Donkey Rollers – Dream Machine (Official Dream Village 2014 Anthem)

Donkey Rollers - Dream Machine (Official Dream Village 2014 Anthem)

The Donkey Rollers are the best of the best when it comes to developing raw and devilish styles. With two experienced producers and one fierce MC, this incredibly powerful tune is something that should not be taken by the faint-hearted. The kicks and screeches are rich, yet seem to have a hint of softness that’s well-balanced with the sharper effects. It’s this softness that doesn’t make the track overly annoying or ear-piercing, keeping things well under control. It’s just like having a fizzy drink that fires up your senses as it travels into your body, rather than corrosive or acidic liquid. As such, it delivers a pleasurable listening experience. The addictive, descending chords are simply to die for, especially when operatic chants are incorporated.

There are some great lyrics in this piece, such as “welcome to my nightmare, a dream within a dream”. It is an absolutely haunting line that implies how the dream machine produces dreams that one cannot escape from. However, I am slightly confused by the contradictions in the lyrics. Aside from the prompts to “wake up” when it’s called “dream machine”, there’s also the line: “A prisoner inside the gold breeze of whispers”. I’m not really sure as to how someone could be trapped in air. Nonetheless, due to the superior kicks and melody, these contradictions can easily be overlooked and forgiven. Everyone at Dream Village 2014 will go insane when they hear this live, because this is definitely one of the best anthems of all time.

Da Tweekaz ft. Elke Diels – Letting Go

Tweekaz1

After the venue for Bass Control 2014 was announced, I wanted to find out about my favourite Tweekay boys and what they were up to in the musical realm of Hardstyle. I came across this recorded performance video on the 18th of July and felt like I died from happiness. It wasn’t in the iTunes store, and it wasn’t released yet. Since I wasn’t receiving promo mail from Dirty Workz, all I could do was wait.

As of the 7th of August, the official music video has been released, and the release date has been announced as the 1st of September 2014. I didn’t notice until the 15th of August since I was busy with homework, but it’s better late than never. Without further ado, it’s time for me to deliver my two cents on the brilliance of this tune and why I’m so excited about its release.

First of all, we all know what ‘Let It Go‘ is and where it’s from. The track became an instant classic when it was released, because its empowering message was one that resonated with people from all walks of life. Da Tweekaz themselves have released a remix of this tune. I always love it when they put a Hardstyle twist on popular songs. It’s a daring, reckless, yet playfully ingenious thing to do. Their twists always manage to match their wacky everyday personalities perfectly. If you saw the performance video I linked you to earlier, you can see how their playfulness flows into their live performances. If you follow their social media, you’ll see how they do all sorts of funny things. In fact, if you’ve seen them live, like me, you’ll know how enjoyable it is to see and hear Da Tweekaz having fun. Remixes of popular songs are always good for a laugh and surprise on the dance floor.

From the popularity of ‘Let It Go’, to the remix of ‘Let It Go’, there’s no denying that Da Tweekaz have openly professed their love for this tune. Many others have in similar ways, and you only need to Google things like covers and bootlegs to see how many people have already done so. However, making a track like ‘Letting Go’, is taking things to the next level. I don’t think the similarity in the title and the theme is a coincidence at all. In fact, it seems to be their way of saying: We’re not done yet, surprise! Many artists normally stop after they finish their covers, but it is the ones who choose to step out of that comfort zone, then create something entirely new that are going to have the greatest chance of succeeding. It’s hard to walk out of something so memorable, but Da Tweekaz managed to do it, and they did it brilliantly.

‘Letting Go’ incorporates subtle Drum & Bass percussion in the beginning. With the soft yet vulnerable layers and vocals, it can even sound like something quite meditative. Sprinkles of guitar throughout breakdowns are beautifully magical. Then, the main melody trumpets its way in. The chords gradually climb its way up, and aren’t just cliche ascending scales. It’s a great representation of how things are in life when people try to overcome difficulties. It’s not just a simple case of ‘up and go’, since people can only make their way to the top after overcoming obstacles. The lyrics for this track are simple yet powerfully universal, because it tells the victorious story of opening oneself to new experiences. After the pain of holding back, it reminds others about the relief of release. It’s basically just like the feeling of going to festivals after several days of hard work and other mundane routines. People enter into a world where they can temporarily cast all those worries and negativities aside, to feel free. The music video takes the approach of moving on for a breakup, but really, the track can be applicable to so many different situations.

Da Tweekaz, I can’t wait to see you again. I won’t be able to let you guys go!

G-Dragon – ‘Heartbreaker’ and EXO-M – ‘Wolf’ | Holiday Review Series: Post 19

EXO, CL (2NE1), Diplo, G-Dragon (Big Bang), Skrillex

Here’s a post to officially introduce a new category added to this blog, because I now find existence of electronic K-Pop undeniable and essential to acknowledge. Better late than never, aye? However, only the ones that are explicitly electronic are going to be featured on this blog. Hence why I added the word ‘electronic’ in front of the word ‘K-Pop’.

‘Heartbreaker’ was the first electronic K-Pop track that got my attention back in 2009. I was pleasantly surprised by how well produced it was. The layers seem to build then pop with every beat, creating a pulsing sway that’s just as snap-worthy as the literal snaps in the piece. I recently found the English translation of the lyrics, and I was even more surprised. Such a devilishly haunting and hypnotic melody was accompanied by bitterly sad lyrics of resentment. In fact, I was so surprised, that I wanted to re-evaluate my thoughts on the track. Yet, I still decided to write a good remark: I consider it very innovative to combine the different emotions that both track and lyrics create, because it accurately represents the complex emotions involved in the word ‘heartbreak’. After that, G-Dragon collaborated with Diplo and Baauer for ‘Coup D’Etat‘. Then, he and another K-Pop star CL from 2NE1 went to work with Skrillex and Diplo for ‘Dirty Vibe‘. All that just proves, once again, that electronic K-Pop should be considered part of E/DM.

Now, allow me to introduce you to EXO, who had two wins and one nomination at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2013. EXO includes EXO-K and EXO-M, the difference being EXO-K focuses on promotion in Korea and EXO-M focuses on promotion in Mandarin/Chinese-speaking locations. EXO-M even have members from China, and do covers of originally Korean songs in Mandarin Chinese. Evidently, in both music production and promotion, the Korean entertainment industry fully harnessed and expanded their influence in the Asian music markets by creating relevant content for both Korean and Chinese fans.

When I first the Chinese version of their song ‘Wolf’, I found it quite funny and odd. After all, it’s a bit odd to hear them saying: “I’m a wolf, a wolf, a-woo~”. Also, they sang their lyrics in a fairly monotonous fashion, eliminating many crucial tones required for comprehension. Along with the foreign accents of the Korean members in EXO-M, some of the lyrics became quite difficult to understand unless one decides to look up the lyrics on a search engine. I guess that’s one of the many problems with singing in Mandarin. Consider this: No matter how people sing in English, the pronunciation is still there for people to understand. Unlike English, in most cases, the tones in Mandarin have to be spoken properly for the listener to understand what was spoken. For the sake of comprehensibility, I would rather hear EXO-M rap this without following the original, monotonous melody. On the other hand, removing all that monotonous chanting takes away the hypnotising element of mystery.

In terms of production, I’ve got nothing negative to say. This song crawled its way into my head like an ear worm because of its descending notes, Dubstep influences, and a tiny bit of Trance kicks in the breakdown. In fact, I have to give kudos to the Korean pop industry for incorporating electronic music into pop correctly and innovatively. I’ve heard too many American and Chinese pop producers incorporate Dubstep in very lazy ways, thinking that ear-piercing wobbles automatically makes a track relevant in popular culture, with no consideration on harmonious balance. The wobbles in this track are quite clean, and do not dominate the layers of sound unpleasantly at all. That’s why it’s brilliant.

If you have any electronic K-pop tracks that you would like me to review, feel free to submit your suggestions through the contact form.

Ali.i.an – Firelight | Holiday Review Series: Post 18

Ali.i.an - Firelight

I’m constantly looking for cool electro house tunes, so you can imagine my joy when I came across this pleasant surprise in my promo inbox. The naturalistic title completely matches the theme of the track. In fact, my favourite part, where the drumstick rolls get infused with trumpeting melodies, perfectly resembles a crackling bonfire. I could totally imagine a bounce pit trampoline being formed on the dance floor when I heard it. The other part I really love is how the bass line changes its intensity with different effects. Also, the overall composition of this piece really helped to build up to that pinnacle. Progressive and Electro House are combined seamlessly to create both light-hearted joy and ground-breaking explosiveness. What an awesome combination.

Mad Dog Review | Holiday Review Series: Post 17

DJ Mad Dog

Mad Dog is one of my favourite Hardcore artists. In this post, I’m going to tell you how my admiration for this artist was ignited.

As a person who hasn’t listened to Hardcore for long, I first heard of Mad Dog’s name from the ‘This Is Hardcore’ album released by Neophyte Records. The track ‘Agony’ starts off with accursed death chants, then explodes with a scream and a high siren-like sound. The arrangements in this piece perfectly represents how suppressed hate can build up and be released into violent anger. My favourite part is the incorporation of that old-school horror organ, melodic style, and excruciating scream in the background. In the breakdown, the notes have some sort of click to them, which greatly complements the claps that get added in. Even the bass varies as the track builds up.

The next track that I fell in love with was ‘The Flow’. I heard the Advanced Dealers remix of the track first when it was announced as part of Mad Dog’s album ‘Rudeness: Hardcore Beyond Rules’, before I looked up the original. The Advanced Dealers remix features an electric guitar solo, and I always love it when electronic music producers incorporate rock. It’s has a higher tempo than that of the original, and I usually find Hardcore songs at that tempo very addictive. Of course, I enjoyed the instrumental component of the original mix equally. The suspenseful break down features violins, light and muffled piano notes, as well as ringing bells. This effectively build up haunting suspense until the ultimate build up and chorus release. Honestly, the original mix and remix of ‘The Flow’ are tracks that allow others to hear how Hardcore can contrast the beautiful and the dark to trigger highly emotional responses and be extremely memorable.

The track that prompted me to write this Mad Dog review post, was yet another release from a second ‘This is Hardcore’ album with the ‘Rebellious’ sub-title or theme. Mad Dog’s second contribution to the album was titled ‘Rewind’.

The most surprising element was Mad Dog’s modification of what I think is a baby’s wailing cry. After all, the sound of a crying baby is often heart-wrenching because it comes from a pure and innocent soul, calling for help and unable to express it in any other way. When modified electronically in such a manner, it seems to become a cry of a suppressed beast. Isolated from the world, unaccepted and helpless. Finally, there’s another adorably cheeky element in the ending. All of a sudden, Mad Dog decided to add a funky tune with the rap lyrics: “And if you don’t like it, I really don’t give a damn”. It definitely fits well with the theme for the album since it hijacks the genre with a random insert.

Mad Dog. I suppose even the name fits his production style too. He may be mad, but he was born as man’s best friend. I look forward to hear more brilliant tunes from this creative Hardcore producer!

Update (1/7/2014): Mad Dog’s ‘Rewind’ was played as part of the Defqon.1 Netherlands 2014 End Show

Massai One – Wildling and Supersphere | Holiday Review Series: Post 16

Massai One - Wildling and Supersphere

Do not be deceived by the odd titles, for these releases are hardly wild or forceful. In fact, they are beautifully graceful.

The chord progressions for ‘Wildling’ are highly enchanting and unforgettable. It includes piano notes in the background, creating a plethora of pure droplets that will wash all kinds of despair away. However, there were some parts where the vocals were given solo moments intermittently. This was done far too frequently with dramatic differences in levels. As a result, the flow of the track gets disrupted in the middle segment of the entire track. Nonetheless, the melody for this piece is simply amazing.

The original mix for ‘Supersphere’ has quite an interesting chorus. The chords are hit repeatedly at levels that are closely equal. Yet, usually, other producers like to create a pulsing effect by twisting volume and compression, which is why this track gains originality points. Unfortunately, due to the lack of variations, the individual layers of this track sound less appealing when they are not all meshed together in harmonious unity, and require listeners to wait far too long for the best part as the layers get added on.

Massai One’s EP has been released through Macarize Records on 16/6/2014 and is now available on Beatport.

Afrojack feat. Wrabel – Ten Feet Tall (Brennan Heart and Code Black Remix) | Holiday Review Series: Post 15

Afrojack feat. Wrabel - Ten Feet Tall (Brennan Heart and Code Black Remix)

I don’t know if I should give this a 2 out of 5, or 3 out of 5. In fact, I’m struggling so much here, it feels like I’m doing splits. On one hand, Brennan Heart and Code Black are among the most respected Hardstyle artists out there. But, on the other hand, this remix wasn’t Hardstyle from start to finish.

Personally, I think it would have sounded pretty good if it had a Hardstyle tempo and style from start to finish. Code Black’s trademark notes and Brennan Heart’s melodic powers can definitely be heard, but Hard Bass Junkies might feel like the tempo gets dragged out for too long and too often at some parts. As a person who has listened to a lot of Hardstyle for a long time, I was bothered by how the transition between tempos were not smooth enough. I’ve heard other remixes that managed the tempo changes more smoothly.

On the other hand, I don’t know how this track would sound like to a person who listens to Hardstyle less often, or a person who has never heard of Hardstyle before. Sure, if Brennan Heart or Code Black played the track from start to finish at a multi-genre festival like Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), the crowd might not mind. However, if they played this track from start to finish at a festival like Defqon.1, I think the crowd reaction might simmer down. Why? Because festivals like Defqon.1 are more well known for being predominantly Hardstyle than anything else. It really depends on where this track will be played, and at what point the cue is for a set. For instance, if the Hardstyle DJs skip huge portions of segments that play the original mix at the original tempo, it might still be able to work well in a predominantly Hardstyle set.

I might be wrong though, since genres are crossing over a lot these days. Maybe, a lot of people who go to Hardstyle festivals like a lot of Electro or Progressive House and Trance. Maybe, a lot of people who go to Electro or Progressive House and Trance festivals like Hardstyle. Or, maybe, on one side, there’s a case of unrequited love. Either way, it’s part of the effort to introduce Hardstyle to a wider audience. Consider these questions: Do you think Brennan Heart and Code Black will succeed with this track? Or have they succeeded with this track? Should Hardstyle DJs consider the Hardstyle side of things when introducing this genre to an audience that has hardly heard of it before? Should they just focus on the perceptions of audiences outside of the Hardstyle scene? Or should they strike a balance? Is it possible to strike the perfect balance? So many questions remain unanswered, since experiments are still in its early stages.

Let me know if you heard this live at either a multi-genre festival like EDC, or a predominantly Hardstyle festival like Defqon.1. Let me know what happens to the crowd when Hardstyle DJs play this. Or, actually, let me know what happens to the crowd when DJs like Afrojack play this too. I’d be interested to know.

The remixes for Afrojack’s ‘Ten Feet Tall’ have been released through Universal Music.

Matisse and Sadko – Sigure | Holiday Review Series: Post 14

Matisse and Sadko - Sigure

With tribal percussions and chants, it’s no wonder a track like ‘Sigure’ can awaken the dancing beasts within the party people. The chord progressions are fluid, simple, and the layering of electronic sounds with instrumental components is absolutely rich. The breakdown melody creates excitement in a joyful way with its trickling notes and its whistle-like effects. Additionally, the cheekiest part of this track lies in the build up. As the whoops increase in frequency, one can faintly hear a crowd saying “aww yeah”. This release from Spinnin’s Doorn Records deserves all the support it has gotten from DJs such as Hardwell, Armin van Buuren, Sander van Doorn, and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. The track has been available for purchase on Beatport since 31/3/2014.

Kiesza – Hideaway (Original and Remixes) | Holiday Review Series: Post 13

Kiesza - Hideaway

Classy, light and contemporary, yet groovy and soulful. The ‘Ooh’s and ‘Ah’s in the original mix makes everything sounds sassy and spicy at the same time. And that bass line? Downright irresistible. One thing that irks me slightly is one of the build-ups, where it brings cliche, Electro-Trance like beeps that increases in pitch. It just doesn’t fit in with the light House vibe. Fortunately, that only appears for a brief second, which is why that wasn’t enough to make me hate the track at all. In fact, it’s still the version I love most in this single.

The remixes bring unique goods to the table too. Gorgon City amps up the bass line, digging deep with round twists. Every time the compression levels release and contain the sound waves like that, I get goosebumps. I especially love the flute-like parts and very subtle wobbles which are hardly overdone at all.

Zac Samuels’ remix takes the 70s vibe intro even further with more instrumental incorporations, with the piano as the main focus. Remember those beeps in the original mix? Zac Samuels managed to muffle that and tone it down with cymbals. I would have liked the cymbals to cover it up more, but nonetheless, a good effort was made to blur out the flaw.

I give this Lokal Legend/Neon Records release a 5 out of 5.

Frontliner and Sway – Just Film It | Holiday Review Series: Post 12

Frontliner and Sway - Just Film It

This Hardstyle and rap combination is quite unexpected, especially when it’s coming from a producer like Frontliner. With tracks such as ‘Halo‘ and ‘I’m the Melodyman‘, the man is undoubtedly one of the icons of Hardstyle, known for making marvellous melodies.

I actually have mixed feelings about ‘Just Film It’. Let’s start with what I love about it. I like how Frontliner incorporated siren-like beeps, operatic choruses, and violin segments. They give the track a whole heap of attitude and swag that I just can’t get enough of. Not to mention, just have a listen to the way the operatic choruses come in with the kick each and every time. That’s not something I’d hear every day in a Hardstyle track, so every time it happens, it just pumps energy into my veins.

Now, for the part that I’m confused about: The lyrics. “They don’t make” what “like this” anymore? Hardstyle? Well, from what I can hear, Frontliner’s methods are quite new, so it’s not like he has done this before, and it’s not like other producers have done this before many times. Sway can’t be referring to Frontliner, right? When Sway says “record” what are people supposed to “film”? How are listeners supposed to immerse themselves in a context that they can’t understand?

If people watch the music video, they might get the hint that this is about drifting on a highway, but I have no incentive to remember the rap for this reason: As far as I know, the only thing that Hardstyle lovers have in common is their love for raves and partying, but not necessarily for drifting. Not everyone is going to understand this rap in a snap, and I doubt that most Hardstylers would start to go drifting after listening to this either. With lyrics like “let me see your lights like you’re Edison”, the dead man would be rolling in his grave if he heard his name associated with gangster drifting. Also, if this rap was about drifting, why enter a password? Live by what code? The password for someone’s phone is a code that people live by? When did that ever happen? I find the rap too difficult to understand.

Anyway, despite my confusion about the lyrics, I still love the music production style. You can buy this track through Frontliner’s label ‘Keep It Up Music’ on Beatport.