - Digital Love // Harder Better Faster Stronger // Face to Face

It's difficult to sum up this album in words. It's... It's like a soundtrack to the most moving, epic film ever, and then some. It jumps between synth-pop, stadium rock, and orchestral crescendos with ridiculous ease. The vocals are other-worldly, especially on the likes of 'Wait' and 'Outro'. Songs from this album have made me cry, and that just simply doesn't happen. This on headphones on a Sunday morning, or late at night - there is nothing more powerful, or emotive, or... I've run out of words to describe it.
HIGHLIGHTS - Midnight City // Wait // Outro

The most 'recent' release by the UK duo is their most resolved in my opinion. All of their albums have had certain lulls in my opinion, but this is near flawless. 'K+B+D' may be a bit of a nothingness, but apart from that every track has it's redeeming qualities. It balances different moods well, moving from sparse to intense to upbeat with ease. To be honest, this certainly isn't my favourite ever album. That said, it's the best these guys have ever made. Really, the Chemical Brothers seem to be more about the individual songs than the albums as a whole - this is the best attempt at making a cohesive 1-hour-long experience I've heard from them.
HIGHLIGHTS - Another World // Horse Power // Swoon

The debut album from the dubstep icons was an extremely strong release. From reviews that I've read, people's main issue seems to be that the album is simply a bit 'heavy' with no real let-up. But I think that's part of why I love it. There's definite contrast - they flirt with electro house in 'Fugue State,' go all-out with 'Crush On You,' and show off some of their more classic dubstep sounds with 'In The Way.' It's a strong album, with tracks flowing into each other smoothly and being comfortable both at a party or in the bedroom. An excellent contemporary mainstream dance album.
HIGHLIGHTS - Doomsday // Scorpions // Reaching Out

While I may listen to it rarely, as it's perhaps not my favourite album in this sense, the general sound and vibe of the album has a colossal effect on my tastes and style. Mental electronic music with a rock edge has definitely become something of a thing for me - this album lead me in turn to the likes of the Bloody Beetroots and SebastiAn. The album has its weak points, most notably Newjack (a song that really does irritate me a bit), but that doesn't stop it from being a greatly inspirational and unique (at least at the time) collection of work. And it has one of the best album openings. Ever.
HIGHLIGHTS - Genesis // D.A.N.C.E. // Stress

Thursday, 19 September 2013


So the original was nothing all that special in my opinion, despite me being a lover of both RAC and Kele. But this remix... this is some deep shit. Shows the vocals off stunningly, with some great trap-y rhythms and bass.

Monday, 16 September 2013


Having been a big-ass fan of Annie Mac Presents 2012, I thought this would be worth sharing. The album is out in just under a month, and features renowned DJ and BBC Radio 1 host Annie Mac's typically vast array of musical tastes. Disc 1 is for the club: featuring such huge tunes as 'Jack' by Breach and Chase & Status' 'Lost & Not Found', it's sure to get feet tapping and heads bobbing. Disc 2 is much more introvert, with the likes of Tensnake, Sampha, and Cyril Hahn. Based on the minimix provided, and the ridiculously good quality of AMP 2012, I think we can predict good things from 2013's offering from one of the world's biggest female DJs. When I've got the money, Imma be all over this.

Sunday, 8 September 2013


So, over the past few months, I've come across various remixes of French indie rockers Phoenix's 'Trying To Be Cool.' The original track is a true summer record, with the layered guitars, rolling rhythms, and Thomas Mars' vocals all interplaying brilliantly. But these 4 versions take the track in various directions. All are avialable for free download, just look at the soundcloud widgets below.

As expected of the retro master, the song is given a club-orientated 80's refit. The track features some great synth sounds, and some strong build-ups. However, when the track 'drops' so to speak, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed. There is such huge preparation in the build-ups, but then every time, the drums and bass come in feeling a bit mediocre. Personally, I feel the drums are too sparse, and the bass notes too long - it doesn't feel either hypnotic or intense, instead somewhere between the two that leaves me a bit wanting. But y'know, this is just opinion.

Nothing revolutionary here, but that's no criticism - this is the sort of excellent disco rework we've grown to love. All of the slap bass, syncopated guitar and synth samples are spot on, and the snappy drums compliment it all perfectly. This is by far the funkiest remix. But nothing overwhelming to me, just something fun and funky.

So, once again André Allen Anjos has added his touch. This is much like many other RAC remixes out there, but much like Breakbot's attempt, there's nowt wrong with that. This, along with Breakbot's, is probably most true to the original's summery vibe. Smooth, easy, and SUPERBLY produced, it's been one of my songs of the summer.

Having only just reviewed his EP, this is something a little different. This moves away from the club-dance orientated sounds of the 'Tuna Melt' EP, instead using some very warm vintage chords and a rather French-inspired vibe. The bassline is thick, the drums punchy, and the staccato synth is perfect. This is the perfect dance remix, avoiding the cliché sounds of the post-Swedish House Mafia era. And in turn, I think that makes this my favourite remix. A-Trak's done it again.