Music for the Masses

Music for the Masses

by DJ Ron Slomowicz
07.08.2016


A roundup of great electro, indie dance, grime, trop house, future bass/house, deep house, and progressive tracks.



Crystal Castles - “Concrete” and “Femen” - [FICTION]

Canadian duo Crystal Castles tease their forthcoming album with two completely different sound tracks.  Up first is “Femen,” a hauntingly beautiful soundscape with angelic choral vocals.  It builds to a startingly-flanged beat that punctuates the rhythms.  The beats sounded like they were reversed, so I ripped the audio and reversed it in Audacity and discovered the lyrics are “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana sung by a children’s choir.  When combined with the video of birds being trapped in nets, “Femen” is quite spooky.  “Concrete” is old school techno (think Lords of Acid / Bizarre Inc) filtered through the lens of industrial goth.  It could have easily been a track on Garbage’s debut album in 1995, yet it sounds fresh and current for 2016.  Set for release in August, the album will be supported by an extensive tour in Setpember  and October. 




Malaa - Illicit EP - [CONFESSION]

The ski-masked mysterious DJ Malla dropped his Illicit EP with three tracks that should excite his growing following.  The next iteration of future house and g-house, the beats are accentuated with a bit more glitch and electro than you might expect.  “Diamonds,” a highlight from his Ultra set, has the biggest buzz as the “diamonds” track.  The repeated line “diamonds on my charm, all these hoes on my arm” runs through spoken in an effected male voice, both aggressive and gangsta.  Supporting tracks “Frequency 75” and “Danger” are a little more adventurous with some experimentation in harsher broken beat and triplet sounds.  Tchami discovered Malaa, so we might be able to assume that he is French but aside from that little is known about him aside that he is following in the masked tradition of DJs like BL3ND and DJs From Mars.



Mason ft Stefflon Don - Fashion Killa (Papapapa) - [LOU LOU / ISLAND]

Deja Vu.  Back in 2006, Dutch duo Mason released the groundbreaking electro track “Exceeder” which just about every DJ in the world played.  A year later Princess Superstar added a “perfect” topline which, combined with a sexy gymnast video, helped “Perfect (Exceeder)” top charts around the world.   Last year, Mason quietly released an indie dance track complete with a funky bassline, memorable stabs (possibly from Jaydee’s “Plastic Dreams”) and a brilliant “papa papa” chat (definitely from The Jackson 5’s “ABC”). The track topped the Beatport charts and is the ultimate DJ secret weapon.  British political rapper Stefflon Don turns the track into a cheeky spoof of high fashion with the chant “Work It Baby” satiring the overly serious runway scene.  You can already imagine the children voguing down their own runways in houses around the world.  While the original is fierce in its own right, mixes by Vanilla Ace and Endor dub it out and add a touch of acid house and cowbells. 



Chicane - Offshore (Grum Remix) - [ARMADA]
Moby - Go (Hi-Lo Remix) - [SPINNIN]


Later this month, Chicane is releasing Twenty, a retrospective album of his greatest hits along with brand new remixes to reframe his classic tracks.  Following the brilliant new single “Carry Me Home” with Steve Edward comes quite a startling remix of his debut track “Offshore.”  The original version was a groundbreaking mix of ambient, trance, and breakbeats that redefined the trance sound of the mid '90s.  Grum’s remix keeps all of the major elements in place and adds a modern bassline and a subdued touch of modern electro.  The orchestral break is magical, reframing the original for crowds of today.  This wonderful remix makes us anxious in anticipation for the rest of the remixes.  Speaking of remixes of dance classics, Oliver Heldens (under his Hi-Lo guise) puts a modern twist on Moby’s “Go.” While taking the stems of a techno classic and laying them over a future/bass house template may not seem like the most groundbreaking pursuit in the world, the results are quite good and will work in any main room club set.  Together with “Renegade Mastah,” “MHATLP,” and “Ooh La La,” we see that the Hi-Lo project is a chance for Oliver to have a little fun updating dance classics for the floors of today.  With the release of his recent memoir ‘Porcelain,’ we wonder if Moby is planning a new greatest hits album.



Nora en Pure - On the Beach - [ENORMOUS TUNES]

The idea of updating of Chris Rea’s “On the Beach” for the summer isn’t quite the most original idea, but in the deft hands of Nora en Pure, the results are sheer brilliance.  The way she melds sexy deep house beats with her indie dance roots give a freshness to the classic electric guitar riffs.  Adding in some horns, a xylophone, and some female chants to bridge makes it even more special.  This is the best dance version of “On the Beach” since York’s trance take in 1999.  Absolutely essential for any summertime playlist, Nora en Pure’s rework will keep you grooving for months to come.



ALX Veliz - Dancing Kizomba - [ISLAND]
“Dancing Kizomba” surfaced late in 2015 and something felt kind of strange about it. I’ve been to Afro-Latin dance parties, and kizomba is normally around 80-95 bpm, slower and very sexy. At 98 bpm, ALX’s debut single is too fast for the urban side of kizomba dancing and the soca rhythm is less pronounced with a late swing--more like the recent trop-pop releases of DJ Snake and Diplo. On the other hand, most of the good kizomba these days is coming from Brazil, Angola (traditional), Europe (urban), and some from the Caribbean and the US (Boston, Houston). That ALX Veliz comes from Guatemalan roots and was raised in Canada puts an interesting spin on it. This is not to say that “Dancing Kizomba” is a bad song; it's catchy and has the summer vibe that will make you dance closely to the one you love. For clubland consumption, a slew of remixes span the tempos from 100 (Sak Noel, Kemist) all the way up to the mid 120s (Noodles, Santarosa, Soul Seekerz). Of particular note is Don Omar’s remix where the reggaeton star adds a verse to the sexy summer song. If this song becomes as big in the US as it has overseas, might it launch another big, if not misguided, Afro-Latin dance movement?

(Special thanks to Jacob Heiss for his help researching this piece.)





Tonga Balloon Gang ft Jaykae & Mayhem NODB - CCTV - [MIKE SKINNER]
Todrick Hall ft Bob the Drag Queen - Wrong Bitch


Music with a political message is something we really need need right now.  Mike Skinner (The Streets) and Murkage Dave teamed up to create Tonga, a club night that doesn’t play the same mainstream pop that other clubs do.   The night’s refreshing mix of dubstep, grime, rap, and garage inspired quite a brilliant EP last year (credited to the Tonga Balloon Gang).  The new g-house single “CCTV” is a satirical attack of the modern world where we are all under survailance 24 hours a day.  The new dance move “Do the CCTV” is covering your face so you “can’t be seen here.”  The club has even designed special surgical-like face mask for that exact purpose. 

YouTube sensation Todrick Hall has built a loyal following by injecting a comedic and queer sensibility into Disney and showtune classics.  With “Straight Outta Oz,” he reenvisions the Wizard of Oz as an empowering 2016 musical.  The new video “Wrong Bitch” features RuPaul's Drag Race winner Bob the Drag Queen, as green-skinned people using their lyrics to fight back against prejudice.  Remixing the Oz story line as a topical allegory for both #blacklivesmatter and #queerlivesmatter is not only radical and poignant but brilliantly executed in a way that will speak to everyone.  


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