With ‘January Tape’ Cut Copy Ditches Electro-Pop for Ambient

songs-to-dance-to

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Cut Copy. It was way back in 2009, and a classmate sent me a mix filled with electro-pop acts to introduce my ears to new music. The CD (you remember those things!) was filled with tracks from Miami Horror, MSTRKRFT and more, but one track reigned supreme above them all — Hearts on FireAs a child of the 80’s the nostalgia hit me pretty hard, and everything from the synthesizers to the vocals reminded me of Depeche Mode — a way more upbeat and less emo version no less.

For the next 4 years I made it my mission to seek out each new Cut Copy release. I purchased 2011’s Zonoscope on vinyl and marveled at how they masterfully weaved political statements into insanely danceable tracks:

And though 2013’s Free Your Mind wasn’t high on my list of favorite albums from the group, I still enjoyed it for what it was: a great album of House tracks for late-night groovin’. But as with many of my favorite electronic acts from the early aughts, Cut Copy too disappeared. That said, you can imagine how I felt when I heard the group was working on a 44-minute cassette tape of instrumental ambient music. Of course I was even more thrilled when I saw the album pop-up on Spotify a few days ago, and after spending countless days listening to each track I can confidently say I’m loving their new direction.

If (like me) you enjoy the meditative pleasures of Aphex Twin, Brian Eno or Kraftwerk, you’ll instantly be entranced by January Tape. Over the course of 5 tracks (titled Parts 1 through 5), we’re introduced to a more subdued version of Cut Copy. Hushed, reverberated vocals give way to longer tracks filled with hazy, analog synthesizers that linger in-and-out of phase, never quite reaching release. And as subdued as the album begins, it slowly fades into the ether on the wings of some truly ethereal synth pads. In short, January Tape was well worth the wait, and if the switch from electro-pop to ambient is any indication of Cut Copy’s future, I welcome it with open arms.

 

Deadmau5 – Strobe Remixes

One of the most popular electronic songs of all time gets the remix treatment, and all I have to say is yassssssssssss. “Strobe” is considered by many to be the pinnacle of electronic music, and certainly the pinnacle of deadmau5’s production. The song is just perfect, a 10 minute journey to progressive wonderland.

Feed Me, Com Truise, Dimension, Lane 8, and ATTLAS offer up remixes for the 100th release of deadmau5’s label mau5trap. Each one of them extremely talented producers, representing vastly different swaths of electronic music. Each remix is distinct, each producer crafting their own homage to “Strobe,” a track that lit up a generation of producers and music fans.

Feed Me‘s take starts off with the beat in place and a speedy buildup in contrast to the sloooowww buildup in the original. The drop is dope, and I’d expect nothing less from Feed Me. He plays with some truly heavy shit, gorgeous big-room weirdness, and then drops out everything else for a sonic exploration of those original, haunting synths, nursing the slowness, replicating the original and letting it shine for a few minutes, then brings it back up and in and fuckin bangs. There’s so much energy in this, it feels live, like he’s editing it on the fly in front of a crowd, fiddling with the knobs. A wonderful take on Strobe.

Com Truise takes it in a entirely different direction — a distorted, bass-driven beat resting at 88 beats per minute, futuristic and stylized almost beyond recognition until he brings in the original synths as a substitute for vocals. He’s created a completely different song, worked around remnants of the original, but still totally in keeping with the tone, that kind of dark beauty that “Strobe” captures so well.

Dimension is one of the best drum n bass artists right now, and at least partly responsible for bringing dnb back to the masses and out of the shadows where it was for quite a while. This is everything you want in a dnb remix of Strobe: bursting at the seams with energy, heavy-hitting, generous with the drops, complex percussion, layers upon layers of pristine production.

Lane 8 delivers a deep, seductive take on the original, preserving so much of it, subtly making it his own, but making it beat-driven right from the start. With just a fabulous (second) drop at around the 4:40 mark that brings it allllll home. The composition of the track as a whole is playful, and you can feel the joy of playing around with this track, one of the greatest ever.

ATTLAS is signed to mau5trap records and has been producing killer stuff so consistently. This track starts off pretty, all sparkly and shit, and rolls into a just stunningly beautiful take on Strobe. It’s atmospheric, with saturated, vibrating synths draped all around like sonic Christmas lights. It’s progressive, patiently introducing new elements so that each variation sends a shiver down your spine. When they make you wait for it, it feels so much better. Ok basically, this song is sex. <3

 

Links to various music services here

Pet Shop Boys – A Cloud in a Box

Everybody goes through a New Wave phase at some point in their life, right? Well for me, that happened nearly five years ago when I first discovered the Pet Shop Boys. Something about the juxtaposition of their high-pitched British accents against the analog synthesizers drove me wild, and I just couldn’t get enough of “West End Girls.” In the 30 years since their debut, the duo has continued to put out a steady stream of releases, but none in my opinion could ever top the New Wave hit that first put me on their radar. “A Cloud in a Box”, a bonus single off their latest album “Super“, takes the Pet Shop Boys to new heights. And I completely love the way they’ve managed to showcase that classic House sound, yet make it all their own. Give it a listen below and get ready to dance!

Why Kaytranada’s ‘99.9%’ is the album of the summer

 

As the dog days of summer roll to an end, I’m left to reflect on the many tracks and albums I’ve consumed over the past three months. I’ve grooved along to Lone, threw my hands in the air listening to Disclosure and strutted around to the first Justice release in nearly three years; but one album has never strayed too far from my Spotify queue — Kaytranada’s first full-length release, 99.9%. I first came across Kay when his single “Leave Me Alone” popped up on my weekly Spotify Discover playlist (yes, I know!). I immediately fell in love with his use of downright abrasive bass and warbly organ-tinged synthesizers, merged with trap and house beats. Something about it made me feel so badass that I surprised myself by making it an integral part of my morning commute. From then on, I eagerly consumed each new Kaytranada track, remix or set; my ears hungry for more.

And nearly one year later, I’ve finally been rewarded for my devotion with 15 brand new tracks. 99.9% is an album filled with contrasts, and it’s these sudden shifts both in the tone and genre of each track that make those contrasts all the more intoxicating. A sultry instrumental like “Weight Off” might give way to a rap ballad, only to be overtaken by a bass heavy-hitter. At times this might seem a little chaotic, disjointed even, but as Kaytranada puts it, his unique brand of “black tropical house” holds it all together. No where is this more apparent than on my favorite, “Together.” It’s here that AlunaGeorge’s masterful vocals swirl effortlessly around that warbly synth and signature bass, showcasing that cohesive sound.

99.9% is by no means a traditional choice for album of the summer, but its unique quirks are sure to leave an impression that lasts far beyond Labor Day and those last, hazy days of summer.

Wavemob #002

I’ve been very into this whole “wave” thing lately, with its dark, luscious synths and wacked out beats, born as a cousin to trap and cousin twice removed of dubstep, with a dose of those shiny shiny — truly, wavey —  synths, so thoroughly fresh and modern, a beautiful dystopian take on the world that is somehow comforting, what with all of the chaos going on. Because no matter how fucked things get, we’ll have drop-dead gorgeous art as we spin into the abyss.

Wavemob is a record label started by producer Klimeks as a place to showcase a sound that no one else was making and has evolved into a collective highlighting some of the best producers in the world right now. I’ve been listening to every one of these guys lately and I can tell you, it’s killer.

This release is a treat. Throw it on with some headphones or a good soundsystem and let it take you someplace a bit darker, but a bit more beautiful than where you are now: