The Blaze – Jungle: Review

It’s been five years since the release of Dancehall, the debut album of French Electronic duo The Blaze. Since, they’ve remained predominately quiet, almost seeming to calculate the direction of their follow-up Jungle, which takes form as this antithesis to the livelier, more dance-driven work of Dancehall – creating a space to delve into differentiating emotionally resonant performances that formulate beyond tonal vibes. Whether vocally or through sound, the music carries some thematic depth beneath these atmospheric complexions reflective of Electro-Pop and French House of the 2000s and early 2010s, letting recent nostalgia elevate their craft as they build around it with exponential bliss. The visceral layering of the instruments keeps Jungle afloat through the rangy and mystifying vocals coated with mirroring leveled synths, amplifying the direct delivery of these tracks and letting you feel the impact of its words. The writing isn’t spread out and detailed like most narrative-driven music in pop and Hip-Hop – their identity rings differently. It holds everything together through the dainty trips; even when the writing is more simplistic, it remains potent in its delivery.

Like their first album, Dancehall, it doesn’t take long before the production puts you in a zone without shifting toward something more obtuse beyond a consistent breadth developing through the percussion and synths. You get this quick whiff instantly as Jungle opens to a track resembling something from an early 2010s Bon Iver or STRFCKR album; however, its production shifts the parallel further from it. The vocals are airy and coated behind this screen of atmospheric electronic textures, which creates a nuanced take on pop and French House, almost taking it as a guiding principle and establishing sounds that accentuate with cadence. Whether it’s on the opening track “Lullaby” or the subsequent “Dreamer” and “Lonely,” it separates itself from the production, becoming its own thing where the landscape shifts between being more percussion or synth focused. While it establishes its core direction, one can easily get lost in its vibe, but as you swim through the ten-track album, it’s like exploring new avenues of rich sounds.

Jungle opens strong and continues to build in the middle before ultimately petering at the end as the journey guides you. There is so much to take away, especially its use of synthesizers, which can shift in expression at any moment. Whereas “Madly” brings a louder, glitchier approach with synths flow in BPM with some erratic, consistent tendencies, “Haze” is atmospheric toward its construction as the synths shift between the overlay or underlay. The use of live instrumentations within the construct of its production helps these seamless switches between different sounds; whether it’s more Electro-Pop or more of a derivative of House/EDM, the ambiance is the potent component subtly shrouding the album. “Bloom” is one of many that imbues this sense remarkably, teetering into this captivatingly sonorous moment where the vocals become more of an add-on to balance the luscious electronic oeuvre notes that keep you in this great daze that is as effective.

Unfortunately, all good things aren’t meant to last, so as Jungle comes to a close, it starts to readjust poorly. “Dust” closes the album – it’s a five-and-a-half-minute doozie that encapsulates everything heard, triangulating the strengths, making them all blend, hearing especially through particular, sometimes subtle percussion notes. However, it becomes lost in some repetitive, timid synths, slightly diluting the effectiveness of “Eyes” as a lead-in. It’s as if “Haze” was turned on its head and became a repetitious sound with a singular focus, never playing around to create something more grandiose. It’s a disappointing downturn that makes you appreciate the work coming prior, relishing in these starry components and becoming a sort of skeleton to show us what got taken and explored, just not as dense. Having a weak closer doesn’t hinder it, as there is some semblance of a song, specifically with that slight uptick in the second half. It’s a slow start that gets slightly redeemed at the end. Additionally, it left me wishing they’d build on the songwriting more instead of treading within typical vocal structuring and styles. It’s close to blissful equilibrium, but the minimal imbalance pushes me to feel as entrenched as their debut, but the happiness of these remains intact.

Listening to Jungle was a thrill that builds as sounds expand visually and create unique twists from more apropos Electronic-Pop complexions. It’s a little simplistic, as it’s a more direct, streamlined album that hits many of its notes. I was left vibing and continuing to replay without hesitation. It may not be effective for some, as they don’t delve into more bombastic catchiness and keep it consistent with their identity. Give it a spin; you’ll definitely feel the rich emotional vibes they deliver and more.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Nia Archives – Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall EP: Review

Fresh off a nomination for Rising Star at the Brit Awards, Nia Archives delivers a fun, new EP that continues to expand her artistry beyond the club aesthetic. Archives isn’t new to the diverseness instruments, beyond the board, which add or steer a track toward the emotional direction she chooses. The potency of Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall isn’t subtle and more direct toward what it wants to say, instead of trying to push two elements together to create poorly constructed contrasting sounds. Unfortunately, after a strong start, it becomes more aspects than the whole song being as compelling. Incorporating more breakbeat and drum-n-bass into the music, playing into being a balance beam so that these external factors can build upon them and hit it perfectly. We get a sense of greatness as it continues to replay, despite lingering setbacks that can turn songs into something grander.

Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall had a few singles leading into them, and though it wasn’t known to me that they were, these tracks have lavish production and melodies creating distinct sounds. “Baianá” brings this tropical flair to the more Jungle-influenced beat, keeping the dancefloor lively with its infectious melodies bringing forth that feeling. “So Tell Me” is the other, which takes a different approach as it uses more strings to create something unique. It breaks down the drum-n-bass aesthetic, blending some breakbeat undertones and shifting between a soulful performance to something more nuanced in pop, all without feeling jarring. Unfortunately, the songwriting isn’t as captivating, never seeming to let its repetitive nature feel empowering. It’s the opposite with the following track, “Conveniency,” which does more with the string orchestration, as opposed to “So Tell Me,” where it loses it for more pop flavors. These round out the three singles.

Nia Archives’ production with co-producer Jakwob keeps each sound refreshing, taking you through the percussion-driven motif and delivering something memorable with some of the vocal performances. Archives is capable of that, and she hits the notes beautifully on the first three tracks and “Conveniency.” However, the better vocal performances come in the first two tracks, “Baianá” and “That’s Tha Way Life Goes,” which blend these radiant R&B/Jazz vocals over a smooth drum-n-bass beat. It keeps a soulful energy while immersing itself within more mellow club vibes. Contrasting it, but equally as exceptional, is the final track, which beautifully brings depth to the minimalist vocals, letting the production guide you while her voice rounds it all out.

At its highest point, like “Conveniency,” you get a more grounded performance that fits her vibe naturally. They never feel glitzy, keeping you focused on the switching melodies and beat switches. It makes the one song with a featured artist, “No Need 2 Be Sorry, Call Me?” more distinct. Irish singer/songwriter Maverick Sabre joins her on the track, elevating it with his soulful vocals contrasting Archives’ more streamlined performance. It’s a track that hits all the right chords but never excels past other songs, with some repetitive BPMs in the drums between this and others. But as it closes, you get this fantastic, well-rounded project that boasts Archives’ strength and lets you get enveloped by what kind of work she makes. It’s not as bombastic as previous tracks “21 & Over” and “Forbidden Feelingz,” only giving us one and another that balances that loud nature with crisp rhythms.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Musicians I’m Diggin’: 10SecondBeats

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve last spoken about Electronic artists that have opened doors to distinct sounds that captivate the very fiber of my ear drums. So what better way to return than to talk about a musician/producer. I had the pleasure of having various conversations while witnessing his growth through the varying genre channels he has worked on since the mid-2010s, possibly longer. Whether it’s Hip-Hop or Electronic, Jack Davenport, better known as 10SecondBeats, has been able to dig into his soul and figure out how to weave distinguishably contextual sonic styles while retaining a sense of identity throughout. When we first met, we messed around and turned a piece of the score Saló into this fun Hip-Hop beat that captured the essence of its score, growing to something unique from one of the most random samples. It’s profound, letting the delicate nature of instrumental layering and sequencing boast each track unforgettable. I was left in awe by 10SecondBeats’ consistent output, where the music succeeds past the vibes, creating remarkable work that I had to write about it now.

Jack Davenport studied music, and it shows, especially in how he talks about the artists who have influenced his decadent style. In short, he may not be on the scale of commercial DJs/artists like HAAI, Nia Archives, or even Norah Van Elken – artists I’ve spoken about prior. But one thing is for sure – when tasked with creating music, there isn’t a route he can’t overcome, especially when shifting a sample from one genre to another or understanding context and tone for delivering auspicious work. It’s heard in the minimalist, but captivatingly first album, Long Week, which explores the musical gears churning in Jack’s brain, functioning differently depending on the day. It adds credence to this thematic element, where the motif revolves around daily vibes. The Hip-Hop is vibrant and the nostalgic overtones never feel much, further making pushing the music to higher plateaus.

We hear it on the albums Long Week III, which feels like Hip-Hop swam in the fountain of youth, and the Jazzy, experimental nature of his beats are reminiscent of the 90s boom-bap era. Except for Jack Davenport, he brings modern twists that let you hear how similar-minded influences Madlib, J Dilla, and Four Tet have shaped his intuitive viscosity track to track. You can hear my conversation with Jack on J Dilla on The Twin Geeks Music Show. Talking to him about Dilla gave me more insight into the Hip-Hop tracks Jack created, but his electronic juices have flowed in and out too, in between releases. Jack Davenport released an EP in 2016 called Blink, which laid out this lax vibe and never seemed to teeter toward hollowness, creating beautiful synergy between the sonic elements included, whether coming from the percussion, the synths, or the vocals, which get modulated to fit the aesthetic. Like it, Jack continues to push himself to keep themes poignant, which is harder to replicate fluidly through the various forms DJs perform and create. 


a jazzy Saturday beat I forgot to post yesterday because I went out and drank beer. enjoy this experiment, should I finish this track? #producertok #ukgarage #jazz #electronicmusic #launchpad #ableton #StopScammerTime

♬ original sound – 10secondbeats – Jack D
Last year, Jack Davenport dropped Last Night Club On Earth. An album that imbued the performative aspects of club life, expanding to new horizons, like the beautifully radiant “Her Trembling Hands.” As 10SecondBeats, Jack harnesses the intimate details that coat the base layer and eloquently smooths them through a consistent flow of consciousness. We hear the varying strings and synths on “Her Trembling Hands” or the potent glitchiness of “No Smoking,” the range is fantastic. But there is only so much I can say until I start dissecting every individual track, so at this point, it’s up to you to take this journey through an up-and-comer’s catalog and experience the music yourself.

Skrillex – Don’t Get Too Close

When news came of Skrillex dropping two albums within the calendar year, hype was real, but we never knew when the release date was. Then, the second album became more of a topic of conversation once the announcement came of a release date for Quest For Fire, with some believing he’d pull something akin to Future, who dropped HNDRXX and Future within a week of each other. His second album, Don’t Get Too Close, was released the following day, and unlike the former, it brings depth beyond its more approachable textures that sift between EDM and Dance-Pop. It radiates via potent production, occasionally poignant delivery of thematic inflections, and melodic bliss. It drives a different path, where catchiness comes from the vocal performance underlying the synths to keep you engaged, as opposed to the enigmatic and archaically fantastic production, leaving you engaged on Quest For Fire. Unlike it, Don’t Get Too Close is blissful consistency that continues to shape Skrillex’s artistry beyond being known for making dubstep too BRO; it has some more standard tracks that fit the flow but aren’t as captivating as others.

Quest For Fire builds dynamic intensity within the pores of its percussion notes. A type of intensity that your typical club flair couldn’t capture the energy amassing from the hard-gripping percussion that you’ll just want to mosh instead of relaxing to some crisp melodies that fit a wider audience without thinking lesser of its listener. Quest For Fire is like a rave, a fantastic time, and uncontrollable. Don’t Get Too Close is like having your moment under blue lights, sometimes neon, and vibing more loosely to the sounds instead of grooving chaotically. Quest For Fire has a few danceable moments, like “Butterflies,” “Ratata,” and “Leave Me Like This,” but beneath that aesthetic, the percussion loomed over the synths and bass; it becomes more defined through its individuality. It kept the album centered on a resounding sonic theme, while Don’t Get Too Close does so with its approach to delivering the vocal melodies and keeping its tones consistent. The individual performances wane, some shine, and some hit the nail perfectly while acquiescing with the production fluidly. 

As its main defining contrast, Don’t Get Too Close lets the drums act like a balancing beam that keeps the other instruments afloat as they guide performances, like on “Painting Rainbows,” with frequent collaborator Bibi Bourelly, which shifts vocal styles in song. Skrillex, however, can’t help himself with the drums, but he beautifully incorporates more bombast with the cheeky sequencing from tracks two to five. But within that drum-loaded track three (“Selecta”) and five (“Real Spring”), BEAM and Bladee add excellent complementary vocals to counteract the insane and wicked-great beat drops, which come from equally great melodic-driven drum patterns. Don’t Get Too Close takes influence from Dance/Pop/Trap overture; we see a finite balance that keeps it on a steady, consistent path of harmonious bliss. It’s an antithesis to the more bombastic and lucratively detailed range within its sonic construction. Though some tracks wane because the production doesn’t take an extra leap, it blends with its rich atmosphere.

“Summertime” with Kid Cudi or “Don’t Go” with Justin Beiber and Don Tolliver are the two that don’t land well. They don’t have the same bravado as tracks like “Selecta” or “Mixed Signals,” taking unique directions, which leaves some production feeling more typical. The former delivers a satisfactory vocal performance, but it can’t save it from some bare flairs of its EDM synths guiding through mundane drum beats, but they supplement it with some catchiness. The latter has brought more R&B elements, relaying bland melodies from the two artists. It doesn’t have the slight sazón in “Bad For Me” with Corbin and Chief Keef or the melodically driven jungle-electronica of “Way Back” with PinkPantheress and Trippie Redd. Like them, Don’t Get Too Close has featured artists bringing multi-dimensional bliss within their vocal performances, especially BEAM, Bladee, and Yung Lean, who naturally shine on the production, creating these powerful performances.

More so, unlike the first release, Skrillex and Swae Lee deliver an atmospherically vibrant performance, boasting my enjoyment of this more. It’s swift but richly ingraining a vibe that hits you like a calm spring night beneath the stars with a joint and noise-canceling headphones. It has a clear direction sonically, and it’s better for it. It keeps you focused on a vibe without taking too many distinct heel turns with the production. Its construction is more homogenous, comparatively, but rich creativity gives it new dimensions that shape it beyond your typical EDM and at least has more identity than a posh pop hit from Zedd. It’s on par with Quest For Fire in terms of delivering to fit an aesthetic narrative, but it is just a little tighter.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Skrillex – Quest For Fire: Review

It’s been nine years since the last Skrillex album, but he has had a presence throughout music since, whether from his influence or a series of beats and singles spread out. So when Skrillex announced two albums getting released this year, his fans rightfully rejoiced, especially with singles amassing hype through the sheer visceral multidimensional production they have. Quest For Fire, the first of two albums, delivers on that hype, despite floundering with a few subpar tracks. On it, Skrillex takes us through varying directions, going from EDM to Trap, House, and Drum-N-Bass, all with clean transitions that don’t make the lesser tracks feel like outcasts, more just middling disappointments, comparatively. The blaze of Quest For Fire ignites fiercely, only to quickly taper thrice, but growing again with powerful sequences that keep you engaged with its atmosphere and vibe. It allows listeners to feel immersed through curiosity in this electrifying world filled to the brim with creative shifts from his co-producers and captivating performances from its featured artists.

As Quest For Fire shifts between genre complexions, we get a taste of Skrillex’s evolution within the electronic music genre. Though Skrillex, at first, was seen as a dude-bro DJ/Producer who made dubstep for a specific crowd. Yet, Skrillex has shown amongst releases some great depth in his musical production, like “Stranger” off Recess or “El Chapo” with The Game on The Documentary 2. Continuing on Quest For Fire, we hear a series of monstrous tracks with visceral depth in how it blends different elements to create the whole. The beats are hectic and rooted in these bombastic overtones like on “A Street I Know,” “Rumble,” and “Good Space,” which, like many, have a big focus on hard-hitting multi-layered drums patterns that create a flow with the featured artist. It gives us these eloquent tonal shifts that aren’t constantly pounding and keeps a consistent feel for the percussion’s importance in guiding this listening journey, made more so by its transitions.

When “Rumble” transitions to “Butterflies” or “Supersonic (my existence)” into “Hazel Theme,” the production leans toward more melodic-driven drum patterns, giving the external electronic notes like synths in the former, the guitars on “Supersonic (my existence)” or the piano notes in “Hazel Theme.” “Hazel Theme” and “Leave Me Like This” become pivotal as the former transitions into the closer, and the latter has to keep the hypnotic drum beats with contrasting success. The tempos between each keep it engaging, and its transitions don’t deter you as it’s cleanly boasting the engagement had between tracks. It’s the same when it shifts into the somewhat irrelevant skit, a quick interview with Skrillex (Sonny Moore) and Pete Wentz at Warped Tour ‘05, which has more to do with nostalgia than the focus of the album. Positively speaking, it’s how Skrillex keeps surprises in between tracks that weren’t released prior, like the dance and trap-laced “Good Space” to the experimental-bass “Supersonic (my existence),” a remix of the song of the same name by Josh Pan and Dylan Brady.

Though its production is the inherent strength of Quest For Fire, sometimes songs miss the mark because either vocal samples in certain ones aren’t as potent or the remix isn’t as gripping due to the original being less so. It shows with the contrasts between the less refined delivery in “Tears” to that of the energetic and melodic “Inhale Exhale” and the effectiveness between “Supersonic (my existence)” and “TOO BIZARRE,” his track with Swae Lee and Siiickbrain. Though “Tears” has slick production, the vocal samples don’t keep you engaged, almost wanting something to match that of Aluna’s (of AlunaGeorge) vocal samples on “Inhale Exhale” or with the potency of the final track, “Still Here (with the ones that I came with).” “Still Here (with the ones that I came with)” eloquently blends vocals and sounds from three different records, like “Time” by Snoh Alegra, while incorporating more live instrumentations. However, the original vocal performances have the most impact on the album.

We get fantastic performances from Bobby Raps, Flowdan, Starrah, Beam, and Eli Keszler, ranging in style as they keep the listener engaged. From Starrah’s house-influenced melodies, Flowdan’s rap flows over the dubstep/jungle/drum-n-bass “Rumble” or Bobby Raps’ poppy vocals on “Leave Me Like This,” its constant stylistic transitions don’t alienate you from the musical modus operandi. Quest For Fire is more bombastic; it’s an album filled with wicked club bangers that make the percussion a secondary artist to Skrillex, as they serve us these vibes reminiscent of a massive rave, even with the modest introspective “Hazel Theme.” Fortunately, his co-producers bring forth an understanding of it, whether it’s Fred Again… on “Rumble,” Noisia with “Supersonic (my existence),” or Joyride on a few like “Leave Me Like This,” it’s a consistent balance. It is how one can seamlessly get through it with ease.

Quest For Fire is triumphant behind the boards and lacking in specific departments; however, it’s a beautiful stream of musical consciousness that keeps you devoid from hearing these mediocre moments instantly. It’s bombastically astute and creates an encapsulating synergy that hits harder when you remove some weaker songs like “TOO BIZARRE” and “Tear,” as well the skit that is neat but oddly placed within the album. Skrillex fans will have a lot to indulge in and like, and relative newcomers will see the dynamic range in his craft as the music takes hold and leads you on a journey through luscious synths and various drum patterns.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want To Turn Into You: Review

Production exploding with momentous energy, vibrant songwriting, and whimsically enigmatic vocal directions, there was so little I didn’t love about the new Caroline Polachek album, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. Polachek’s follow-up to Pang offers a continuation of nearly transcendent sounds beautifully engineered and delivered with rich depth; it keeps the album’s distinct direction flowing in constant motion as we get whimsically fantastic lyricism. It’s as if Polachek had varying canvases and painted them with grace, allowing these varying genre complexions to flash and coat her emphatically moody poppy melodies with more than just an identity. It gives it meaning beyond the conjectures of its finite production; Polachek weaves intricate themes through metaphorically inspired storytelling as she tackles individualism and spiraling upward while balancing thematic melodic and sounds through others. It’s a triumphant continuation that has kept its presence on loop significantly, even with its less-than-stellar moment, which are rare, and further delivering one of the best projects of 2023 thus far.

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You is more than its captivatingly luscious grooves boasting that desire to feel free, dance, and emote confidently. You hear it instantly with this stellar run to begin the album. From “Welcome To My World” to “Sunset,” there is a burgeoning desire to let it all loose as Polachek builds upon pop traditionalism like the Trip-Hop controlled “Pretty Is Possible” and the summery “Sunset,” which incorporates more Spanish, Italian, and Romani melodies. Polachek, along with co-producers Danny L. Harle, Sega Bodega, Dan Nigro, Jim-E Stack, and Ariel Rechtshaid, keeps it consistent with steady tones to keep its themes focused on its impact when a track closes. Harle and Polacheck produce a bulk of the album collectively; however, what others bring, is this vibrant sense of direction, no matter what gets set up at the base. They use these stylistic influences brilliantly by building an identity like Sega Bodega does with “Sunset” or how Rechtshaid helps Harle and Polachek bring that Garage sound (electronic genre) to give the percussion its own flourish on “I Believe” or “Blood And Butter.” 

What Danny L. Harle and Caroline Polachek create continues to significantly capture and deliver an understanding of how Polachek directs her craft. It’s a sense that allows her to creatively take ideas about certain lyrical song archetypes, like the divaness of “Smoke” or a sonic vibe like the summery “Sunset.” Whether it’s the drum-n-bass/jungle nuances of “Fly To You” or the garage-breakbeat influence of “Smoke,” there is a resounding depth to the production. It offers a platform for Polachek’s songwriting to shine, especially with more archetypal tracks like “Smoke” or loose ones like “Pretty Is Possible.” It’s this constant motion of emotional density gripping you at the seams and keeping you sat as the notes wrap around your head and slowly infiltrate your ears, making you love what predominantly comes through. There are some minor stumbles where Polachek plays it safe, despite said tracks never wincing in quality, like the scorny (scary and horny) “Crude Drawing Of An Angel.”

Though it’s all exuberant in sound, they may not hit the nail perfectly, like “Hopedrunk Everything,” which is too keen on an atmospheric aesthetic instead of building beyond harmonious strings and choir vocals. With the previously mentioned “Crude Drawing Of An Angel,” the scorny lyrics aren’t as entrenching as it tries to balance the horniness with its vague and efficacious allusions and metaphors. The melodies and production being on point as it beautifully contrasts the atmosphere in “Hopedrunk Everything,” letting the ambiance help its delivery, is what makes “Crude Drawing Of An Angel, a solid ambient scorny ballad. There are many ingredients in the concoction known as Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, but unlike the numerous that whiff at a chance to make something fluid and profound. Caroline Polachek isn’t some outlier who continuously shifts what we think about the artist. On past albums, whether solo or during her time with Chairlift, she has kept more of a streamlined direction, building upon the known instead of finding ways to integrate and create new sounds. Pangs did so at various moments, but it’s refined with Polacheck’s follow-up, which lets these productions be their own character in her musical world.

Caroline Polachek brings all this into creating music that can embody varying elements and still make captivating dance tracks that will easily hypnotize you on the dancefloor. “Bunny Is A Rider” speaks on female empowerment and individualism, feeling free as your confidence boasts your mental fortitude. It’s the song that hits every note perfectly, never stopping the engine while implementing some of the smoothest transitions between verse and chorus. I haven’t been able to stop the loop, almost feeling like Bunny myself. It isn’t the only time we get this, “Sunset” is one, and “Blood and Butter” are another. It’s well-rounded, even with some minor elements not totally working.

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You is well-rounded, even with some minor elements not fully working. Songs take varying angles sonically but never seem to falter as they transition between each other. It’s like a rollercoaster of octaves and musical layers that will keep this stuck on a loop. I can’t recommend this album enough, and I hope you hear what I hear.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Ladytron – Time’s Arrow: Review

Ladytron’s latest album, Time’s Arrow, is not as expansive, keeping an almost two-dimensional with many synth patterns and the production’s range in guitar and percussion usage. It takes a while for the wheels to get rolling as lead singer Helen Marnie deconstructs innate reflective points with vigor on many songs. Her vocals add dimensions to each song’s atmosphere and psychedelia tones, seeping into these intricate thoughts that have us viewing some layered dimensions of our being, whether impersonal or not. Marnie, along with co-writers Daniel Hunt, Jonny Scott, Mira Aroyo & Vice Cooler, don’t leave you with ambiguity – the verses speak fluidly through its poetic approach, allowing you to visualize their world, interconnected with yours. It values time beyond the centralized generalizations we’ve heard prior – we get another solid effort that could have gone through another round in the think tank but still a serviceable release.

Starting strong, Time’s Arrow begins to keep its pacing steady, leaving you mystified by its ambiance and fluid melodies. Unfortunately, the synthesizers sometimes feel less intriguing and more of an added commodity that takes away from the small details that underlie the production coating. It isn’t until the later half of “Faces,” the second song on the tracklist, it starts to make sense of its direction – time is linear, but there are rifts that take you in unique sidesteps. It’s playing a bit loose with this concept, sonically, veering and making moments last long or short. It’s a straight shot of pure reflective bliss that stumbles to make anything imperatively potent with the sounds. There are some memorable notes within the production, but its consistency of impact is lesser than their last album. 

Sometimes Ladytron’s use of synths can over-sizzle, and other times it’s a little stale, but rarely in between. However, they never take you away from lyricism that’s lavishly poignant and resonant with one’s inner journey with themselves on a few tracks. In “Misery Remember Me,” we hear Ladytron looking back at one’s disdain for reflecting a person they’re not; it has gospel influence boasting the ponderous chorus and elevating its sense of self while letting the synths take a back seat. Not every track has this lyrical astuteness. Sometimes it teeters toward mundaneness with depth-less simplicity on “Faces” or the lackluster chorus of “California.” Fortunately, it is within the mid-point where the album takes chances beneath the abundance of synths caught between a drought and a rainstorm. Overlaying its poetically influenced lyricism are waning tempos with the different synthesizers they are using; in the long run, it took me away from finding much intrigue with “City of Angels” and “Sargasso Sea.” It’s a disappointing variation in production that keeps it from having a powerful opening and closing.

That middle sector of Time’s Arrow is where it starts to come to life. Beginning with “Flight of Angkor,” the tone gets set with a more fruitful array of synths that bring twinkles to your ears instead of confusing you. Continuing till “The Dreamers,” elements of Dream-Pop get incorporated to buoy the smooth cohesion between monochromatic ambiance and starry melodies. We don’t hear an overreliance on keeping you reeled with atmospheric electronic bliss. It lets the vocals breathe through the thick layers of synths, letting the backing vocals shine through. Additionally, we don’t get this small cluster of contrasting and complementing synths and percussion like in the title song; it oddly works at points, but comparatively, it’s a weaker-written song than the others. It doesn’t negate the vocal performances that radiate beneath harrowing synths that fail to make you return more than twice. 

Time’s Arrow sometimes feels like a distant memory, and remembering leaves you with some slight disappointment. It has these uniquely fantastic moments, but surrounding it, are some less-than-attractive synth layers. The synths don’t take away from the atmospheric aesthetic it imbues. It keeps a steady play consistency that can get a new listener to flow with it, but for fans of Ladytron, this was a lesser effort I wish I could like more than I do.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Musicians I’m Diggin’: HAAi

Though more relevant in the indie electronic music-sphere, HAAi has been delivering captivating performances (mixes) and beautifully conscious techno rhythms that shift the parameters of the dance floor vibe. Centered within techno, Haai brings this unique range of electronica and IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) sounds into the undercoating of hypnotic rhythms and enigmatic timbre tones of techno. The IDM is subtle; there’s the atmosphere that is ambient and intriguingly staticky; the low-tempo percussion, coming from varying drum notes influenced by the breakbeat aesthetic, just more tempered on the pace. But this is just me describing her debut album, Baby, We’re Ascending (2022). It doesn’t amount to varying styles she’s infused into her mixes, where she brought the heaters with her two Boiler Room sessions and fantastic, about 2-hour set for the Lot Radio (an independent radio station based out in Brooklyn, New York City).

HAAi has this antiquated energy with how she approaches the techno sound, seemingly incorporating the old with intriguing experimentations. It’s pertinent to her DJ and producer side, but equally, her choice of songs, whether smooth independent records, either original or remixed, adds a similar feeling when performing for a crowd. HAAi has given us a few performances through festivals, videos, and uploaded mixing sessions on streaming platforms. What makes these varying mixes unique is this constant desire to switch it up; tracks that carry over get placed in a different order to test the crowd’s vibes without sidestepping from the bombastic techno rhythms emboldening the ID tracks. It’s heard within her Boiler Room and MixMag sets; they aim to bring out the best of her style while leaving room for enough experimentation to keep those ears twitching with delight. Other mixes flesh out that unconscious danceability where you’re constantly hyped within the moment, taking in this beautiful mix of songs hidden behind the ID and grooving without realizing, taking your motions up a notch as the music gets injected into you.

HAAi may not be everyone’s cup of tea as she gets down to the nitty-gritty of the techno aesthetic, almost letting it explode from the fingers and mind and creating a boastful performance that never feels too long. Her hands seem to never pulsate toward implementing notions of pop, shooting for a vibe as opposed to melodic EDM-like vocals. She brings a finite start and end that keeps the tempo moving with consistency – at times, HAAi takes the rhythms to another level, elevating the timbre to work with the nuances from the drum machines. It’s even more captivating when you hear her set at the Movement Electronic Festival in Detroit. These audio versions of the sets aren’t as immersive as being there or seeing the scope on video, where the crowd’s energy brings you goosebumps as you might yearn to be there. However, as you listen to it, you get a better glimpse of someone who can select and excel without incorporating their own work into the fray.

It’s interesting how different it is. When I spoke about Nia Archives last week, I explored the intricacies of the genre, as it differs from the more recognized (comparatively) EDM and techno. For HAAi, she’s taking it to a different level, which may not seem as much at first, but you end up seeing the nuances of her craft. That’s how I latched on so swiftly to the music. You have this remarkable balance between the performance and studio, yet, there is so much more. I wasn’t as hyperactive with Electronic releases last year, but when I say HAAi’s debut is stellar, I’m not capping. But as I keep delving more into this world – beyond hitting play on a random mix – write-ups will continue.

Skrillex – Back With Bombastic Range

Between live performances and singles, Skrillex has been floating around producing for artists, delivering these intrinsically riotous sounds, which continuously define his artistry as one of dubstep’s few hitmakers. We’ve heard his signature boastfulness in the bass when infusing varying percussion notes to create each beat. It’s recognizable, but Skrillex has been able to blend it with other genres, giving us luscious songs with artists like Don Tolliver, J Balvin, and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s been nearly a decade since Skrillex delivered an album of original work. Hopefully, 2023 will see that change, predominantly because of the hype his two new songs, “Rumble” and “Way Back,” brings. Though we’ve heard Skrillex create tracks within different electronic genres, like EDM and House, we hear this new evolution where drum-n-bass is slowly finding its influence in the mainstream (within EDM and Pop), and I’m all here for it!

The hype for Skrillex album, for me, is wild; maybe it’s why I’m giving this a lengthy post, but I digress. The last time we got a Skrillex album was in collaboration with Diplo as part of the duo collective Jack Ü in 2015. It was an open field for Skrillex to continue to grow beyond brostep, especially when there’s someone to balance a tenacity for slightly overindulgent drum drops and mid-leveled bass. With Jack Ü, it showed how well they complemented their expressive production styles, delivering a luscious whirlwind of sounds, shifting from their sonically spacious dubstep sounds to luscious House/Dancehall hybrids. As I grew, that negligence has since gotten tossed out, and as I’ve heard the range getting produced, there was no option but to return. It’s mainly potent when Skrillex gives us varying musical releases, like the luscious future bass sound of “Face My Fears, with Hikaru Utada or when given the space for the dubstep/drum-n-bass sounds to go nuts, like on “Killa” with Wiwek, a Dutch DJ, or “Mind” on the Jack Ü album.

Though he’s worked alongside different producers, he still tends to let some of the natural bombastic Brostep/Dubstep sound, which can get a little one-note. It can get heard on songs like “Take Ü There” and “Make It Bun Dem;” the latter feels like it never takes a chance to do anything beyond the shifty reggae-dubstep hybrid, while the former finds balance with Diplo’s house sensibilities. Sometimes Skrillex receives weaker outputs from the featured artists, but he can still fill the void with excellent production, like with “Don’t Go” and “In Da Ghetto” or vice versa with the track “Purple Lamborghini.” I’ve been following Skrillex’s career since the release of “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” some duds early on, and since, we’ve gotten many fantastic collaborations. He teamed up with Game to release one of his best tracks of the 2010s with “El Chapo,” or the captivatingly starry “Butterflies” with Starrah and Four Tet, amongst others like the aforementioned “Killa” and his new singles, “Jungle” and “Way Back.”

2023 will be huge for Skrillex; his craft has beautifully evolved, now confidently using different electronic sonic complexions, like synths, to take it to new levels. Like some electronic songs that build luscious vibes, I can harp on length; for “Way Back,” featuring PinkPanteress and Trippie Redd, Skrillex beautifully produces smooth connectivity between Pantheress melodies, which are Jungle/EDM-influenced, and Trippie’s more hip-hop sing-flows, creating something mellow, comparatively, to dance along. It blends smooth House textures with crisp, low-level drums that emulate elements of breakbeat and drum-n-bass.

“Rumble” sees Skrillex, along with co-artists Fred Again and Flowdan, propelling the bass grooves, amplified to keep a consistent stream of consciousness as the percussion and synths create a wave for Flowdan to flow over. Though it’s bombastic and boisterous with the transition, you get that instant click in the ear drums that will make you keep this on a loop without realizing it. It’s crisp, riotous, smoothing over rough textures and letting the cornerstone aspects of Dubstep/Drum-N-Bass to envelop us and bring forth significant grooves. It definitely leaves this guy excited for his new album in 2023, which hopefully brings the best from everything he’s learned and made throughout the past decade.

Musicians I’m Diggin’: Nia Archives

I’ve always had an affinity for all electronic music. It’s been more of a personal love that lives rent-free in my head – hitting play on any given playlist – becoming entranced by the variety of sounds these artists create; it’s like finding yourself at a DJing venue, vibing while one’s close to the DJ. Often, when they come into my ear’s plane of existence, personal discography deep dives bring these beautifully enriching DJ Mixes, but more importantly, self-produced tracks that embolden their identity. Hearing and seeing the intimate and more focused live radio mixes to the more illustrious and fun curations by places like MIXMAG and The Boiler Room, it’s not hard to hear their talent, especially within the ID tracks or newly printed singles. I’ve spoken about Nora Van Elken and Telenovel in the past; however, I never made a concerted effort to blog my thoughts about more of these artists, which had found innate replay amongst the varying electronic music I keep in a personal playlist. I’m planning on changing that because these artists have me return without hesitation, so to start the New Year, I thought, why not the artist I’ve been vibing with recently, Nia Archives.

2022 was full of momentous splashes for Nia Archives’ career – a multi-talented artist that can mix, produce, sing, and write music whose craft expands to new realms where blending styles can come subtly and delve the music to unique depths. Sometimes we get subtle dance/EDM influence in the vocals, like on “Luv Like” off her Forbidden Feelingz EP. Yet, she continuously creates these luscious and hypnotically rhythmic breakbeats and jungle/drum-n-bass overtures that are ever-shifting in tone. It also blends into her solo work as some of her chorus performances embody the grooves influenced by dancehall and reggae, like on “18 & Over.” Jungle and Drum-N-Bass – like all electronic music – take from the rhythmic soil that elevated particular instruments to the forefront. Despite House music growing with percussion as one of its core features, the sound and other instruments/sounds started to focus more on synths — not all, but some of the more popular styles we know, like EDM or Tropical House. Jungle and Drum-N-Bass take from varying influential sources like dancehall, funk, and reggae and synchronizes them with these energetically powerful percussion patterns. These genres also embolden the nuanced influences that helped elevate the standards and quality of Grime music, which, in turn, finds common ground with these genres coded from a similar camp.

In Electronic music, there is so much infusion that sometimes you never know other sub-genres (like melodic house or glitch); it’s easy to get lost through many avenues you’ll never know you’ll find yourself in; all you have to do is explore. That’s what I did, and when I hit play on Nia Archives’ Luvleh Mix, it hit me, creating an unwavering head bopping. The way she blended these arcane breakbeat tracks into one illustrious cohesion that doesn’t temper its progression, wavering fantastic levels that keep you engaged, whether you’re already a fan of the genre or discovering. We hear her blending these mesmerizing beats that shift in style, whether it’s atmospherically more echo-y or the tempo is sifting between distinct melodies with tracks that evoke danceable tangibles in the performance like that of mixed song “Greetings” by Red Light. On her Luvleh Mix, the intangibles are there as you get percussion is as vibrant as the rainbow through a glass prism.

Nia Archives has released a few Singles and EPs that embody the essence of breakbeat and jungle/drum-n-bass sounds, bringing this echo chamber of nuance and showing us upbeat energy within her performances. You can hear it in the energetic and fun “18 & Over,” which also sees Nia Archives encouraging her love of the genres that influence her. It’s continuously effervescent in the music she creates, like the monstrously bombastic “Baianá” or the more melodic (comparatively), “So Tell Me,” which brings an essence of dance grooves in the choruses while keeping to that core breakbeat aesthetic. That blend gets heard enormously on her Boiler Room set from September in London; here, we hear these luscious transitions Archives’ creates, seamlessly mixing breakbeat with these overly vigorous percussion notes.

Check out Nia Archives’ work, and let me know how you vibe. I’ll be writing about varying artists and how it was to discover them in the moment. From her EPs to her Mixes, there is a treasure trove of music to play. Unfortunately, for Spotify users, many of these mixes are accessible through Apple Music and YouTube – the former has Mixes available to stream without having to play a video. But regardless, we have that treasure trove of options to seek and listen to, and I hope you do so with Nia Archives, a DJ that I will have on steady rotation all of 2023.