There’s been yet another wave of articles recently like this one stating EDM has peaked (again) after total sales (not just music, but festivals, gigs, endorsements etc.) dropped to a mere $7.3 billion in 2017, down from $7.4 billion the year before. To me as an indie label owner such large figures are beyond my comprehension, but at least they show it is possible still for someone to make a living from releasing music. Speaking of which, time to tempt you with some new morsels!
Vocalist Claire de Lune and producer Grant Cutler are American dreampop duo tiny deaths, whose cohesive sound belies their contrasting musical styles. Cutler comes from a more experimental musical background, whereas de Lune has a body of work that’s rich in RNB influences. Their collaboration is a meeting of musical and artistic minds but Always sees the two create an unexpectedly electropop infused but welcome sound. With hints of Phantogram and Purity Ring, it manages to be edgy and accessible, with the vocals adding layers of soul – in both a musical and emotional sense.
Canadian-born Amy Guess earned her musical spurs in Las Vegas after moving there as a child. Playing in covers bands and working as a singing gondolier (!) before she’d even left school gave her an ear for what constitutes a hit, if Never Come Back is anything to go by. It’s a domineering slice of powerful electronica – dense, brooding; shot through with guitar licks that spit out fire and emotion in equal measure. With lyrics that talk about empowerment and survival against the odds, it reads like a feminist anthem that’s confident to speak its mind even in its darker moments.
Hot on the heels of working with Bearson on his track Go To Sleep (which we covered recently), Kailee Morgue has teamed up with Whethan on her latest release Do You Feel This Way. We’d referred to her faux-innocent vocals on the former track, but here she shows the more sophisticated side to her singing; warm and assured and with a world-weary air at times, as if she’s adopted a new persona for the song. Lyrically and musically it’s a gentle and slowly unwinding number with some dark undercurrents that counteract the chilled beats and soothing synths.
The approach of Summer can bring out the best in some musicians and that’s certainly the case with Voyager; the new song from Melbourne-based Dugong Jr which features vocals from Ruby Chase. The arrangement and beats give off an intense, sultry heat like tarmac on a hot afternoon – gritty, urban and with a surface layer of smoothness that won’t fail to draw you in to its laidback take on an urban, RNB style. Chase’s vocals provide a subtle layer of streetwise swagger, giving Voyager the quiet confidence that allows it to take its time to unwind.
Is it a whole year since we covered Second Soul by Nelly’s Crush? It seems so, even though it still sounds as fresh as the day it was released. Not ones to rest on their laurels, the Norwegian collective have surpassed themselves on the sublime nu soul of Sleeping Beauty. Featuring a male/female duet, the bright brass and bouncy fun rhythm creates an initially infectious air of joy, one which fades quickly – lyrically at least. The band say the song is about ’a society which forgot to say no’. With its funkified pop and wry lyrics, Sleeping Beauty bodes well for their upcoming second album which is due out Summer 2019 via Mother Likes It Records.
Germany’s Klangplanet has delivered the goods on his new track, Tropical. As the name suggests there’s a real equatorial vibe to it, tribal beats meeting Brazilian rhythms in a moody techno setting. Topping all that off is a rather silky piano and the most delicious brass and strings you’ve heard since the heyday of The Sound of Philadelphia. Sensual and seductive, it’s the perfect track for those late night / early morning moments where you’re in a sweaty club and want to get that little bit closer to someone that you want to be special.
Lemonade by French duo Sacre (for now anonymous other than using the pseudonyms Sukil and Hawaii) is a perfect summer hit – not surprising for a duo that has written hundreds of tracks for other artists up to now. It’s awash with a deep, textured arrangement – think Daft Punk meeting Röyksopp on the dancefloor of Studio 54 on a hot night in July and you’re on the way to capturing the sultry, sweaty sweetness of Lemonade. It’ll also feature on the upcoming Crispy Groove label compilation and the song really whets the appetite for that release!
Makk is the solo project of the Dresden musician, guitarist and producer Philipp Makolies (Woods of Birnam, Arctic Circle 18, Enno Bunger, Lestat Vermon). His new single Midlife Dreams harkens back at times to the heyday of the Neue Deutsche Welle sound but applies a warm veneer of electro-infused dreampop to the proceedings. What that gives you is a song that captures the spirit of the age without sounding retro; accentuating light and airy aspects of the arrangement but still having and underlying feeling of unreconciled melancholy.
Here come the Swedes! Stockholm based Visiteur describe themselves as a ‘techno glam band’ and after listening to Royalty you’ll know why. With a sound that marries Muse with elements of old school EBM and futurepop, the emphasis is very much on a shiny if slightly sinister surface, with vocals from lead singer Sir Boyfriend being delicious and dangerous in equal measure. Dig under the bubblegum ambiance and you’ll find lyrics that hint at more darker things, but like the best alt.pop, you can find a light or dark message on Royalty depending on your mood.
Last up this weekend is the delightfully misleading and rather odd Gaffer by Panic Priest. Initially coming across in its opening seconds as a standard dark electro song with gothic leanings, it quickly turns in to something deliciously different. Elements of darkwave emerge, and mixed with an electro take on the smooth yet brooding sound you associate with acts like Ghost or Paradise Lost, Gaffer manages to be catchy and curious – four minutes of perfectly distilled, perverse dark pop. It’s from the eponymous Panic Priest album which is out now via Negative Gain.