I guess this is how the internet works. Electronic Dream 2, Araabmuzik’s supposed sequel to his critically acclaimed debut album Electronic Dream, was uploaded to eMusic’s website in early September, and quickly taken down. The official word from Araabmuzik’s representatives was that this version of the album is “not the album”. But the “You’re listening to Araabmuzik” tags and the signature MPC technical wizardry made it was pretty obvious who did these tracks.
Electronic Dream was primarily edits of vintage Hardcore Techno, which somehow found an audience ready to embrace “Underground Stream” by DJ Nosferatu, which before Araabmuzik wasn’t a song people were jumping to sample. This was a 180 degree turn for Araabmuzik, whose reputation was based on his MPC technical skill. But Araabmuzik with this album and his increasingly recognized live shows to push beyond just being a rap beat maker.
He’s played shows with dubstep superstar Skrillex and is now touring with the constantly being talked about indie band Sleigh Bells. And has produced for 50 Cent, Swizz Beatz, and the rising New York crew A$AP Mob. This confluence of styles can be heard in his live shows, where he can recreate intense drum & bass’s drum patterns on the spot; disassembles massive dubstep drops and still find ways to sneak in a few rap tracks. So, when I got a copy of this elusive “album”, I was excited by where Araabmuzik would take the project.
The first listen of Electronic Dream 2 was underwhelming; I chalked it up to being in a poor mood and gave the album another chance. Again, unimpressed. The albumshifted from lively 90s Trance samples to a bloated stadium filling EDM sound; unfortunately a bit more Deadmau5, who Araabmuzik’s sampled before, rather than the larger pop leanings of Guetta or even Tiesto. The ephemeral feeling of “I know this song, but cannot name it right now” that made Electronic Dream such a unique listening experience became lost when the album’s modern influences are so clearly tangible.
Not to harp on minor details—especially for an “unfinished” project—but the place holder names: “Miami Vice”, “Bass” and “Turn It Up” are the most perfunctory descriptions of the songs leaving nothing to a listener’s imagination. Not that Electronic Dream had great song titles—”Lift Off” and “Lost In a Maze”—but after a dozen listens an element of surprise is still had in the album, because of Araabmuzik’s fine tweaks.
Electronic Dream 2 does not have that mystery. The album’s fist-pumping mood sets in quickly as the listening degrades into hoping the next track won’t have a dubstep drop and wondering if the track was originally meant for a rapper, as it sounds more like an instrumental than a own stand-alone track. This album is “unfinished”, so it would be a bit unfair to harshly judge Araabmuzik for a leaked project. Yet, this accidental release shows the amount of talent and skill required to juggle all of these various genres and styles.
Her energy and fearlessness worked as a correction to the misogynist strain of quasi-ironic graphic tees peppering the crowd. “PARTY WITH SLUTS” was mad popular, dawg; “Cool story, babe. Now go make me a sandwich” was big too.
Brandon Soderberg, from Spin’s live review of the first day of Lollapalooza desribing the crowd at a Metric show.
This comment just reminded me that in Washington DC, the default style for tourist merchandise were shirts in gigantic font similar to LMFAO’s “I’m in Miami Bitch” shirts and were usually in obnoxiously bright tie-dye and neon coloring. The look was a slightly tamer of the version any photo gallery from an EDM festival the past couple years, where girls wear furr boots, tie-dye colors, and shirts that say “RAGE” or “DUBSTEP”.
Simon Reynolds epic article on EDM in America for the Guardian was really good, but it never really mentioned the American Top 40 mainstreamification of Techno sounds with dudes like Flo Rida, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, and how even stuff like Jersey Shore has an influence on not only the music, but how people dress for these events.
There was a charge on Twitter for someone youthful to make a defense of EDM. I agree that would be great to see, but I’d also like to see some tackle the influence of Jersey Shore on EDM culture. The show has been endless mocked, but the lifestyle of work a little, and RAGE the rest of the time seems to be the motto of plenty of kids at EDM shows.
“Praising the Radio Songs”, Part 4
Back in Time - Pitbull
A Pitbull video full of beautiful women, product placement, and black shades on his face in dimly lit rooms! I won’t list how many different Pitbull videos this could be, but at a certain point you have to just embrace how willing the dude is to jump on any pop song that needs so rapping (he’s a more motivated Flo Rida!). But, this one is a bit more unique than most of the EDM tracks that Pitbull has been on the last few years, and I’m not talking about the tacked-on dubstep breakdown at the end.
This song has been out for a little while, but I just heard it on the radio, and honestly thought it was a Fatboy Slim song (more specifically his hit “The Rockafellar Skank”). “Back in Time” samples Mickey & Slylvia 1950s hit “Love is Strange”, which is something of a lost art, as rap and electronic music moved away from big samples (the Kanye Wests of the world excluded) entering the 2000s. Pitbull’s rapping is probably even more boring than normal, and the dubstep breakdown at the end is bad enough I’m mentioning it again here. But, the ear-to-ear grin on my face, when I first heard the song was able to withstand those low points, as the song veers towards the “Electronica” end of the spectrum more than “EDM”. Because, as much as I love the 4/4 thump of 2010s pop radio, not all (blanket term of electronic music) needs to follow the same sonic blueprint, especially when the sound of Prodigy and Fatboy Slim didn’t get score a high number of hits in the United States at least (Electronica was no Guetta).
Nobody comes out and says Skrillex-as-Unabomber or Skrillex-sans-fun because Skrillex is uncool.
Robert Christgau, from his review of Death Grips’ The Money Store.
Wait, no. That isn’t true anymore. Sure, a year ago when I was e-mailing Brandon Soderberg about this guy named Skrillex, who was leading this new music that soundtracked far too much of my freshman year of college, Dubstep. Back then, no one (read: Critics/Indie Music types) were talking about Skrillex, even when he was still selling out shows last year! But, fast forward to Spin’s EDM cover story, Tom Breihan’s defense of the guy at Stereogum, and a Pitchfork interview (despite the only coverage of him before being a SXSW live review).
The narrative on Skrillex is kind of weird, because he was lumped in with “Bro-Step” that was pitted against Post-Dubstep (James Blake type music), then people started to wonder why such a dichotomy existed and started embracing the dude. He’s got cover stories, sold out more shows, and even got pieces from respected music writers (Mark Richardson & Nitsuh Abebe) have discussed the guy. It’d be hard right now to call the guy “uncool”, even if there are plenty of people that passionately dislike his music. But, by now he has carved out a niche so large—if not too large for critics, who stopped caring about Dubstep in 2008, and don’t know Zeds Dred—that whether if he’s “uncool” or not stopped mattering to those who like him, and probably never mattered to him.