Sarah Sellers – Gone Through Hell

This one flooded the room with feelings. Carefully mixed backing tracks meeting soulful emotive vocals. “Gone Through Hell” is a song where emotion is mixed in as if it was an additional track.

First time I listened was with studio speakers. Second, third and fourth time with closed headphones. This track made me lose track of time for a couple of minutes while I was listening. Dallas based Sarah Sellers creates a huge emotional stage while using her voice. She’s got that certain “it”-element while singing, you just believe that she’s giving you a little piece of her soul while telling her story. And this isn’t a story full of joy, happiness and “hey, it’s alright” moments. This is how she describes the process she went thorugh until now:
I might have burned everything down around me but I eventually started to rise from the ashes. I’m bruised. I have deep scars. But for the first time in my life – I’m finally me.
And, to be honest, you can read exactly that between the lines when she sings with that careful tones, bittersweet melodies and an almost hurting amount of feelings. You realize that the beautiful singer/songwriter Sellers doesn’t play a role while singing, it’s her essence she brings to the table. For what it’s worth, it never sounded better when someone went through hell and told the story afterwards.
Speaking of the mix, she had an awesome crew working with her. Mixed by Bradley Prakope and mastered by Tom Coyne/Sterling Sound, those guys just knew how to place her vocals into the right setting. Beautiful soft soundscapes, very defensive synth lines, outstanding downtempo beats with no glitches or misplacement in the eq band whatsoever…there’s nothing those guys missed to create this piece of art. Also, the music video (see below) created by Cold Fox Films was done with passion and the sense of understanding that making a music video isn’t just switching between two or three takes but telling the story in a meaningful way.

So, you could say that this is the right way to start the musical journey of 2017. Here’s a great artist who makes you feel something while listening, who shares enough of her soul to make you think about, who doesn’t need high energy dance tracks nor aggressive background tracks to do her thing. I strongly recommend to check out her other available tracks on Soundcloud or Youtube.

Emmit Fenn – Blinded

With the new year just starting, here’s a soft chillout tune to actually feel, to relax to, to ease your mind and to move to with closed eyes.

After all those party days during the christmas season and new years eve, I just felt like taking some time off. Relax. Let the thoughts go wherever they want to go. The new track “Blinded” created by Berkeley based Emmit Fenn helped me doing exactly that.
Introduced by a soft synth line and something that could be identified as the sound of waves hitting the shore, the song picks up the main theme right away with down pitched vocals. At first I thought the pitching wasn’t necessary, but later I realized that this actually helps the downtempo intention of the song a lot. I guess normal pitched vocals would have brought some unwanted extra drive with them.
As the track progresses, there are several synth tracks added, creating some space and working perfectly with the vocals to make you just close your eyes, to actually feel the music and to relax while grooving slowly to the very defensive beat of the song. You can’t put “Blinded” in the minimal genre, although there weren’t many doubled or tripled tracks used, which in my opinon is very refreshing. The less tracks are used, the more you can concentrate on the essence of the track, and Fenn did put a lot of thought and effort in creating a very intelligent mixture of synth, vocals and percussion. The final mix is ground solid, I couldn’t locate any glitches or anything.

Keeping his way of creating soft chillout with a certain style and signature sound, and being present on Spotify and other music distribution platforms, I guess this by far wasn’t the last time we heard about Emmit Fenn. In a time where everybody wants just to release the next pumping, over-compressed dance hit, we urgently need “counterparts” like Fenn who bring back those intricacies and details into music. Who are able to make us dream, who trigger emotions while not rushing anything.

Blonde Maze – Antarctica

Today I was abducted. I found myself in the world of Amanda Steckler aka Blonde Maze. Too bad it only lasted 3:50 minutes. But at least I got a glimpse of the landscape of Antarctica.

I guess this is the soundtrack of snowflakes falling to the ground. The newest track of New York based Blonde Maze has got an unbelievable soft feeling attached to it. Using several soft synths, a very defensive slow beat and marimba/mallet like sounds, the track offers the whole setting for the ultra-soft voice of Steckler who manages to complete the track with those reverbed vocals.
This track doesn’t necessarily want to make you move, and it’s not really a floorfiller anthem, but that wasn’t the intention anyway. It’s relaxing to listen to the melodies, nothing harsh happens, no stabbing effects are added. This track delivers that certain kind of flow to groove to. I especially like those vocal chops that were used as a synth addition. They’re not overly used, so they add up perfectly to the whole mix.

Clicking through several other tracks of the solo project known as Blonde Maze, I found a similar base to many of Stecklers tracks. Her signature sound is that soft, dreamly arrangement of layered synths and her angel-like voice. But in almost every track you stumble upon that little surprise she build in – unusual percussion, vocal chops with a load of effects added to them, backward played samples, you name it. This beautiful producer creates relaxing soothing music which never turns out boring. Sounds like the recipe to sell copies out there! I’m curious what’s next in her bag of electro tricks.

Fomo – Missing You (feat. Aybe)

Do you know these times when you’re driving home, hours to go, the endless road in front of you, and all of a sudden the radio’s playing that special song that makes to think hard and rest your head on one palm while driving? Welcome to the world of “Missing You”.

The latest song of producer Fomo is  an electro/downtempo track that has a certain flow attached to it. The music and melody alongside those addictive chops happening every now and then are a solid foundation for the vocals sung by Baltimore based singer/songwriter Aybe. Teaming up for this particular track was a thing of beauty in my opinion. While Fomo understood how to exactly place the vocals in the mix, keeping the music tracks defensive in the background, the beautiful voice of Aybe does the rest. Boy, this girl really can sing! (With a voice like that I guess my neighbors wouldn’t ask me to stop singing under the shower anymore, hehe.) She puts a lot of sensitive feeling and emotion into it, but on several occasions she lets us know that we haven’t heard anything yet and that she’s capable of putting so much more energy behind it. Of course, for this emotive track that wouldn’t be appropriate, but I think it’s a great thing if a vocalist can show what he/she is capable of with just small glitches while singing.

So, Fomo proves with this track that he’s ready to deliver not only solid music, but also feelings with it. “Missing You” never feels like a flat pop track, it’s done with much sense for detail and, I assume, countless hours in the studio to mix that thing the way it came out. Here’s an electro track which at the same time makes you move AND think. Not your everyday combination, right? Another great track for my daily playlist.

Alpha Minus – Satellites

Taken from the EP “Nightsounds”, the Berlin-based producer Mert Aslantürk aka Alpha Minus is giving your ears what they need – wide spaced analogue sound combined with front-and-center electro awareness.

Tonight I totally got tricked by the intro of a song. Well played, Alpha Minus! Lured by an reverbed, wide open melodic intro with only slightly modified synths and a soft guitar, the main theme of the song emerges to be backed by a dominant and half band-fat synth which goes perfect with that guitar lick. As soon as the rhythm section sets in, you’re into groove mode. The claps and percussion alongside the drums are mixed a bit too crips in the high eq band, but that’s just me. I prefer those to be more background elements. The overall mix of the song is great, even with the full amount of tracks nothing seems too mashed up or anything.
This song creates a certain atmosphere I really like. Ever stepped out a club the last guest? Ever walked an sports arena by yourself? Those moments where the space around you all of a sudden seems to grow and grow? This feeling is what you can expect out of “Satellites”. Headphones are mandatory, folks. And not those cheap in-ear things, we’re talking about closed full-range headphones. It doesn’t get any better, believe me.

Aslantürk likes to create electro-analogue hybrids with his tracks. While listening to the other tracks on his EP, I noticed there’s always a certain human factor to it. Be it a vocal track mixed in, some trumpet chops, guitars, or industrialized vocal one shots – it seems like keeping that human-electro connection is a vital factor for him to create his songs. The range of what I like to call “track feelings” goes from smooth (“Circles”) to unresting (“Nightborn”). For all of you you avid electro/downtempo music listeners out there I recommend to listen to Alpha Minus’ whole well-produced EP. You just can hear that there’s a lot of work and love for the genre coming with it. Trust me.

Carbonates on Mars – The Song of Sol

After a rough day, I just wanted to listen to something taking me away for a couple of minutes. Out of my home, maybe even out of this world. “The Song of Sol” was the perfect sound to achieve that. So get ready, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and off we go…

I didn’t listen to chillout and ambient in a while. During hectic times you often tend to blast your ears with what is keeping you up and running, right? But after hearing the first seconds of the new track of Gareth Farmer aka “Carbonates On Mars”, I turned up the volume and just listened. Farmer created a deep soundscape here with the use of just several synth lines, and just seems to let it flow from there on. There are these beeps and glitches happening, and these are making your imagination go wild. What’s this? Some computer generated beeps? Extraterrestrial lifeform? An outer space instrument? You name it. Due to the non-linear progression of the single tracks you’ll never get used to a rhythm and/or melody. This is creating what I like to call the “lean back effect” in the process. From a certain point on, it’s not about what the music or the producer wants to achieve anymore, it’s where your mind wants to run with it. Those reverbed layers of soft synth in addition with tiny little beeps and stabs create a cavern for your imagination, and the song takes its time to introduce you to it.
The final mix has its flaws, several times I think the track is clipping over those high eq band beeps, but that doesn’t kill the track itself. In a strange way, this even adds a bit granular deep space touch to it.

Farmer opens a door to something unexplored with his “Song of Sol”. I like the free flow going with the track, and if you are really taking your time to adapt (and no, this doesn’t mean simply switching from mainstream material to ambient tracks), I’m sure you’ll be taken away on this producer’s audio waves as well. Destination: wherever you want to go. All you need is a set of headphones and your imagination. Have a save journey, folks.

Apothek – Roaring

This one is smooth like silk. Just passing your ears, going straight to the brain without any friction. “Roaring”, one of the newer tracks of the norwegian pop duo Apothek just feels so soft you cannot believe it. And in times where music sometimes hits you like a smack in the face, this is a real great remedy for a change.

With a very defensive beat and dreamy synths, the singer/songwriter Morten Myklebust and the producer Nils Martin Larsen build a base for the vocals (the music itself would be a great intrumental track on it’s own). Several synth layers alongside arpeggiated melodies, reverb effects and minimal percussion set the scenery for music to close your eyes to. But, then there’s those vocals. The voice of Larsen is smooth like melting ice, and mixed into the whole arrangement perfectly. Minus lower band eq and plus doubling at the right position is a perfect addition to the soft expression. There’s one deep synth line that isn’t really working in my opinion, it’s adding sort of an unresting staccato to the main feeling. Other than this, Myklebust knew exactly where to highlight and where to cut back on everything.
Seems like the concept of electro-with-voice gets more and more fans out there, but the final results often won’t melt into a single genre thing but stay an attempt to just mix together two different styles. But with “Roaring” and all of the other tracks on Apothek’s self-titled debut album released by Propeller recordings, those guys prove that there actually IS something like merging the elements into another exciting hybrid. I know there were other guys before who did that, even ones you’d call “oldies” by now, but it still takes the courage and curiosity to get those results today with thousands of possibilities when producing electro. Apothek walks this line perfectly, creating their unique style in the process. Over here at kms this new genre they create with their music already has a name – we call it “Apo-pop”.

Soma – White Noise

Imagine a huge dark room. A stage with one single spotlight on it. There she is, looking silently in your eyes. Then she starts to sing, and all of a sudden you feel like everything else just isn’t that important anymore.

It’s easy to fall in love with Soma’s voice, she got me right away with her first notes. Stockholm based singer/songwriter Soma Manuchar really can cast a spell on you with her singing. She’s able to sound like a fragile crystal that fell to the ground, shattering to a million pieces – and in the next second she sings with so much power she practically moves brick walls with her voice. Her producer exactly knew how to emphasize her vocals with the perfect mixture of soft and defensive drums and percussion and a held back synth sound plus doubled vocal tracks and vocal one-shots. The secret ingredient these days is the good old reverb effect, but most producers tend to mix in too much reverb (or the wrong kind of reverb plugin/hardware) which mashes up the sound. Not this time, the producers of “White Noise” show exactly how it’s done. There are some effect chains I’m not too sure about, like those reverb hits that are cut in at the end of a lyric line, but that is just my personal opinion, nothing done wrong technically. Plus the variation of effects keep the song interesting, even mysterious sometimes. (what I like to call the “what WAS that?”-moment.)

This new track of Soma is really great. One fact that proves this statement is that the track is multi-purpose. Imagine the live stage I described before. Perfect. Imagine the song to be music to a good commercial. There you go. Soundtrack to a romantic film. Bam. Music on your headphones when jogging through the misty morning woods. Goosebump material. See? I rest my case. Can’t wait to hear more of Soma.

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.