Rising Paris-based electronic music producer DFNSE specializes in a sound and approach that meshes elements of French touch, funk and pop. Before releasing his debut EP, 2015’s Pandorium, an effort inspired by the SoundCloud Future House scene, he participated in a number of attention grabbing producer battles alongside emerging artists like BlackDoe, Ikaz Boi, and Varnish La Piscine.
Back in 2016, the rising Parisian producer released material through Darker Than Wax, Souletiquettte and Nowadays Records, who released a single on their Oceans compilation, as well as the Moonrock EP, which features one of his biggest songs to date, “Show You.”
Last September saw the release of his most recent EP, SymphonyRoad, an effort, that featured EP single “Getaway,”a breezy, 80s-inspired summertime bop featuring Australian vocalist AKA Lui’s plaintive falsetto paired with twinkling keys, a strutting bass line, some Nile Rodgers-inspired funk guitar, an irresistible, two-step inducing groove and an infectious hook. While “Getaway” is a club banger, the song is an escapist fantasy, evoking a summer full of seemingly carefree, warm days and nights, hanging out at the beach and rooftop bars and clubs — and of vacation to tropical climes.
After highly regarded remixes of L’Imperatice, Poolside, and Todd Edwards, Aussie electro pop duo Lazywax recently gave DFNSE’s “Getaway” feat. AKA Lui the remix treatment. The Lazywax remix retains AKA Lui’s plaintive vocal and pairs it with a disco-meets-French touch production centered around a funky bass line and glistening synths, turning the chilled out summery bop into a dance floor ready anthem.
McKenna Michels is an Austin-based singer/songwriter, who can trace the origins of her vibrant imagination and love for music to her grandmother, who surrounded a young Michels with classical music, Broadway tunes and Disney musicals. Michels discovered her own musical talent when she would sing along to her personal favorites, like The Phantom of the Opera and Aladdin.
The Austin-based artist’s musical universe was expanded when she was introduced to Lady Gaga, Adele, and Japanese pop/Vocaloid, Against the backdrop of an abusive environment in her mother’s home, Michels began to formally study piano and voice, joining the choir in middle school — and building a foundation as a songwriter by spending hours each day experimenting with keyboard melodies and writing poetry that helped her make sense of the complicated emotions she felt at the time. When she was 16, she wrote her first song.
Interestingly, Michels developed a reputation as a talented opera singer, who performed at The Kennedy Center back in 2017. She wound up stepping away from music temporarily to study technology. But feeling overwhelmed and desperately in need of a way to come to terms with her childhood experiences, the Austin-based artist sought refuge in songwriting. The songs came pouring out. From that point onward, she stared writing vulnerable and earnest stories rooted in her own journey through heartbreak and abuse, and coming out of the other side resilient, hopeful and rediscovering the beauty and need for human connection. This is paired with a vocal delivery informed by pop, R&B and rock.
After performing her original songs at a local club, Michels fully committed herself to pursuing a career in music, and to using her music to continue to heal herself and others. Her debut single. the Jon Muq-produced, Lauren Michels co-written “Tired” appeared on her debut EP Renaissance. “Tired” debuted at #30 and peaked at #21 on the Mediabase chart.
Building upon a growing profile, the Austin-based released her full-length, Jon Muq-produced debut Enlightenment earlier this year. Enlightenment‘s lead single “Broken Like This” landed at #20 on the Adult Contemporary Charts. The album’s second single, the slow-burning and sultry, murder/revenge ballad “Born To Die” was released this past June and debuted at #25 on the Adult Contemporary Charts.
The Nick Peterson-directed video for “Born to Die” premiered as a short film on iHorror.com and amassed over 60,000 views during the first three days of its release, with the video eventually earning over one million views overall. The video was an official selection at this year’s Shockfest, Deep Focus Film Festival, and Screamfest. It won Best Music Video at this year’s California International Shorts Festival and landed a Best Music Video nomination nod at Filmquest.
The Austin-based artist celebrated the success of “Born to Die” with a Jason Nevins-produced remix of the song that pairs Michels’ sultry vocals with tweeter and woofer rattling, industrial-like thump, bluesy, reverb-drenched bursts of guitar, twinkling keys and bursts of soaring, cinematic strings. While retaining the brooding and eerie air of the original, the remix turns the song into a timeless, stormy psych soul bop that pulls out the bluesy elements into the forefront.
“My message in ‘Born to Die’ is for people to never give up because there is life at the end, no matter how many people it feels like are against you or don’t believe you,” explains Michels.
Directed by Nick Peterson, the accompanying lyric video deconstructs the imagery of the original and turns into a horror-themed bit of pop art, centered around the themes of the song and its original video.
While she was in college, Allison played her first Soccer Mommy show at Bushwick, Brooklyn’s Silent Barn. She caught the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed her to a record deal — and after spending two years at NYU, she returned to Nashville to pursue a full-time career in music. Upon her return to Nashville, she wrote and released two Soccer Mommy albums — 2016’s For Young Hearts released through Orchid Tapes and 2017’s Collection released through Fat Possum.
Before the pandemic, Allison, much like countless other artists was gearing up for a big year: she started off 2020 by playing one of Bernie Sanders’ presidential rallies and joined a lengthy and eclectic list of artists, who endorsed his presidential campaign. That year also saw the release of her critically applauded sophomore album color theory, which she had planned to support with a headline tour with a number of sold-out dates months in advance that included a stop Glastonbury Festival and her late-night, national TV debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
With touring at a half as a result of the pandemic, Allison, much like countless other artists recognized that the time off from touring offered a unique opportunity to get creative and experiment with new ideas and new ways to connect with fans.
Combining her love of video games and performing, Allison had a digital show on Club Penguin Rewritten with over 10,000 attendees, who all had to make their own penguin avatars to attend. The show was so popular, that the platform’s servers crashed, forcing a rescheduling of the event. Of course, Allison has also played a number of live-streamed sets, including ones hosted by NPR’s Tiny Desk At Home (which she kicked off) and Pitchfork‘s IG Live Series. She also released her own Zoom background images for her fans to proudly show off their Soccer Mommy fandom.
Allison and her backing band embarked on a Bella Clark-directed 8 bit, virtual music video tour that saw Soccer Mommy playing some of the cities she had been scheduled to play if the pandemic didn’t happen — in particular, Minneapolis, Chicago,Seattle, Toronto, and Austin. Instead of having the visual shows at a traditional music venue or a familiar tourist spot, the band were mischievously placed in highly unusual places: an abandoned Toronto subway station, a haunted Chicago hotel, a bat-filled Austin bridge underpass and the like. The video tour featured color theory single “crawling in my skin,” a song centered around looping and shimming guitars, a sinuous bass line, shuffling drumming, subtly shifting tempos and an infectious hook.
She closed out 2020 with an Adam Kolodny-directed, fittingly Halloween-themed visual for “crawling in my skin” that’s full of the creeping and slow-burning dread that reminds me of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe movies with Vincent Price.
Allison’s newest album, the Daniel Lopatin (a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never)-produced Sometimes, Forever was released earlier this year through Loma Vista/Concord. The new album sees Allison pushing her sound in new directions — but without eschewing the unsparing lyricism and catchy melodies that have won her attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere.
Inspired by the concept that neither sorrow nor happiness is permanent, Sometimes, Forever is a fresh peek into the mind of a bold, young artist who synthesizes everything — retro sounds, personal tumult, the disorder of modern life — into music that feels built to last for a long time. The album’s material is also partly inspired by the uncomfortable push and pull between her desire to make meaningful art, her skepticism about the mechanics of careerism, and the mundane, artless administrative chaos that comes with all of it.
The album’s first single, the woozy “Shotgun” is an infectious banger centered around a classic grunge song structure — quiet verses, explosive choruses paired with layers of distorted guitars, Allison’s achingly plaintive vocals, an enormous hook, thunderous drumming and a throbbing groove.
“Shotgun” manages to liken a young romance to a sort of chemical high — but without the bruising and sickening comedown, which always comes after. But throughout the song, its narrator focuses on small moments in a particular love affair that’s imbued with a deep, personal meaning, “‘Shotgun’ is all about the joys of losing yourself in love,” explains Allison. “I wanted it to capture the little moments in a relationship that stick with you.”
Rising indie electro pop outfit Magdalena Bay recently remixed “Shotgun” turning the track into a futuristic, glittery, club banger featuring glistening synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rattling thump and wobbling low end paired with Allison’s plaintive vocals fed through gentle amounts of vocoder and other effects. While being a decidedly bold and adventurous, the Magdalena Bay remix retains the core elements of the original — Allison’s penchant for earnest, lived-in lyricism, enormous hooks and the song’s overall woozy feel.
Allison will embarking on a lengthy and extensive international tour that begins with an intimate, sold-out, solo show for the Grammy Museum Los Angeles next Monday. Allison and her backing band will then head to the UK and the European Union for a month-long tour. She’ll close out the year with a lengthy North American tour that includes a November 16, 2022 stop at Brooklyn Steel. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Earlier this year, Stevens released “Beneath Smooth Waters” is a slow-burning and brooding track that sees the project adopting a 90s trip hop sound: glistening, reverb-drenched synth arpeggios, sinuous bass lines paired with Stevens’ achingly plaintive vocals. According to Stevens, Bjork’s “Play Dead” and several other tracks were a major inspiration on the song — but to my ears, I’m reminded of Dummy era Portishead.
Stevens goes on to explain that the song is “also a literal siren song — don’t go too near the water’s edge . . . “
Electronic music producer Bobby Molloy recently gave “Beneath Smooth Waters” the remix treatment that retains Stevens’ achingly plaintive vocal but places it within an uptempo, deep house music-like production featuring glistening synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rattling thump and subtle bursts of industrial clang and clatter.
Featuring footage by Sally Haigh, Rotorvideos.com and Pexels.com and artwork by Pexels.com’s Nadine Sh, the accompanying video for the Bobby Molly remix of “Beneath Smooth Waters” uses some of the imagery from the original video and adds digital animation and artwork, some footage of the creepiest doll I’ve ever seen and more.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve spilled a lot of ink covering British electro pop outfit H2SO4. Formed in Kent back in the late 90s, the act — Graham Cupples (keys, programming), Darren Till (keys, programming) and James Butler (vocals, bass) — features a collection of accomplished musicians: Cupples previously led techno acts Mortal and Code. Till played with Cupples in Code. Butler contributed bass and vocals in indie rock act Lobster, which was once known as Sulpher.
Initially tracing their origins back to when they started experimenting with a series of remixes, the members of H2SO4 began writing original material that blended electronica, rock and techno paired with a special attention to songwriting. Their debut single, 1998’s “Little Soul,” quickly became popular in their native England — and because of its extremely limited release, a collector’s item.
The trio’s 1999 full-length debut Machine Turned Blues featured the aforementioned “Little Soul,” as well as “I Need Feel,” “The Way I Want,” and “Imitation Leather Jacket,” a track that was a favorite among British DJs that also received radio play here in the States. They supported Machine Turned Blues by playing a series of festivals across the British festival circuit, including Glastonbury — and they played shows in Canada and Chicago.
2000’s Glamtronica saw the British trio further establishing their sound while adding a playful sense of satire to the mix. The act largely disappeared until 2015’s Under Control. They disappeared again until last year’s Love and Death.
This year, H2SO4 has been very busy with the release of three singles:
“Electroworld,” a sleek and slickly produced, club and lounge friendly bop featuring thumping beats, glisteninlg and woobly synth arpeggios and Butler’s insouciant yet sultry delivery paired with the trio’s unerring knack for crafting an infectious, razor sharp hook.
The BassBears remix of “White Light,” is a house music inspired track centered around glistening synth arpeggios, wobbling bass synths, skittering beats paired with Butler’s vulnerable delivery and a rousingly anthemic hook. The end result is a club banger that sonically is a synthesis of In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy and Balearic house.
Adigéry and Pupul’s official full-length debut as a duo, Topical Dancer was released earlier this year through Soulwax‘s own label DEEWEE. Co-written and co-produced by Soulwax and the acclaimed duo, Topical Dancer is deeply rooted in two things: The duo’s perspectives as Belgians with immigrant backgrounds with Adigéry proudly claiming Guadeloupean and French-Martinique ancestry — and the wide-ranging conversations the duo have had touching upon cultural appropriation, misogyny, racism, social media vanity, post-colonialism.
While being a snapshot of their thoughts and observations of pop culture in the early 2020s, the album also further cements their sound and approach: They manage to craft thoughtful songs that bang hard but are centered around their idiosyncratic, off-kilter take on familiar genres take off familiar genres and styles. “We like to fuck things up a bit,” Pupul laughs. “We cringe when we feel like we’re making something that already exists, so we’re always looking for things to combine to make it sound not like a pop song, not like an R&B song, not a techno song. We’re always putting different worlds together. Charlotte and I get bored when things get too predictable.”
And as result, Topical Dancer’s 13 songs are fueled by a restless desire to not be boxed in — and to escape narrow perceptions of who they are and what they can be. “One thing that always comes up,” Bolis Pupul says, “is that people perceive me as the producer, and Charlotte as just a singer. Or that being a Black artist means you should be making ‘urban’ music. Those kinds of boxes don’t feel good to us.” But they manage to do all of this with a satirical bent; for the duo it’s emancipation through humor. “I don’t want to feel this heaviness on me,” Charlotte Adigéry says. “These aren’t my crosses to bear. Topical Dancer is my way of freeing myself of these issues. And of having fun.”
In the lead up to the album’s release, I wrote about four of Topical Dancer‘s singles:
“Thank You,” a sardonic, club banger featuring skittering beats, buzzing synth arpeggios and Adigéry’s deadpan delivery destroying mansplainers and unwanted, unsolicited and straight up dumb opinions and advice from outsiders.
“Blenda,” a club banger, centered around African-inspired polyrhythm, wobbling bass synths, skittering beats and Adigéry’s deadpan. Informed by Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, “Blenda” focuses on colonialism and post colonialism through Adigéry’s experience as Black immigrant in an extremely white place.
“HAHA,” a track built around a chopped up sample of Adigéry making herself laughed paired with twinkling synths, skittering beats and a relentless motorik groove that feels improvised and unfinished yet somehow simultaneously polished.
“Ceci n’est pas un cliché,” a slick dancer floor friendly bop centered around a strutting bass line, finger snaps, skittering beats and glistening synth arpeggios paired with Adigéry cool delivery of clichéd pop lyrics in a series of non-sequiturs that’s surreal yet displays a weird sense of logic.
The song’s title is a winking nods to one of the most copied sentences in art history, originally by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. “This song is an accumulation of all the cliché lyrics so often used in pop music. It came about when we were touring and heard a song on the radio opening with ‘I was walking down the street’ which made us strongly cringe,” the duo’s Charlotte Adigéry says. “But the thing is, cringing is a shared passion of Bolis and I. So we passionately made a song out of it called ‘Ceci n’est pas un cliché’. Even more passionately we performed ourselves into a video about all the clichés we see in the magic world of musical genres. The musician in all its glory, capturing momentum and delivering a top notch performance, gazing into the light that’s called inspiration. And so for once and for all, please leave Magritte alone…!”
The acclaimed Belgian duo shared Soulwax’s remix/reworking of “Ceci n’est pas un cliché” simply titled “Cliché.” Soulwax delivers a euphoric the on the Adigéry and Pupul original, pushing up the tempo and energy in a club banger centered around tweeter and woofer rattling four-on-the-floor paired with dense layers of oscillating synths and chopped up samples of Adigéry’s vocals. Much like the original, it’s surreal yet wildly accessible.
Acclaimed Chicago-based post-punk outfit and JOVM mainstays Ganser — founding members Nadia Garofalo (vocals, keys) and Alicia Gaines (vocals, bass) along with Brian Cundiff (drums) and Charlie Landsman (guitar) — can trace their origins back to when its founding members met while attending art school. Bonding over a mutual love of The Residents, outsider communities and the work of John Waters, the duo developed a hands-on DIY craftsmanship that eventually carried into their band: Each member of the post punk outfit shares writing duties and they collaborate on every aspect of their creative work, including videos, album art, merch and the visuals which often accompany their live shows.
Ganser’s 2018 full-length debut Odd Talk received widespread praise nationally and across the blogosphere with some critics comparing their sound and approach to Sonic Youth and Magazine. Thematically, the album focused on communication breakdowns — namely, the difficulties of being understood, avoidance, intimacy and avoidance.
2020’s sophomore album, the critically applauded Just Look at That Sky found the members of Ganser thematically probing the futility of striving for self-growth during chorus — all while evoking an all to familiar manic worry and generalized sense of existential dread and doom. It’s an album that seems to accurately captures our slow-burning, omnipresent hellscape.
Besides last year’s Look at That Sky Remixes EP, the Chicago-based JOVM have been busy working on new material — including their Angus Andrew co-produced, three-song Nothing You Do Matters EP.
Earlier this year, I wrote about “People Watching,” a woozy and expansive ripper that begins with a slow-burning and atmospheric, bass-driven intro before quickly morphing into a feverish thrash featuring slashing guitar attack, relentless four-on-the-four and squiggling bursts of electronics paired with Garofalo’s seething, irony-drenched delivery.
Arguably the most tense and uneasy song of their growing catalog, “People Watching” captures the mad and desperate senselessness —of well, just about everything right now.
LIARS’ creative mastermind Angus Andrew recently gave “People Watching,” the remix treatment — and the LIARS remix is bold and mind-bending rework that retains the propulsive energy, rhythm and acerbic vocal delivery of the original but transform the song into a kaleidoscopic, funhouse from hell-like club banger that sounds much like a garbled transmission beamed down from a UFO 20,000 light years away.
“We had worked on the original recording of ‘People Watching’ together at Key Club in Benton Harbor, MI so I was already super entwined with the song,” Andrew explains. “That familiarity gave me a lot of freedom with the remix. My goal was to maintain the great momentum and vocal delivery of the initial recording, but just give it all a big kick in the butt with synths.”
Nothing You Do Matters EP is slated for an October 5, 2022 digital release and a December 2, 2022 vinyl release through Felte Records.
Throughout this site’s 12 year history, there have been few artists that I’ve written about as much as the awe-inspiring, ridiculously prolific, New York-based producer, DJ remixer and JOVM mainstay Rhythm Scholar. During that same period, the JOVM mainstay has built a national and international profile for slickly produced, crowd-pleasing mashups and remixes.
Acclaimed Toronto-based psych pop outfit Absolutely Free — multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Matt King, Michael Claxton (bass, synths) and Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg (drums, synths) — is an offshoot of experimental rock outfit DD/MM/YYYY, an act whose multi-rhythmic, boundary pushing raison d’être provided a springboard for Absolutely Free’s sound and approach.
Over the past decade, the members of the Absolutely Free have cultivated and developed a long-held reputation for an unorthodox approach to both conceiving and performing music: Since the release of Absolutely Free., the Toronto-based psych pop act have released an array of multimedia projects and releases including 2019’s Geneva Freeport EP, which features U.S. Girls‘ Meg Remy. Adding to a growing profile they’ve toured alongside the likes of Alvvays, Youth Lagoon and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, and they’ve shared bills with Beak>, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, U.S. Girls and Fucked Up.
Absolutely Free’s highly-anticipated Jorge Elbrecht-produced sophomore album Aftertouch was released last year through Boiled Records. Deriving its name from a the name of a synthesizer function, the album is fueled by the trio’s desire to “. . . to create an album that wasn’t bound by a physical ability to perform it live, to not only expand our palette, but also to consider the live performance as something completely separate.”
Culling from a myriad of influences including krautrock, New Wave, early electronic dance music, and an array of international psych and funk complications, the album sonically and aesthetically finds the trio shifting in, around and between analog and digital sounds, and real and fabricated images while simultaneously reveling in and refuting the loss of tactility. Thematically, the album explores narratives of hegemony, grief and exploitation in the present while sustaining curiosity for the unknown post-everything future.
I managed to write about three of the album’s singles:
“Interface,” a dreamily maximalist song featuring glistening synth arpeggios, percussive and angular guitar blasts, a chugging bass line and an insistent rhythm paired with plaintive vocals that reminded me of Amoral-era Violens — in particular, “Trance Like Turn.”
“Remaining Light” is a sprawling track with two distinct parts — a cinematic and atmospheric instrumental introduction featuring twinkling keys, glistening synths and clinking marimba. At around the 2:20 mark, the song slowly morphs into a slow-burning and brooding bit of pop featuring King’s plaintive, reverb drenched vocals ethereally floating over the mix. The end result is a song that — to my ears, at least — sounded like a slick synthesis of The Fixx’s “Sign of Fire” and Amoral-era Violens.
“Epilogue,” a slow-burning and reflective track that slowly builds into a maximalist crescendo towards its conclusion centered around a lush, New Wave-like arrangement featuring glistening synth arpeggios, skittering beats, a relentless motorik groove paired with King’s achingly plaintive vocals ethereally floating over the mix. But underneath the breezy and expansive arrangement, “Epilogue” managed to possess a wistful, melancholy air.
Because of their exploratory approach, the members of Absolutely Free have revisited Aftertouch album track “How to Paint Clouds” with How to Repaint Clouds, an eight-track remix effort using on MIDI (Multi-Instrument Digital Interface) files — a digital language that contains harmonic and rhythmic blueprints, but no actual recordings.
“The song’s lyrics reflect upon the transcience of taste and how an artist’s feelings toward their work change over time,” the band says. “When a musician revisits their old songs, new interpretations are informed by changing contexts and evolving preferences. We wanted to stray from traditional modes of remixes based upon manipulating a song’s individual audio tracks, to provide the arftists with an unusual freedom from the original material, to create new sounds and reassemble the motifs of the song.”
The eight remixes interpret the track’s original structures untethered from its instrumentation, across a diverse aesthetic range from dark techno to psych rock. The first remix by Toronto-based musician Joseph Shabason turns the song into an otherworldly, woozy and ambient, New Age-like meditation centered around distorted saxophone bleats paired with twinkling synths.
How to Repaint Clouds is slated for a May 5, 2022 release through Boiled Records and will arrive with a tactile rendering: 20 one-of-a-kind AI-generated cloud painting turntable slipmats.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering French JOVM mainstay LutchamaK. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you’d recall that LutchamaK started off the year with a remix effort that featured remixes of Threshold album single “Bitrate Scale” by three artists, who liked his work and wanted to create their own takes.
Haalleyck‘s trippy and cosmic take on “Bitrate Scale” centered around thumping kick and glistening and oscillating synths that feels more like a complete rework of the original
Darbinyan‘s uptempo, deep house take on “Bitrate Scale” centered around oscillating synths, skittering, tweeter and woofer rattling beats, glistening synth arpeggios, robotic vocodered vocals and euphoria-inducing hooks
The JOVM mainstay contributes his own remix of “Bitrate Scale.” The LutchamaK remix is a subtle one that clocks in a little over a minute shorter than the original while retaining thumping kick but while pairing it with oscillating synths paired with vocodered vocals. Much like the original, it still nods at Kraftwerk but it feels murkier and brooding.