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The EDM Inbetweeners

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Electronic Dance Music has gone mainstream and there’s no denying it. What was once confined to the bunkers of an intimate 4am boiler room has catapulted onto the main stages of Coachella, a spot which was once saved only for rock legends or pop princesses. While many arguments thrown around about artists “selling out” their music to Las Vegas or the highest bidder may actually be on point, going mainstream and appealing to the masses in one way or another, however, is not necessarily the devil, if played correctly.

Adaptation in the music industry is completely natural- it’s the survival of the fittest instinct which should push artists to produce engaging and unique new music. Many of these big name artists who have made their name and claimed their unique slot within this dance music industry have hit the mainstream and never looked back. But let me be clear here, going mainstream does not mean it is acceptable to be complacent. Yes, Calvin Harris has created the perfect anthem recipe, and yes he is now the highest paid DJ in the world for the second year – but his complacency, and that of David Guetta, has not gone unnoticed.

Who could forget Deadmau5‘s infamous “We all hit play” posted on his Tumblr in 2012, an interesting read on what it was like to be a DJ/Producer in 2012. While it is often unclear of the line between “DJ” and “Producer”, in his signature Mau5  rant honesty, he expressed how, as an actual producer, “[his] ‘skills’ and other PRODUCERS’ skills shine where [they] need to shine…in the goddamned studio, and on the fucking releases.” Furthermore, he stresses that it is a DJ’s job to take a crowd “on a roller coaster…and connect with them.” Anyone who has seen Laidback Luke play live would understand the talent in gauging a crowd and adapting your set to get them up and pumping.

While I did say the mainstream is not necessarily the devil, it can trap young artists whether they choose that path or not. If we take Swedish DJ Producer Avicii as an example: Off the back of his Levels tour, there appeared to be no stopping the then 22-year old superstar. Producing hit after hit, and doing over 250+ shows in a year, it then came at a complete surprise when he tried to break out, acting out his own rebellion to a televised audience ad at Ultra Music Festival in 2013. What should have been commended as a great leap of faith for the young talent – creating a folk album full of unexpected tracks and bootlegs – in fact left him in an even bigger mainstream big black hole. But should he be punished for trying something different, is it his fault that everyone learned to love Aloe Black again?

All hope is not lost, however. There are artists who have managed to successfully slip between the headline set at Stereosonic, to the top of the charts, to producing a pop-star’s hit, and right back to the 5am unplanned sets at Bonarroo festival (I’m looking at you Skrillex), with little to no resistance. These are what should be better known as the “EDM Inbetweeners.”  The clever adapters who have infiltrated the mainstream, our radio airways and our pop-charts, very often without you even realising. And the funny thing is, whether you admit it or not, or whether you know it was them, you love their work!

Here are a few EDM Inbetweeners who have caught our attention in one way or another.

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Zedd 

Here’s something you’d probably find hard to Believe, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj‘s Beauty And A Beat was originally produced by Zedd for his album Grammy award-winning album Clarity. While Clarity proved to be a mainstream hit for the well-established Russian-German EDM artist, it was his production on this Beiber hit which solidified himself as a lovable inbetweener. If that was not enough for the 25-year old, then his collaboration with R&B girl of the moment Ariana Grande has proved his versatility and knack for wielding lolly-pop infused dance perfection which surprisingly appeals to a wide-ranging audience, myself included.

…But is producing major tracks for major pop-artists a sell-out?

The answer is no. Zedd has managed to put his name, and his unique sound, behind some of the biggest tracks of the last two years as a producer and as an adapter to the market. Bridging the gap between the relatively unknown and the superstar mainstream, without eventually pissing off everyone, takes incredible skill and understanding of the industry. For Zedd, it was about choosing a pop artist who is in their prime, but also someone who compliments their dance production style. However, sometimes this does not always work, and this is probably the cue that Avicii should have been given before collaborating with flailing come-back kids Coldplay.

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Dillon Francis

This lovable prankster, born out of the Mad Decent crew, is quickly becoming the biggest non-mainstream mainstreamer of them all. His track this ‘Get Low’ alongside DJ Snake, has found itself in every movie trailer release of the last two months, plus landing him a headline spot at this year’s Sydney Field Day later this year in Sydney. To add to this, he as be caught teaching Zac Efron to DJ and earlier this week, and signing to major label Colombia Records in May of this year.

…But is signing to a major label a sell-out?

Although the signs may be pointing towards this, who can really call Dillon Francis a sell-out? While many fans were quick to jump on the “DILLONSELLOUTFRANCIS” Twitter bandwagon, if you take note, he has maintained his relationship with his origins at Mad Decent and remained true to his cheeky public persona throughout this accomplishment. Francis has etched his way into the mainstream by playing sets and producing tracks which are always a surprise to the system, and a unique Moombhatton sound. Furthermore, he has won our hearts with the ingenious use of social media to perpetuate his “I don’t give a fuck” attitude – a little nudge I’m sure Diplo gave him early on in his career.

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Flume (+ What So Not)

It seems like a lifetime ago that we were introduced to Flume, a young Sydney talent who had a knack for using a launch pad and cutting and mixing the best of R&B samples. A game-changing album and a bucket load of ARIAs later, it’s hard to believe that he has managed to stay under the radar, meanwhile being the most loved and well-recognised electronic artists in the country.

…But is being endorsed by David Beckham a sell out?

He is a popular guy, there no doubt about it. But Flume lets the music do the talking – and that is how it should be. His unique sound has lasted the initial hype, but it his ability to adapt and continue to create is what has garnered him respect amongst his myriad of fans and industry professionals.

Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in (“Everything changes, nothing perishes”). Ingenuity is definitely key, and just last year saw him team up with relatively unknown Sydney DJ Emoh Instead, to create What So Not. This gold-mine of a combination, backed by none other than successful inbetweener Skrillex,   has offered a new spin on his work, and kept any ounce of the distasteful mainstream out of the picture. The duo has gone from strength to strength, appealing to the masses of the clubs, while still separately standing on their own and flying an Aussie flag on a competitive international market. Above all from what it appears, he is a good guy with a clear level-headed head on him, even telling The Guardian last year that he will do anything “to avoid the poisons of success.”

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Disclosure

This British duo have garnered an epic amount of success over the years, bringing the underground electronic sound to the mainstream and hitting the higher reaches of the UK charts with hits such as ‘White Noise’ and ‘Latch.’

…But is selling over 1 million singles selling out?

Since signing with big name label Universal, all could have been lost for the talented Lawrence brothers. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When signing with their label, they said told Billboard, “we had an agreement with that they could carry on doing what we’re doing and they could just let us get on with it, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Disclosure’s achievement should not be in anyway underestimated. This well-oiled machine continues to pump out talented vocal artist after talented vocal artist into the spotlight, whilst remaining themselves relatively unscathed – not through any act of god but through careful planning and commitment to their cause and their music. They have created chart-friendly dance music, whilst retaining underground credibility and not softening their sound to cash in on any current trends or the temptation of a Las Vegas $$$ slot. A crossover of old school house and garage culture, crossed with exquisitely produce instrumental electronica, combined with hooks to seduce a wide-ranging mainstream audience, they are truly building their style on top of countless dance acts who have gone before them and succeeded such as Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers.

When asked, “now that you’ve got a song in the charts, are you going to change your music? Are you going to sound like EDM guys?” Guy Lawrence aptly replied, without any arrogance, “why would I need to change what I do? You’re always going to get haters, but I believe the dynamic has changed this year in the charts.”

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Bluejuice on breaking up, the past & the future

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In a decade-spanning career, Bluejuice have become one of Australia’s most-loved bands. If you’ve been to a festival in the last ten years, chances are you’ve seen a vitriolic Bluejuice, burning up the stage in questionable gold leotards.

While their energy and humour was a big part of their appeal, behind them are three albums that showcase brilliant pop writing. As such, the band scored a platinum record with their 2009 track, Broken Leg and went on to have two albums reach the top 40 in Australia.

If you look at their Wikipedia page now, you’ll notice it says “Bluejuice was a musical act”. It’s not completely over yet but Bluejuice referred to in the past tense will soon be a reality as the band parts ways after one more tour and a greatest hits compilation, RETROSPECTABLE. We chatted to Jake Stone from Bluejuice for the final time on why it’s the right time to break-up, the highlights, the lowlights and what’s next.

Have you found the response overwhelming regarding the breakup?  

Yeah, it’s been really good, actually. We’re going out on our own terms which is the right way. I’m glad that it’s working out that way and I wouldn’t have known how to do it otherwise. I think that by making that decision, while sad, we did the right thing.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/bluejuicemusic/broken-leg-3[/soundcloud]

Is there a part of you that’s like, “maybe I shouldn’t be doing it” after all the positive responses?

We’re only getting that positive feedback because we’ve done something dramatic. It feels right to go out now. Otherwise we’d die a slow death, not because we wouldn’t be able to do good music, but because people wouldn’t care enough even if we did do good music. I think in a way it’s the right decision and we’ve managed perception in the right way. We’ve gotten on the front foot and done what needed to be done so people are happy and comfortable and we aren’t working against people’s perceptions. It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks, what matters is how we come out of it. I’m not sure I’m going to be happy at the end of this but I’m happy that it’s working out now.

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Was there a specific moment that felt like the right time to end it?

When Jerry left, I thought there was a good chance that it might be the end of the band. That that was about a year and a half ago now. I knew it would be challenging to continue because of his talent but, in actual fact, we continued on and put out singles anyway and now the band is at a good stage where the people in the band are just as good as what Jerry was. But it’s kind of hard to continue because now we’ve got this great setup and can write good songs. But I don’t think that it’s possible to do it under this name, in a way.

So do you feel like there are more projects that you’ll go onto after this that reflect a changing musical taste?

Yeah, I hope so. I’m basically writing constantly at the moment. I’ve had a lot of songs for a long time and it’s kind of like a long-standing accruing of tunes that I’ve been doing in my studio at home. I’ve got some songs there that are ready to go that I just have to figure it out because I don’t want to put them out in a way that’s going to be associated with me directly, as people can easily say something about it that’s negative. They can have a negative perception of it and not support it, both the media and the public, so I just have to just sneak the songs in someway that will be good.

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So I suppose that’s kind of the flip side to dealing with media, that they can have perceptions of you that are hard to change. We’ve always seen Bluejuice in a really positive light and as a very fun band but have there been tough times as well?

Of course. For seven years we didn’t have a hit, so you can imagine. It’s been hard because you’re always kind of trying to make people believe that you’re something they need in their lives, but without sounding desperate, because people are very hard to pin down. You have to seduce them. Really, that’s what it is. You have to be seductive, in whatever fashion, whether it be sexually, comically or whatever it is that you have to do and for seven years, we were the ugly duckling of the Sydney music scene. Nobody wanted a bar of us and it’s hard to do that and get people on your side and draw them into what you’re doing, to make them believe in you and to think they’re the ones that made the decisions.

Luckily, Vitriol did that, seven years in. But seven years prior to that, we were working very hard. I was a music journalist, I worked at two bars, it was really hard. And we’ve been a band that fought with other a lot as well so it hasn’t been that easy. Nothing that’s worthwhile just sort of happens like that. I don’t think London Grammar, for example, just happened. I think they did a lot of stuff for a long time and people picked up on it. So perhaps they went  from being small to very big really quickly and that might’ve been challenging for them and I think every type of career projection has its own challenges. Ours has just been really focusing on keeping that stuff happening and making sure that it continues that way.

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Were there points early on before Vitriol where you were just like “this is a really hard slog, is it worth it anymore?”

Everyone was ready to break up the band just before Vitriol came out. Like, literally. I was never going to break up the band, I was never going to stop playing. It’s not easy being in a band. Some people have the stomach for what it takes and some people don’t. I don’t mind because it’s my job, to think my way around it and to come up with good songs. It’s not just about the music – you’ve got to figure out how to get people into the thing beyond just the music.

Looking back in hindsight, is there a record where you feel like you really hit the nail on the head?

I think Company. All of the things that happened around that record, everything centred around it were sort of perfect. The relationship I was in was the most important relationship that I ever had in my life and probably one of the most dramatic I’ve ever had. So, whether it was healthy or not, it was making an impact on my writing. Other than that, we figured out how to produce it in a way that wasn’t shit. We were like, “oh, we can actually be okay in the studio now,” be what we want rather than be completely be held onto a producer who might not share the vision for what we’re trying to do, which had been the case before.

On Company, Alex and I wrote Act Yr Age and Shock and those songs really galvanised the band’s reputation on the radio and continued to push forward and allowed us another three years of professional work, cementing our reputation beyond Broken Leg. In my opinion, Act Yr Age is the most sophisticated song we ever put out because it followed two big songs and continued to be able to be successful. When you play as a DJ, and put the record on, it still sounds current, it still has the production quality that cuts through next to music with modern production.

One of the songs featured (The Presets’) Julian Hamilton and it’s got a lovely quality that only that guy could lend to it. The design is also good. It’s very personal, taken from a photo of my ex from Skype that we then refigured and then re-cast.

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Company was my proudest moment as a writer. It sums up the band’s interest and was the best thing we ever did. It’s not the best record I’m going to make, I hope, and it might be the most interesting album I’m going to make as Bluejuice but I don’t think it’s the most sophisticated or mature thing I’m ever going to do.

I still have a lot of those songs that are unreleased. A lot. And they’re all really good songs. I’m just keen to put out more music, that’s what I want. When the band ends, I want to figure out how to do that in a way that will work. We were much harder on ourselves as editors than you think. There are a lot of great tunes that didn’t make the record that weren’t Bluejuice songs that I wrote myself that, by politics or otherwise, never made it onto the album. Managers, they don’t know everything, they don’t all know what’s appropriate for the time. There’s all these songs flying around now that I want to put out.

Did you record I’ll Go Crazy with the knowledge it would be one of your last songs?

Yes we did, absolutely.

So you weren’t planning to record another album or anything like that?

Well, we had been writing so we probably had enough material to do a record but then we hit on the idea that we’re going to wrap up the band and will be doing our last tour, and we needed some singles to put out. And so then we thought we only really needed three good songs to be able to put out a greatest hits record with new material on it. And I personally need, as an artist, to have the last two songs tell a certain story.

So I need a pop song that everyone’s going to love, that kind of represents the pop band that we are, that we always have been. And then I need a ballad that’s going to close the band in a way that’s emotional for other people and connects them to the band’s history, to make them understand where we came from and tell that story in a sincere way. And that’s what the one after this will be. And that’s how I see the band wrapping up. It just makes it easier. Because I’m really proud of the songs so I think it’s worked out alright.

 

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Introducing…Magic Yume Records

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the interns’ ‘Introducing’ series is a new segment focusing on labels and collectives who are making the music world infinitely more interesting in 2014. Each fortnight we’ll look at an individual or group of people that are spicing up their particular. This week we’re looking at music label, Magic Yume Records.

For the last Introducing, we looked at Moving Castle, an American-based label born from the internet and this time, once again, we’re looking at a label that’s been conceived in the Soundcloud age. From U2 dropping their album on iTunes to most artists uploading their album to release before streaming, it seems most artists have accepted that music exists in a non-tangible sense now.

Producers and labels alike are taking on this idea and creating collectives that exist almost solely on the internet. It’s a world that unites people through similar tastes and nostalgic references, collecting a following mostly of those who grew up in the ‘90s. Introducing, Magic Yume – a self proclaimed internet label with a logo that features Japanese anime and our favourite Pokemon Jigglypuff.

On first look, you’d be forgiven for thinking Magic Yume is a Japanese-based label. Yume in Japanese literally means dreams and much of their output inhabits that kawaii sound that Japan has nurtured for years. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover Magic Yume is actually an Italian label, not that the geography of the label means much.

Their about page reads, “Magic Yume Records is an internet label and a promo collective of musicians. Born to find new talents on the web, the goal of the label is to create a roster of artists who can transmit emotions to make you dream.” They further add that they’re spreading “love, peace and friendship”. And you know what; given the sfumato, dream-state of the music, they probably are.

The label was created in April of this year by Ricardo Danielli and has since amassed quite a following on Soundcloud by churning out nostalgic, Japanese-inspired music that says Dance Dance Revolution, Nintendo and dial-up internet. It’s hard to imagine that Italy would produce such a thing but creating music from a bedroom for the internet has meant boundless possibilities in this age. It’s the reason why Ryan Hemsworth was able to be so influenced by Japanese music without having travelled there and how Sampology is about to release Brazilian-flavoured music despite living his whole life in Brisbane.

In its short history, Magic Yume has released seven albums and 10 singles, mostly for free to a niche market that growing ever-larger. Their Soundcloud followers now include Grimes’ producer Blood Diamonds and influential Japanese label, Maltine. It’s impossible to believe that any of this music would have seen the light of day if it had to be shipped to stores and survive on the power of the press.

It speaks volumes that most of the producers that have released music through the label have more followers on Soundcloud than they do Facebook. This music is enigmatic and faceless with no real need to reveal itself. As such, we wish we could give more information about Magic Yume but just like a dream, this is all we can gather.

Below are our favourite releases from the label so far and an attempt to make sense of wtf is going on.

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Findserene from “the land of lost love”, according to his/her Soundcloud, is making atmospheric, emotional music that is probably the least kawaii thing that the label has released thus far. “I hope at least one song stays on your mind enough to keep Findserene alive,” Findserene says about the release. It’s the first release from the producer and is accurately described as ambient and nostalgic with a mix of trap and pop. The result of that is brooding, contemplative music that is sometimes depressive but always with a light glimmering somewhere. On a song like Please Don’t Go, the synths hover above in an unsettling manner while on Ayanami’s Oyasumi, the beat pulsates like an irregular heart-beat.

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Et Aliae- W A I T I N G (Ulzzang Pistol Remix)

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Ulzzang Pistol has only released this one remix through AM Discs but this gives us a chance to talk about the young producer, because he’s doing some very impressive stuff. Firstly this remix of the enigmatic Et Aliae, is a glitchy, tempo-raising masterpiece and one of the best things released by Magic Yume. At 30,000 Soundcloud plays, more than the original, the remix is a testament to the infectious, universal nature of Ulzzang Pistol. The rest of his productions take a more j-pop inspired route, but they’re no less melodic or energy-laiden. Special mention to his I Miss You EP which puts him right up there with Japanese producers like Tofubeats and AZUPUBSCHOOL.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/magicyumerecords/et-aliae-w-a-i-t-i-n-g-ulzzang-pistol-remix[/soundcloud]

inbirth- Kawa

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There is very little we can tell you about Kawa about from the fact that the producer joined Twitter in 2009, which means that he/she wasn’t a trailblazer but also wasn’t slow on the uptake when it comes to tweeting. That’s completely besides the point, but very much on the point is the fact that their EP, Kawa is a perfect melting pot of kawaii sounds and trap-based hip-hop. Cascading beats define inbirth’s production with songs like Compression sounding like they could easily house a rap by Future if it weren’t for the mournful piano. All the tracks on the EP find a peaceful middle-ground between ambient and trap which sees it maintain a laid-back beat that lulls you in and keeps you there right until the very end.

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Friendly Sneakrz- Flowers From Above

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We’ve made you stick around right until the end for a hit of kawaii-filled, anime-inspired sound, but thank goodness you’ve stayed because Friendly Sneakrz has that in abundance. Flowers From Above is the debut album from yet another faceless producer making music with plenty of personality. The album is defined by dense soundscapes of perky synths and high-pitched vocal samples. At times it creates the dreamstate of a ‘90s Mariah ballad while at other times it’s rushing at a mighty pace like a video-game soundtrack. All the while, it maintains these delectable melodies that sink right in like a perfect pop track. It’s the most optimistic release by Magic Yume and a colour-infused success for Friendly Sneakrz.

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Perfume Genius on confidence, rage & hateful tweets

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Seattle-born Mike Hadreas, most commonly known by his stage moniker Perfume Genius, is not your regular entertainer. After making an impressive debut in 2010 with his LP, Learning, Hadreas returned two years later with Put Your Back N 2 It, cementing his place as a revolutionary, emotionally-affecting showman. Delicate, yet emotionally intense in both their nature and delivery, these two albums were a beguiling introduction to the man that is Perfume Genius.

Two years down the track, and a controversial YouTube rejection in between, the singer/songwriter has made a bold comeback with the stunning new record, Too Bright. Its grandiosity and assertiveness a stark contrast from his previous works, Hadreas’ latest offering generates a figure that is a far cry from the reserved, vulnerable artist that first entered the music scene four years ago. Confidently delving into topics such as gender, race and sexual orientation, Too Bright is a bewitching, emotionally intense journey that is sure to delve into the inner psyche of any unsuspecting listener.

Upon his return from a three week touring stint across Europe, Hadreas and I had a chat about the new album, negative feedback, his influences and everything in between.

You’ve just returned home from your first tour of performing songs from Too Bright. How did everything go?

It was good, although I’m not really used to it anymore. I didn’t really feel clicked into the whole routine- waking up really early, going to bed really late. There’d be a lot going on and then I’d have to do a photo shoot and try to look, like, cute while I’m sweating. I gotta up my game perhaps and have a beauty regimen. I feel like I need handy wipes or something.

Was it mainly new material that you were touring with?

It was a pretty equal mix from all three albums. I guess I didn’t want to play too many new songs because I didn’t want people to hear them first in a YouTube video. Not that I think anyone cares enough to put them on YouTube but sometimes they do that. Also, my drummer lives in Paris and my guitar player lives in the UK, and we now live in Seattle so we have really limited rehearsal time. I wanted to make sure we had time to rehearse the new stuff before we play it, especially since there’s more elements now.

quote4Yeah, you have a lot more instrumentation this time around as opposed to your other records. Is it exciting to have a backing band on stage with you?

It is! I guess now it’s just naturally a little more complicated. I didn’t grow up in other bands so I’m not really used to it. It’s a little nerve-wracking because it’s not just me singing behind a piano anymore, keeping things really minimal. I feel like I know how to do that, whereas this is risky and new. As much as it’s nerve-wracking, it’s also fun.

There’s obviously a lot of difference in the stage set-up for your previous, piano-based material, compared to your new material that requires the inclusion of a backing band. How do you find it, alternating between such contrasting materials when you’re performing?

I kind of have to map the setlist out a little differently so none of the songs are mean to each other. I’m a fairly crazy person so it’s not that hard for me to go between moods. I can get there pretty quickly but I guess there are some songs that are similar in subject matter and mood to some of the louder songs so I try to pair them together. I don’t want it to be too manic-depressive for anybody. Or maybe that’s cool, I dunno.

How did the audience respond to the new material that you played?

The first time I ever played the song, My Body, I played it in Tokyo, and nobody clapped or anything afterwards…but maybe it was just because they didn’t know the song. It was the first time we had performed anything like that and it was pretty loud and dark and everyone was a bit freaked out and shaken up afterwards and when nobody responded I was like…erm…But then I played it over in a few other countries and it seemed to go well.

I guess some of the songs from the album have the ability to leave the listener a bit unsettled.

Yeah, one of my friends said that when I play that song they just put their hands over their face and look in between their fingers, freaked out.

I feel that songs from this album can shake up something from within, enabling people to kind of draw references from their own lives.

I really hope that’s what it is. I hope it’s not like, “who is this screeching weirdo on stage!” Like when they played My Body on the radio, somebody tweeted, “Just heard the worst song I’ve ever heard in my life,” probably hearing just a bunch of disgusting noises with just a screech over it…which I guess essentially is kind of what that song is.

quote3So how do you deal with that kind of negative feedback?

With this music it’s very different. I’m really proud of this album so if people talk about the music and they don’t like it, it doesn’t really bother me. If people talk about how I look, however, like rude, grossly weird vain things like that, then I get really upset. It’s just really personal. Whereas when it’s about my music, it doesn’t really bother me that much. I’m kind of lying a bit because it essentially does bother me but not as bad as it used to.

I guess it’s quite confronting putting yourself out there creatively. Do you find you’ve become better at dealing with the feedback over the years?

I think so. And I think I feel really confident, beyond just the lyrics or what the songs are about. I’m confident the music is really good and this is the first time that’s happened. Not that I thought the music was bad in the other two albums, I really still think it was pretty and nice, it’s just that I was a lot more considerate and thoughtful about the sound on Too Bright, as much as the lyrical content.

quote5Too Bright definitely does sound a lot more confident, a bit more grandiose. You’ve also described it as “an underlying rage that has slowly been growing since ten and has just begun to bubble up.” What made you draw upon these references of your past in this album?

I’ve always made music to process things, so if something was bothering me, or something needed healing or a relationship in my life was screwed up, writing was a way I could deal. But I kind of used up all the memories that I needed to heal on the first couple of albums and this one’s a lot more about how I’m feeling now and almost a projection of how I want to be, not so much looking into the past. That anger was kind of some of the more immediate things that I needed to process.

With your songs and the visual representations in your music videos, I feel that you’re drawing upon not only this anger, but also some of the other deadly sins; greed, lust, gluttony. Was this intentional?  

No, but I like that. It perhaps wasn’t intentional but I like showing things that maybe I’ve been ashamed of or things I think are gross about myself. Or that I’m scared that other people think I’m gross or too ‘faggy’ or too feminine. I kind of like doing it defiantly and pushing it into people’s faces.

It seems you’ve managed to achieve this in the videos; kind of pushing it into people’s faces, providing an amount of intensity at times but then you manage to draw it back at just the right moments. You’ve carefully oscillated between the two ends of the spectrum.

Yeah, I never want the videos to be just pure rebellion, I want there to be a purpose to them, or have it be empowering or have some sort of importance. More than just giving someone the middle finger.

Do you have a lot of input of the content for the videos?

Yeah, especially this last one. Both of them are collaborations, but I feel like Queen was almost equal measure me and Cody Critcheloe (SSION), the director. I really trusted him and I guess that’s why I didn’t mind meeting in the middle more. I didn’t mind patchworking of all our zany ideas into one dream. I can come up with the ideas but I sometimes don’t know how to make it cool, you know? And the director I was working with was very cool.

It must be nice to tell people your ideas and have them filter it out into whatever you picture in your head.

Exactly, and that’s what she did. I sent her a bunch of weird, run-off sentences and words and then she sent me back this storyboard complete with pictures and visual references. Everything she had was exactly what I was thinking.

Speaking of collaborations, Too Bright was co-produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley. What kind of influence do you think he had on the album?

Technically, he’s more capable than I am. When I gave him emotional descriptive words, he’d know what instruments to use, what knobs to twiddle and what cord to plug in where to make that sound. He understood emotionally where I was coming from and he wasn’t nervous about going too far or being too dark and serious, while also not being scared of being too patient or gentle or sensitive about the quieter moments. We’re pretty open and light-hearted while we’re talking but creatively, we’re kind of dark and wild so it was like a perfect relationship to be in the studio.

You wrote your first album while living at your Mother’s house. Where did you write your music this time?

This last one I wrote in a thick-walled apartment, so I could write when I felt like it and I could scream and be as loud as I wanted and I think that was the big help for expanding what I do. I could experiment with my voice in ways that could have potentially been really embarrassing or goofy, but I wasn’t scared of being overheard; I was screeching and screaming and squealing.

quote6Your boyfriend sings and plays with you on stage. Does he contribute to the songwriting process?

Oh yeah. I come from an emotional place and he’s more musical. He went to school for music so his way of thinking is completely different. He would come home after I’d been writing and would listen to the actual song. Whereas I would only look into what the song meant, he would hear what it really sounded like, so that was really valuable.

Do you find he inspires you artistically?

Yeah, I would either take his advice or I would get rebellious and pissed off. If he said he didn’t like the song, I’d make it even worse.

How is it touring and being on stage with your partner? I can imagine there’d be friction at times?

It’s good, you’ve got to learn how to fight and we’ve learnt to fight really well because if you’re around each other 24 hours a day, it’s inevitable. But we’ve learnt how to fight and almost laugh immediately afterwards. I can’t imagine leaving and being gone for all those months without seeing him.

Perfume Genius’ Too Bright is out today in Australia, released via Matador Records / Remote Control. You can stream it here

 

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The 10 Commandments of Kanye West: Concert Review

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When Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and North West touch down in a country, there’s always going to be some fanfare. While Kim has been visiting the the country’s hotspots like Paramatta Westfield, Kanye has been making headlines with his powerful Yeezus tour. Despite the rants and reportedly telling disabled people to stand up, Kanye’s tour has been met with adoration. With Kanye in mind as the modern messiah, we analysed his 10 commandments while devouring his Sydney show.

I

The audience was incredibly responsive on Saturday night, whether it be from a single note in Runaway or the slight mention of Kim & North . The night before, he ranted about people not standing up, but on Saturday the crowd both started and ended the evening standing up, of their own accord, albeit a little more sweaty. Energy permeated the whole room with punters yelling to the hook in Gold Digger or calling back, “can’t a young nigger get money any more?” on Cold. It felt like a room of his biggest fans and of course, when he replaced a lyric in Good Life to say “It feel like Sydney”, everyone went batshit cray.

II

Kanye is an exhibitionist – an artist who’s made a career on being larger than life. His last album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, brought with it a live show with dancers, cranes and pyrotechnics, however, with Yeezus there has been a remarkable shift in attitude. The Yeezus tour was formed on the pretense that less is more. All he was accompanied by were two large screens and a few smoke machines; it was up to him to create the energy by aggressively rapping and stirring the crowd. Visually, it looked stunning, placing real Kanye as a mere ant against the god-like projections.

III

Kanye’s rants and general big headedness would have people believe that he’s self-centred but his setlist says a very different thing. He showed appreciation for his entire catalogue and formed a setlist that pleased the crowd and also pleased him. He only chose four cuts from Yeezus, spending much of the time churning out hits like Good Life, Jesus Walks and All Of The Lights. Much of his onstage energy seemed to be induced by the crowd’s energy and a greatest hits set that recognised what the crowd wanted was his greatest strength. And by the way, they all sounded incredible, from the hearty Rihanna hook of All of the Lights to that stomping brass sample of Touch The Sky.

IV

Throughout the night, Kanye paid homage  to his past inspirations, The Rolling Stones, U2 and his favourite artist of all time, James Brown. “I had the opportunity to open up for U2 on my second album”, he said, bringing up a particularly topical point, given the release of U2’s iTunes-infiltrating album. Despite having an ego larger than Darling Harbour, West has always been able to admit the brilliance of others, offering praise to rappers like Jay Z and Lil Wayne. Even when Pusha T came out in Runaway, he gracefully shared both the stage and the spotlight.

V

When Kanye released his difficult fourth album, 808s and Heartbreak, everyone scoffed at his use of auto-tune, yet on Yeezus, he used auto-tune from Hold My Liquor to Blood on the Leaves and no one flinched. His commitment to auto-tune seems to have paid off and in concert it’s actually quite emotionally affecting. He extended Runaway into a 10 minute-plus epic, ad-linking with auto-tuned vocals that sounded more Maxwell than T-Pain. Auto-tune seems to be one of the few ways that Kanye shows fragility. When he sang ,”all things are possible”, it created one of the more delicate moments of the night.

viKanye has always held his mother, Donda West, who tragically passed away in 2007, in high regard. On his last tour for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he finished every set on his knees to Hey Mama, in one of the hugest, most humble moments of his career. On the Yeezus tour, he’s dropped Hey Mama from the set but her presence is no less felt. He called her his greatest influence alongside U2 and the Rolling Stones, to which everyone in the crowd cheered.

VII

Kanye’s rants weren’t extremely aggressive in Sydney but he said a few poignant things. “I take my responsibility very seriously”, he remarked at one point, referring to the way people are influenced by him. With it, he thanked those who stood by him through his artistic detours (808s and Heartbreak) and noted that he takes his audience’s opinion on board, whilst at times it may not seem like it. Although Yeezus was not the most radio-friendly album, the tour was crafted by a Kanye that was there to stir the audience into complete anarchy.

VIII

One of the highlights of the night came with Yeezus standout, Blood On The Leaves. Returning for an encore, the Nina Simone sample bellowed through the arena before Kanye emerged with auto-tune fragility. For those who didn’t know the song, it would’ve lulled them into a false sense of security. When the TNGHT sample dropped, the entire arena shook. Kanye threw himself around within an inch of his life, the lights strobed in anarchy and the bass absolutely tore a hole in the roof. It was a valiant, triumphant moment that even beat set-closer, Niggas In Paris. 

IX

It may seem hard to believe, but arena-tours can often swallow performers. If you don’t have the stage presence or the audience on your side, it doesn’t matter how many dancers you throw on, you’ve already lost. Standing against two large screens, Kanye looked like a mere man against a huge projection of himself, but he was by far the biggest person there. The reason? He was committed from the beginning to the end. If it didn’t feel right he’d start the song again, as he did on Runaway and Blood On The Leaves, and if the huge crowd was dipping, he’d let out a primal scream. From the minute he entered the stage to the thundering finale Black Skinhead, he was like a boxer attempting to knock-out the air around him. The music was loud, real loud. Songs like New Slaves and Power threatened to belittle him but his menacing confidence meant he always won, stealing the limelight by just having himself- one body- on the stage.

XKanye did a talk at SXSW where he said that if he’s going to work with something, he wants it to be the best. That’s why he waxes lyrical about Apple, works with Jay Z and married Kim K- he believes they’re the best. Incidentally, he also believe he’s the best and while it’s easy to take it as reckless arrogance, none of Kanye’s music would work if he didn’t believe he was the best. At the height of his popularity, he released an album like Yeezus, which is an industrial and, at times, difficult record, yet live, he has an audience of 15,000+ rapping along with him to New Slaves. “Don’t get too caught up in the hate,” he says at one point in the show and while at many times in his career he has, tonight he seems at peace. His last Australian tour was perfect, glued together by a pristine white set and flawless dancers. Yeezus is nothing like that. At times it’s gritty, raw and imperfect, yet Kanye wholeheartedly believes in it and as such, so does the crowd.

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BIGSOUND day 2 wrap-up

Brisbane has once again been transformed into a new music haven with BIGSOUND rolling into town. With it, the annual music conference has brought some of the most hype-worthy names in music to play over a number of venues in Fortitude Valley.

It says something about the state of new Australian music that despite it being a lineup of many fresh faces, it stands up against many major festivals. In the past year, DMA’s have become NME darlings, Oscar Key Sung has become one of the internet’s most buzzed names and Tkay Maidza has attracted the attention of International producers Ryan Hemsworth and Bok Bok. The talent at BIGSOUND 2014 lineup doesn’t just stack up locally, the artists playing are garnering international attention as well with many of them likely to pop up on the SXSW roster next year.

The head may have been a little bit sorer than day one, but our new music caps were still firmly on for day two of BIGSOUND. It was a night that moved from dulcet electronica to rambunctious hip-hop, once again proving the sheer quality of Australian music right now.

Click on the tabs to move through the artists.

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The power of satirical music videos

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This week saw an unlikely pairing between 22 Jump Street star Channing Tatum and innovative mega-producer Diplo, to create this year’s hottest new music comedy reel Dick Graze. While at first, it may appear to be the rapid decline of music production as we know it, this awkwardly playful music video represents quite the opposite.

‘Dick Graze’ joins a long line of successful satirical videos to be released in the last decade, alongside Psy’s ‘Gangman Style’ to anything and everything by Weird Al Yankovic. But what makes them so successful? Believe it or not, satirical video clips are not always easy to spot. While some are created just for laughs, many have gained their notoriety and viral internet success by addressing important, and often untouched messages about society in a playful and digestible manner. Her are some of the best and worst satirical music videos produced over the last 10-years which have captured the hearts of YouTubers around the world.

Psy – Gangnam Style

If someone had told you two years ago, that a music video about a South-Korean man dancing like a horse to a song called Gangman Style would be one of the biggest viral successes of 2012 – would you believe them? Would you believe that a K-Pop could take centre stage at Australia’s Future Music Festival in 2013 for  6minutes and get away with it?

Park Jaesang, the mastermind behind Psy (short for psycho) and unlikely poster boy for South Korea’s youth-obsessed, vacuous pop music scene created overnight stardom in a K-Pop entertainment industry, where many have failed many times before. American Rapper T-Pain was retweeted 2,400 times when he wrote, “Words cannot describe how amazing this video is,” while The Wall Street Journal voted it as one of its “5 Must-See” response videos. However, beneath the catchy dance beat and hilarious dance moves this relatively ancient 34-year old pop sensation has perpetuated a subversive message about wealth, class and value in contemporary South Korean society. What might appear to be one of the most ridiculous music videos we have ever laid our eyes on, is actually a big deal in South Korean society – a far cry from the usual cookie cutter lollipop K-Pop music they are used to.

Chainsmokers – #Selfie

Given the nod of approval by dance-music king Pete Tong, Selfie has been the surprise success story of 2014 in dance music industry and in clubs around the globe. Treading the fine line between stupid and smart, and satire or reality, the New York-based duo have caught onto a narcissistic truth we all face everyday. Their first big studio single, ‘Selfie’ holds a mirror up to our Generation Y society (literally), with their hyperbolic reference to the current club scene of the ‘me me me’ tech generation. While we don’t want to admit there is a great deal in truth in the monologue of the track, the playful, tongue in cheek demeanour of the song is utterly infectious. It’s got my viral tick of approval!

 The Lonely Island – I’m On A Boat

Trying not to give too much away in their song title, The Lonely Island’s ‘I’m On A Boat’ parodies many of the ridiculous clichés found in rap songs and videos. Exessive wealth, gold-plated grills, drinking, bitchez and swearing, plus some glorious Auto-Tune provided none other than the man T-Pain himself. Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone, the mischievous threesome who have also bought you Dick in a box with Justin Timberlake, and this year’s infamous EDM dance parody When will the bass drop have racked up over 84million hits on YouTube with I’m on a boat.

This video is clearly just for laughs, poking fun at the music industry and all its excessiveness. However, what may surprise you is that this SNL Digital Short proved to be successful far beyond the cyber-world, picking a nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 52nd Grammy Awards as well as a glowing review from Rolling Stone, who said it is “one of the strongest Saturday Night Live hip-hop hits since Eddie Murphy was funny.”

 

Ylvis – The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)

Little words can be used to describe how and why this song has become so successful, but it has – 450million views successful. Running in the same vein of Rebecca Black’s Friday, Norwegian duo, Ylvis’ The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?) is so ridiculous it makes sense. The video, which involves people dressed up as animals dancing around in the woods while Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker croon “dog goes woof/ cat goes meow/ bird goes tweet/ mouse goes squeak”. It is utterly maddening, and in essence does not really give back much to society – except to make us laugh at its absurdity. Hats off to these two jesters for making us weirdly question, “what does a fox really say?”

Weird Al Yankovic – ‘White & Nerdy’

At the ripe age old of 54 and with a career which has spanned over two-thirds of his life, Weird Al Yankovic is showing now signs of slowing down. Perfecting the satirical cover song, this curly haired viral wiz released his 13th studio album in 2014, Mandatory Fun. Yankovic’s biggest hit to date, the 2009 White and Nerdy, an obvious parody of Ridin’ by Chamillionaire and Kravzie Bone, is deliriously funny and quick-witted – truly committing to the cause of nerd culture and the awkwardness of society. To add to his backlog of satirical genius, he has also produced covers of Offspring (Pretty Fly For a Rabbi), Michael Jackson (Eat it) Nirvana (Smells like Nirvana) – deservedly crowing him the king of the satire.

Bound 2 – Kanye West

Kanye West is one artist who does not shy away from excess and controversy and Bound 2 is no exception. This masterpiece, featuring a wingless Pegasus, landscape time-lapses to rival any David Attenborough documentary and of course – a 15-year teenage boy’s dream – a topless Kim Kardashian, has been met with consequent criticism and ridicule in its release in November last year. Namely the parody re-imaging of the video created by James Franco and Seth Rogen.

Is it, or is it not meant to be a joke? Directed by British fashion photographer Nick Knight, the video is an Americana0influenced wet dream fantasy, practically breaking the internet, leaving many fans confused and shocked. Under the guise of a seamlessly outdated tacky video, this brilliant wizardry of satire, is a sarcastic portrait of media consumption and the fizzling idea of the American Dream.

In true Kanye style, he stated:

“I wanted to take white trash t-shirts and make it into a video. I wanted it to look as phony as possible. I wanted the clouds to go in one direction, the mountains to go in another, the horses to go over there. I wanted to show that this is the Hunger Games. This is the type of imagery that’s being presented to all of us, the only difference is there’s a black dude in the middle of it…”

– Kanye West |Breakfast Club 105.1

 

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BIGSOUND day 1 wrap-up

Brisbane has once again been transformed into a new music haven with BIGSOUND rolling into town. With it, the annual music conference has brought some of the most hype-worthy names in music to play over a number of venues in Fortitude Valley.

It says something about the state of new Australian music that despite it being a lineup of many fresh faces, it stands up against many major festivals. In the past year, DMA’s have become NME darlings, Oscar Key Sung has become one of the internet’s most buzzed names and Tkay Maidza has attracted the attention of International producers Ryan Hemsworth and Bok Bok. The talent at BIGSOUND 2014 lineup doesn’t just stack up locally, the artists playing are garnering international attention as well with many of them likely to pop up on the SXSW roster next year.

Last night we took a trip deep into the Valley to discover and celebrate the state of Australian music right now. And yes, we can confirm that it’s healthier than ever. Spanning countless venues, we donned our runners and zig-zagged around the Valley to check out the best new talent and for your convenience, we overcame our lack of sleep to make a cheat-sheet of BIGSOUND’s highlights from night one.

Click on the tabs to move through the artists.

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Genre-pushing pop princess pairings of 2014

popprincessSomething’s been happening in the world of pop this year. Well, duh. Let me rephrase. A lot  has been happening in the world of pop this year. From Beyonce’s sly-dog release of Beyonce, to the alarming growth that’s firmly attached itself to Nicki Minaj’s behind, to Tay Tay getting busy exacerbating racial stereotypes while she’s shaking it off to Lily Allen’s comeback tour, it’s been a busy year for pop and its chart toppers. Controversial MTV appearances and obligatory twitter beefs aside though, what’s really interesting is that, in its fatigued 2014 state, pop just isn’t pop anymore. Blame exhaustion or simply growing out of that awkward preteen stage, pop is increasingly becoming less and less like the pop of the the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Once guarded by boy bands in matching outfits and bad die jobs, pop was a pristine domain reserved for the Britney Spears’ and Christina’s -before she was X-tina – of the world. A clearly defined realm, with the occasional true diva slash pop princess flourishing amongst a sea of Mandy Moore’s and Jessica Simpson’s. This year however, those same pop princesses that, in say 1999 or even 2009, would’ve been left to their preordained place on So Fresh of Summer and Ryan Seacrest’s weekly Top 40, have become, for all intents and purposes, transcendent. Chameleon-like, female pop artists of 2014 are opting to work with some seriously unlikely producers, and no, we’re not just talking about the David Guetta’s and Calvin Harris’s of the world. Suddenly, Ariana Grande is bosom buddies with Cashmere Cat and Miley’s a female rebel with Alt-J. And, do you know what’s even more interesting? As pop fatigues of its own pop game, and grows out of its own pop boots, those same unlikely producers are choosing to work back and undeniably helping to carve a new path for the future of a now more mature, dynamic pop. Here we have a look at just 5 unlikely pop princess pairings released over the last year that are helping to push the boundaries of the genre ever onward.

Ariana Grande and Zedd: Break Free

When Break Free dropped earlier this year, Grande’s Zedd produced mega hit broke all the rules on its way to freedom. Music camps everywhere sat perplexed facing the same conundrum, to like or not to like. Here was a song with undeniable pop appeal. With vocals bellowing out from yet another sequin-clad Disney Channel escapee, and a house-anthem quality to its thumping bass and roller coaster rise and falls, this song was surely destined for Top 40 success, buoyed by the starry eyed 12 to 16 year old girl market, while simultaneously anticipating ridicule from more discerning music snobs. Remarkably, however, it wasn’t just the aspirational tweens that found themselves crooning along to Grande’s grammatically incorrect chorus. Zedd’s production gave not only the song a level of unexpected credibility, but Grande herself. Instead of lampooning the 21-year-old for, well, what else are Disney graduates for? Pitchfork evoked comparisons to “Swedish pop mastermind, Robyn,” while noting Grande’s “sky scraping voice” was in top form. And Slate called it a “soaring pop ballad… propelled by synth chords and a pounding bass beat.”

Ariana Grande and Cashmere Cat: Be My Baby

Grande’s debut album My Everything is riddled with collaborations from Nicki Minaj and Jessie J, to The Weeknd and Childish Gambino. It’s well and truly old news, but in case you’ve been living under a rock, everyone wants a piece of this intergalactic pop princess. Perhaps the album’s most unexpected cameo however is by Norwegian producer Cashmere Cat who, not only produced Be My Baby, but in more recent weeks has released an alternative version to the sanitised edit that made its way onto Grande’s album. Brimming with blippy synths, all out gun shots and punch-packing chorus breakdowns, Cashmere’s re-edit is effortlessly cool in a way that the original could never be. While superficially the two artists find fans in diametrically opposed walks of life, collectively the same-same-but-different tracks somewhat unashamedly demonstrate a rumbling conversation currently taking place between chart toppers and the underground. It seems intrigue and a genuine desire to bust genre wide open is a priority on all fronts at the moment: Alien-pashing pocket rocket or super-side fringed cat alike.

Miley Cyrus and Alt J: Hunger of the Pine

Of all the pop princess collabs on this list, Miley’s sample on Alt-J’s track Hunger of the Pine was critically the least well received. Lifted from 4×4, a non-single track on Cyrus’s Bangerz album, Sam called the sample “beyond clumsy,” while Bianca vilified Cyrus for bringing her “big wrecking ball” in and ruining the track’s chance of truly “happening.” Billboard simply lamented Alt-J’s oversight in not sampling Nelly’s verse from the same song. A non-appearance by Nelly on any track is already disappointing enough, let alone when it’s replaced by Miley. Hunger of the Pine remains however, a crystalline example of how reworks, samples and collaborations between unlikely bedfellows attribute a fresh sense of credibility artists and their music. Suddenly Miley was not just Miley of Robin Thicke infamy, but Miley, an artist in the eyes of incomparable (thank god) Alt-J.

Jessie Ware and Cyril Hahn: Tough Love

Labeled breakout producer of 2013, Cyril Hahn has steadily been making a name for himself remixing and sampling the lofty vocals of female artists at the top of their game. From Destiny’s Child, to baby sister Solange and Californian outfit HAIM to a truly x-rated, quivering pants-party rendition of Mariah’s Touch My Body, it’s not surprising that the Swiss R&B re-animator quickly turned his hand to Jessie Ware’s Tough Love. Described as “the missing link between SBTRKT and Sade,” Ware was praised for the release of her down-tempo R&B, synth-infused pop album (yes, there is such a thing), Devotion, earlier this year. While there ain’t nothing tough about the original Tough Love, when in Hahn’s hands, the breathy pop-ballad is easily transformed into a house beat that bubbles frenetically under a vocal tapestry rich in high highs and slow burn crescendos. A Hahn remix is quickly becoming the tell tale sign of a true pop princess. Watch out Ariana Grande, he’s coming for you.

Sia and Four Tet: Chandelier 

Sia’s Chandelier caught attention for a myriad of reasons. Firstly it was her bold, unapologetic announcement of return after an extended hiatus between albums. Secondly, dat video clip, am I right? And thirdly, the incredibly powerful press and TV talk show performances that accompanied its debut, all seeming to herald the return of this unique artist, while firmly maintaining her shadowy space, just beyond the limelight’s desperately creeping finger tips. Read, Lena Dunham’s doppleganger act on Late Night with Seth Meyers and her back-to-the-camera recreation on Ellen. Pitchfork claimed Chandelier made “her previously released solo material seem impossibly minor by comparison,” while our own writer Sam noted a presences of guts in Chandelier absent in the work of contemporaries like Katy Perry. In the face of such pop stardom, producers and DJ reactionaries have two choices, run in the opposite direction, save daring to take on soon-to-be pop classic or conversely dive straight in, rework and take the track in a totally new direction. For his take on Sia’s Chandelier, British producer Four Tet chose the latter. Stripping out the instrumentals, Four Tet left Sia’s impossible audio intact, twanging over an fresh hip-hop inspired beat and softly sparkling keys. Like the Cashmere Cat re-release of Grande’s Be My Baby, Four Tet’s Chandelier is more than a remix or mere dialed up BPM. It reinforces pop’s sky rocketing power to transcend what has been a chaste genre and a willingness on the behalf of certifiably non-pop producers to encourage this fresh approach to limits and genre. As Sam says, the Four Tet interpretation just “adds extra edge as if to take it from the hands of Commercial Radio and plop it in Triple J’s lap.”

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