Enough has been said about Duke Dumont‘s rise to DJ stardom over the duration of 2014 and 2015. At this point, he’s become as synonymous with mainstream dance music as artists like Skrillex, Daft Punk, or Calvin Harris and he does what he does well; as far as repackaging your inspirations into easily digestible house treats, Duke Dumont doesn’t normally stray away from his tried and true neo-house structure. Pop, after all, is what pays the bills and what keeps the ADD-riddled generation of 20-somethings interested in your brand.
In this sense, his latest EP Blasé Boys Club Pt. I is more of the same from the English producer: a series of tracks that draw from a colorful palette of influences ranging from 90′s vocal house like Robin S to the downtempo 2-step patterns utilized by Duke Dumont’s peers Disclosure. This gives the tracks on his new EP an odd feeling of patchwork. It is as if he stitched his favorite pieces from the past 25 years of dance music into a quilt that’s supposed to pay homage to his heroes. He succeeds, but at the cost of leaving us suspecting like we’ve been here before.
For starters, “Won’t Look Back,” is not just an older track, but one that was previously released on Duke Dumont’s EP 1 less than a year ago making its inclusion welcome, but redundant. As for new material, “Robert Owens Talking,” while it shines in its ability to repurpose the the pure energy of the warehouse circa 1980′s Chicago, ultimately feels too much like Daft Punk’s “Giorgio by Moroder” on 2013′s Random Access Memories as Owens discusses Chicago with the same glimmer that Moroder had when he discussed disco. As far as structure goes, the focus of disco and funk as the backbone for classic house makes for an entertaining affair when the Duke is in charge. It shows a fun side to Duke Dumont that is often seen in his sets, but rarely put on display as a producer. Ultimately, however, it’s a case of too similar, too soon given Daft Punk’s “Moroder” is barely 2 years old.
“Melt,” the other track making its debut on this EP release, is on a whole new wavelength altogether. Starting off with a shuffling 2-step rhythm reminiscent of the loungier side of Disclosure’s Settle - the track “Second Chance” comes to mind – “Melt” subsides into a sultry plea for intimacy as the vocals beg for closeness and kisses in an eargasmic pool of lush soundscapes. This is the Duke Dumont that breaches past pop music formula to create something approachable for the masses while maintaining the elegance and deep feels that got him here to begin with; just look at “The Giver” for reference. This is also a major feature on “Ocean Drive,” a track that asks us to reevaluate our rapport with 80′s synthpop for the first time since Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” over 4 years ago. These two tracks are the crown jewels of the EP: shining examples of how to pay tribute to your peers and your guilty pleasures without feeling cheap or evil.
Despite it’s unevenness, Duke Dumont’s Blasé Boys Club premiere is an enjoyable romp and hopefully a glimpse as to where he wants to take his career – as long as his trajectory doesn’t stray too far into novelty, kitsch, or unnecessary detours into waters already traveled.
Blasé Boys Club, Pt. I is now available on all digital marketplaces.
Gracing the tightrope that extends between bumping G-house and pop electronica, Ape Drums’ remix of Steven A. Clark’s “Can’t Have,” out now on Secretly Canadian, is a supernova of glittering sound that flows beautifully like champagne in Paris. Tiptoeing around a series of bubbly drops punctuated with a floating array of chopped vocals, the remix finds the perfect balance of niche satisfaction and radio play sentimentality through its ability to follow an emotive pop structure without sacrificing the identity of the remix artist. In this case, the dancehall approach followed by Houston producer Ape Drums is what elevates the track from standard remix fare to exceptional banger – a commendable feat considering the original edit by Clark is remarkably catchy and an unorthodox alternative R&B track in its own right. Overall, the remix is a symphonic daydream that somersaults and sways with confident swagger.
And it deserves to be pumped in your car when you roll around town.
Listen to the Ape Drums remix of Steven A. Clark’s “Can’t Have” below.
Earlier this evening, Oswego, NY based composer and SUNY Oswego music professor Paul Leary uploaded “Machina,” a piece he performed on a Max7 drum machine he built (see picture above). The ten-minute long sonic journey begins with a pure square wave synth. After automating the degrade effect of the square wave synth, Paul introduces various percussive, melodic, and harmonic elements to the piece. Each musical element in “Machina” occupies its own frequency niche, something many producers strive for. As “Machina” progresses, Paul builds the intensity with each element he adds. The intensity continues to build until the breakdown (5:15) – at this point, only the square wave and another synth remain. After these two remaining elements harmonize for some time, Paul samples a famous Oppenheimer quote. The quote, which ends with “I suppose we all thought that, one way or another,” segues into a section with the drum machine accompanied by an atmospheric synth.
But the piece is never quite the same after the Oppenheimer sample. Perhaps alluding to the destruction caused by the atomic bombs, Paul disrupts the continuity perceived by the listener before the breakdown. From the Oppenheimer sample, the piece staggers to its end with beautifully crafted breakbeat and glitch patterns. Paul concludes “Machina” by fading the atmospheric synth into oblivion.
Listen to “Machina” here:
It’s safe to assume that sunny aesthetics are here to stay in dance music. As artists like Sam Feldt and Robin Schulz continue to pave the way on Top 40 radio, shifting the dance music game away from big room, electro, and trap, the sax-mellow guitar trend is becoming more and more noticeable as frat brothers begin trading in their tribal pattern tank tops for Hawaiian shirts.
But while this particular subgenre of dance furthers its reach, there are some producers who are keeping it rootsy and tropical without going full on pop. Nicolas Haelg‘s recent original, “Mind Games,” is tropical, sweet, summery, pleasurable, but it never strays into the cliché territory of slammers like “Prayer in C.” This is due in part mostly to the choice of vocals for the track: Haelg forgoes ambient or sultry and instead ventures into gospel which gives the track an energetic lift and more of a house feel than the countless other tropical tracks which have debuted in the last few months (“Show Me Love,” as gorgeous as it is, still comes to mind). Combined with a bass that slaps harder than the sound of a fat man belly-flopping into a swimming pool, the track as a whole is proper house with elements of island vibes; this is not the kind of tropical house that’ll give you sunburn just from listening.
Listen to Nicolas Haelg’s “Mind Games” below and pick it up for a free download.
The Blinkhorn Batch is a deliberate and meticulous selection of new dark, deep, and occasionally sinister sounds followed by a classic production of the same style. This ongoing series of posts is curated by Blisspop author Patrick Blinkhorn.
Our man from Marseille – N’to – is responsible for the next groove. “Purple (Original Mix)” has it all: a cool down home blues riff, a chill breakdown with a lovely electric keyboard, and harmonies for days – what more could one ask for? But this quality is what we’ve come from the members of the Hungry Music label (check out the other Hungry Music artists Joachim Pastor and Worakls for more great tunes):
This week’s classic is a classic remix of a classic – pretty classic, eh? Spanish DJ/Producer Dr. Kucho! did a number on Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” I’m going to leave this here and let it rock you back to 1977 …