EXES – Dear, Home

Feels like I’m missing something. Or someone. Makes me want to look up to the stars at night wishing to be somewhere else. Just to look down at my feet wondering if I’m not where I belong. Allie McDonald and Mike Derenzo, better known as EXES, triggered the most important thing with their new track – emotions. This song was written with heart and soul.

I know, I’m repeating myself, but it seems to get harder and harder to find music that actually transmits feelings. The Electro pop duo EXES from Los Angeles hit the jackpot with their latest release “Dear, Home”. I don’t exactly know how they managed to make their music feelable, but I guess it’s just the perfect combination of the soft emotional voice of McDonald and the defensive intrumental setting by Derenzo which serves rather as a frame for the voice than a backup track.
Starting with a really haunting spacey intro the track builds slowly into a big empty stage for the female vocals (which are placed perfectly front-and-center in the overall mix). If you close your eyes, you can almost see this stage with McDonald on it, single spot, dark room, that’s it. As the track progresses, there are several key elements mixed in, a piano-like synth and very calm drums serve as the base for the vocals. To put some icing on the ear cake, there are some violin stems blended in along some great voice doubling effects. Another example on how you keep a track interesting without getting too experimental. I just have this feeling with this one where everything falls in line, you know. Everything is where it’s supposed to be. Plus, the overall main mix is done perfectly.

With a debut EP that is announced to be released on the upcoming October, we can only wait for more of the creative and talented duo that is the EXES.

Sunday – Only

Imagine stepping out on the deck of a condo right at the beach, putting your sunglasses on. Seagulls passing by. A few people playing volleyball down at the beach. The wind is taking that bit of salt taste towards you. See it? If you don’t, “Only” will help you to do so.

This piece of calm summer is brought to you by producer and DJ Aaron Shanahan aka “Sunday”, who really managed to slower my heart rate with this track, exactly what I needed after a long day at the office. With a slow drum and sub bass combination, he layered a vocal track with the exact amount of room reverb on it. This alone sounds quite interesting, but he raises the bar even higher when introducing those bell synths and guitar lick stems. I don’t know about you, but I can’t resist to groove along while listening.
Sometimes I have the expression that the vocals are hit too hard by the reverb effect, but on the other hand this only creates and holds that spacey, laid back feeling. In addition with those bell synths and guitar clips it all makes sense and doesn’t really seem strange to the listener anymore.

This track isn’t overloaded with tons of layered tracks, special effects or anything. Shanahan did a great job in keeping it simple but at the same time complex enough to not feel boring for a second. The sound sometimes almost seems kind of “shy”, defensively mixed. That makes the track really multipurpose, doesn’t matter if it’s played at the club, as backgroud chillout tune in a bar, or on your headphones while jogging a couple of miles. Being also mixed solidly with maybe one or two events being too “thick”, there’s no reason to not play that song on repeat whenever you need that summer feeling.

Chelsey and the Noise – Parish

This one is a great track that demonstrates what happens when there’s chemistry between the musicians. Take electronic sounds and try to mix it with a human voice track. You think that’s a hard thing to do? Well, for “Chelsey and the Noise” it’s not.

One of their latest released tracks named “Parish” creates a mysterious atmosphere due to the outstanding blend of electronic drum and bass, vocal and synth glitches – and, of course, the haunting voice of Chelsey Hice. What I first thought would be a everyday electro track turned out to be something completely different. So, I guess this one’s created in a genre I like to call… “Chelectro”. You just can feel that mentioned chemistry between vocal and electro. Those samples and one-shots are placed perfectly (timing as well as eq-wise in the overall mix), and every now and then there are these unusual samples that make you think “wait…was WAS that?” Managing to create that effect, the track keeps an atmosphere that makes you listen on repeat because all that’s happening is somehow fascinating.

The California based duo did an outstanding work here in my opinion. Be it with those distorted synth sounds (maybe those are even guitar samples, hard to tell) put together by Brent Watters or with the beautiful voice of Chelsey Hice. It just falls in place, and although this was hard work, it just feels so easy for them to do. Releasing their “Losing Landscapes” EP just over a month ago, these two know exactly what they’re doing, and clicking through their tracks available on their Soundcloud account, I am convinced they will make a name for themselves out there. I’m eagerly awaiting the next track of Chelsey and the Noise.

Krix – Wandering Planet

Attention, people. There is some serious hardstyle coming your way.
…No, wait, it’s house.
…No wait… damn. It’s complex.

Young producer Jay Sillito aka Krix takes you back to school with this one, because you will have to learn about at least three different styles of music. With the affinity to quickly change between genres and even tempo, Krix got me confused on how to categorize what exactly he is doing. But then again, this made me decide to pitch his new track “Wandering Planet” in your direction.
At first, this one seems like a regular hardstyle track. Every element is there, the intro is building up nicely, and I really like the octave-hopping arpeggiated main synth. That reminds me of some of those trucks passing by when I went to the last open air festival, keeping you moving constantly. But wait, what’s this? All of a sudden the pace changes, leaving hardstyle behind and switching over to another rhythm and another tempo, almost like some DJ decided to hop to another artist. I like the attempt to create something new here. Obviously it worked because this is an eyebrow raiser for most of the people, although this might be interrupting everybody dancing to that tune. Being creative and thinking outside the box is a key element in being successful out there, so Sillito did the right thing there in my opinion. Also, those changes aren’t that easy to accomplish, so this just shows what he is capable of.

Overall, in my opinion this track has too many changes to go big out there on dancefloors. But I don’t think that was the intention of the producer in the first place. Changing again and again while using several elements like chiptune synths and massive sub bass, the track works for me as kind of a showroom for what Krix is able to do within several styles and genres. This is solid work, and I’m sure of the fact it will continue to be. With this skill set, I really hope that Krix will be producing more steady ones soon, because he has what t takes to make a name for himself out there. You should also check out his available tracks on Soundcloud and Youtube to find out more about this uprising talent.

The Bad Years – In The House (High All Day)

It’s been a long time since I heard that female/male vocal combination added with alternative music resulting in what you are about to hear. I’d like to call it “the cream in your coffee”.

Mabe you can relate to this scenario: you were having a lot of friends over for a party. The party was great but the people stayed all night, leaving you hungover and dead tired in the morning. You decide to sleep, then after getting up you look around, realizing that cleaning up this mess will take you at least two hours. Still hungover and tired. Yay.
Somehow this song reminds me of exact this situation. I guess it’s because I would listen to that song on repeat while cleaning the place. Being served a quite basic drum and bass intro, the track gets so much more intense after the vocal tracks are hitting. The voices of both Sami Akbari and Aaron Mort who are known as “The Bad Years” are placed perfectly in the mix and are well balanced eq-wise – but what’s most important, they are just so clean and pure to listen to. Not too much reverb effect going on, that would have damaged the perfect placement of the vocals within the mix. Also, those little synth highlights that are added throughout the song are really making a difference although you’re not really paying attention to them as a listener because they are just additional and mostly happening in the background. But these are important of fattening the whole track and keeping it interesting because you never know what’s next. To name the weak link within that track, it would be the drums. Although they’re mixed great, to me it feels like they have been played very static. It’s hard to describe, they are played well, but it feels like the person playing them somehow had a hard time doing so. The fills sound a bit…sterile. But obviously that doesn’t take anything away from the overall feeling of the track.

Adding it all up, you just can hear and feel that the Los Angeles-based duo loves what they are doing. They play around with schemes, instruments, vocal tracks, percussion…you name it. It just shows that they are not afraid of blending different styles just to see where that goes. Clicking through their available songs on Soundcloud, I noticed that they’re even using these elements that we as musicians stumble upon when creating a sound, but most of us decide to throw those ideas away instantly. (For example, any guitar riff that sounds off or strange.) “The Bad Years” are not only using those elements, but are somehow able to create really great things with it.

Uni Ika Ai – Soft In Ice

Expect something unexpected this time. This one’s about unusual beats, soft and soothing vocals, and  surprising percussion and sound effects. Long story short: This one’s refreshing new, folks.

The guys of Uni Ika Ai are all about experimenting with what they got. They hooked me right away with their intro. You’re getting some mixture of human percussion stems alongside a chiptune-like synth – this combination alone raised my interest. The Brooklyn based project took several elements which would have been good for a number of tracks, and melted them together to a track I’m still trying to wrap my brain around. While having a very minimalistic electronic drum/bass foundation, the soft yet powerful voice of Maia Friedman gets that human touch in there, perfect to close the gap between electro and alternative. So I guess I’ll call this one “alternatro”.
I really like when artists mix up several key elements which aren’t usually mixed together. Even when it get’s to a break where there is a jazzy saxophone mixed in, still it fits the track perfectly. At first I was thinking about the beat being a bit too stuttering, but thinking about it now, even ths is an effect that supports the track in general. Listening to that song reminds me of having a date with a stranger who seems to know all about you but hasn’t said a single word until now. This feeling when looking into the eyes of someone who feels familiar, you know. Well, this sound feels familiar as well. Giving this track a listen, you’ll know what this means.

There are several names the music world out there should remember from now on: Maia Friedman, Peter Lalish, Tom Deis, and Dan Drohan – also known as Uni Ika Ai. Their productions are state-of-the-art, and their creations so far are a mixture between music and art. Since they only have two tracks available on Soundcloud, I’m curious of what they will come up next. But I’m sure it will be a surprise for your ears and mind again. Watch out for their release “Keeping A Golden Bullseye In The Corner of My Mind” which should be available during the next weeks, then we’ll get a full length album of what they have in store for us.

November Nights – Midnight Dancing

In the end, it’s all about the easy life. Feel good moments. Remembering the good times. Enjoying who you are and what you do. To help you remember all of this, “November Nights” packed it in a single song.

Because the key elements of this tune have been selected and used so thoughtful, everything about this song makes you feel better. The combination of guitar licks and percussion (amongst other elements done with handclaps) make you wanna move. Not like dancing, but nodding your head while listening. The singer’s voice makes you want to sing along – of course, in my case this is until you realize that you can’t sing at all. And finally, the intelligent use of breaks and mixing techniques are the catalyst for this track to just work out damn well. The mixing and eq work, especially on the vocals which are placed slightly towards the high band is done outstandingly, although I am curious how this track would sound without the use of pitch correction and autotune. But then again it’s a wanted effect, and it works out perfectly.

I cannot tell you anything about the artist due to the lack of any useful internet resource. I said it before, and I keep telling you, guys: with a talent like that, producing songs like these, it’s necessary to put up a facebook page, a website or anything. All I can tell about “November Nights” is that the project is based in Philadelphia.
Clicking through the available tracks on Soundcloud I noticed a big evolution of the artist over the last year. There are several other tracks available but only the recent ones show what “November Nights” is capable of in my opinion. So I’m eagerly awaiting the next track, and I’m sure of the fact that I’m not the only one out there.

Donna Missal – Slide

The door opens, and there she is. Entering the club seemingly in slow motion. Right out of nowhere. All the guys in the bar stop talking and turn their heads, all the girls in the room don’t appreciate her presence in the room.

What I just described is the first picture that my mind drew when listening to the newest track “Slide” of Donna Missal, a talented Jersey based singer/songwriter. I originally was pitched her track “The Keeper”, but writing about what’s hot and mainstream isn’t quite my style, so I rather take the opportunity and shed some light on (the possibly raw draft of) “Slide”.
You get introduced to a quite minimalistic deep bass and drum combination which gives room for the beautiful voice of Missal. As soon as you hear her singing the first notes, you’ll know why I picked her for the next blog entry. It’s been a long time since I heard someone who knows how to use her vocal abilities in that extraordinary fashion. She somehow adds that mysterious-woman-element with her soft yet rough edged tones. In addition with the mixed-in reverb it just works out perfectly with that electro based instrumentals. Also, the singer manages to walk the line between melancholic and happy tunes. To keep that picture from the intro in mind, you never know if you should try to talk to that mysterious girl who just arrived at the scene, or just pay your bill and leave alone without her ever knowing you exist.

I’m not sure if this track was even meant to go big out there. With 2:20, it’s rather short, the intro sounds like the song was cut off a compilation, and until the time of writing about it there isn’t even artwork involved with the soundcloud track. Nevertheless the voice of Missal is just so addictive. In my opinon, she can sing whatever she wants. It doesn’t matter as long as she is singing. Which she does. Can’t wait what’s next.

Ronin – Fight Club

Besides an irrestistible drive that makes you wanna move your body, this one somehow goes deeper than the usual dance tune.

Yes, this track indeed is related to David Finchers movie “Fight Club” released in 1999 because it’s using audio excerpts out of it. Another similarity in my opinion is the unusual approach to the audience. The idea of the track is quite simple and minimalistic, but the implementation of all the little bits and pieces is done outstandingly.
The intro is a bit long, taking away about a minute for the first buildup. I read in the track description that the track was used as an opener for a outdoor event, keeping that in mind the long intro makes sense. But when I finished hearing the track I immediately was thinking about remixes of this track. I definitely would want that track to be remixed in at least three different versions. It totally see (or better: hear) that happening, but those ideas have just to be developed.
For now, after the intro you are hit with a genius minimal drum/bass combination alongside a crisp synth line. I love when tracks are not overdone in any way, many times the main synth melody is a very complex, arpeggiated track, but in this case Caleb Smith aka Ronin shows how it’s done with sufficient, but still minimal melody usage. For the breaks the mix is stirred up with several pitched vocal layers. Those are helping the track to gain momentum before you’re hit with the next beat section. While you are listening, close your eyes for a second. See that? Main stage, light effects, fog, exstatic people dancing… there’s the magic happening, just like that.

Ronin is not a newbie on the scene. It just shows in his productions that he has experience in producing and spinning the turntables as well. Being resident DJ in several locations over the last years, with producing “Fight Club” he just added another great track to his arsenal. If you have some time on your hands, you should give the tracks on his soundcloud account labeled as “Ronin Radio” a listen. Those are compilations of Ronin the DJ (where he also sneaks in his own productions, of course). But be warned: there’s some serious dancing involved if you do.

/ˈlo͞osid/ – X-Ray (ft. Lyon Hart)

Describing the latest track of /ˈlo͞osid/ in detail will be a hard thing to do. I’ll do my best.

Let’s start with the attribute “uplifting”. This track makes me feel good, it’s a great dance tune although there are changes happening every other second. But I like this unsteady behavior of music, of course only if it’s done properly. The guys of the US project “/ˈlo͞osid/” have the right sense to mix up steadiness with unexpected things. Everything falls in line, and the flow never gets interrupted by anything happening in the track. There is a quite fat bass track used – first I thought this was a bit too much, but /ˈlo͞osid/ managed to build in several breaks and calm pieces where you actually start to miss that fat distorted bass line. Also, they found a great balance between adding male vocals and concentrating on the driving melody/drum combination. In other words: I wasn’t able to sit still when listening to that track.
In the end you can say that the style of /ˈlo͞osid/ has many elements of many styles in it, I hear various stuff in there – edm, electro, house, dubstep… you name it. That’s the make-up of their original sound, and that’s what makes it so hard putting them into a specific genre. So, if you want me to name the genre of this group, I’m gonna name it “lo͞olectro”.

The group itself remains sort of a mystery. /ˈlo͞osid/ keeps their identities and their background information strictly confidential. Although this is quite a nice gimmick, for me as a writer it’s bugging me. I gotta admit I was searching the net for some snippets on them to find, but wasn’t able to do so. There you have it, raising interest through withholding information. Job well done, guys. I’m sure you not only got my attention with that PR stunt, hehe.
Anyway, for this track /ˈlo͞osid/ teamed with Lyon hart, a New York based singer/songwriter. Since I’m lacking additional information here regarding who-did-what, I just can say that this team works out very well. So, finally there’s to say that with “X-Ray” the world got a great dance tune for mainstages. Not too aggressive but quite addictive. I’m curious what comes next from those guys.