As the first single from the full album Nova, “Pressure” is an audacious opening shot for Los Angeles-based DJ/producer RL Grime. While the album is filled with a variety of musical styles ranging from Dance to Pop to R&B, featuring the likes of Miguel, Julia Michaels, Ty Dolla $ign, Daya, Jeremih, & Tory Lanez, “Pressure” is a callback to his classic signature brand of distorted synth-based dance music. With the song first appearing in his Halloween mix released last year and later featured in a 2018 Apple iMac Pro ad campaign, it’s release last week has been highly anticipated.
In anticipation of Whethan’s Life of A Wallflower Tour kicking off this fall, the highly-touted producer has released the amazing “Superlove” with the London-based Alt-Pop masterminds Oh Wonder. According to Josephine and Anthony of Oh Wonder, the song was written in just 30 minutes by the three of them while in a Los Angeles Studio session. The fun energy of the production and catchy vocals of Superlove makes it the perfect soundtrack to any sunny afternoon by the pool.
As the fourth single from their much-anticipated third album, See Without Eyes, “Go Light” by The Glitch Mob is almost the perfect distillation of the L.A. trio’s sound, fusing infectious, glitched-out synths, booming chords and anthemic chord progressions. As a final warning shot prior to the high-impact arrival of the full-length album, four years in the making, “Go Light” ushers in a new phase the electro band’s already formidable journey.
Originally hailing from Washington, DC, but now based in Los Angeles, Shallou is an artist and producer specializing in atmospheric electronic music. On this latest single, he’s teamed up with indie-pop vocalist Riah and the effect is mesmerizing. By pairing minimalist synths and pulsing beats with a light, winsome melody, Shallou’s signature happy/sad production aesthetic strikes the perfect balance with Riah’s lilting voice to create a truly unique dance song, ideal for a rainy day. Be sure to keep an eye out for Shallou’s impressive live show, which seamlessly blends dreamy electronics, loops, and live instrumentation.
A lush amalgam of sparkling synths, sweet vocal harmonies, Caribbean flourishes and an irrepressible Latin rhythm, “No Love” by Ultra Music’s Salt Cathedral is a breezy tribute to the power of love and dancing over hate and violence. As a NYC-based duo of native Colombians, Salt Cathedral has been making waves in the dance community with their uniquely distinctive blend of sumptuous, tropical pop.
A seamless mix of crystalline pop and cutting edge production, “I Need You” is the infectious brainchild of super-producers and DJ’s Fernando Garibay and Armin van Buuren. Concentrating on their considerable strengths, while van Buuren’s more renowned for his trance work, Garibay’s midas touch as a versatile producer and songwriter, having worked extensively with everyone from Lady Gaga through U2, shines through on this track. Paring the soulful vocals of Olaf Blackwood with a compelling pulse, haunting chorus and wide-screen sonic expanse, “I Need You” is a genre-straddling confection that transcends the dance floor.
L.A.-based producer, APEK, closes out an eventful year of chart success, streaming achievements, high-profile collabs, and a Tritonal tour with his new song, “Traces.” A richly melodic new track, “Traces” pairs broken-beat innovation with soaring synths and ethereal vocals, courtesy of the incredible Karra. It offers a seamless dance-floor experience that reinforces APEK’s name as one to keep an ear out for.
Buffalo natives and self-proclaimed “taco aficionados,” Solidisco have been lighting up dancefloors and festivals around the globe with an arsenal of originals and remixes out via big player labels, Universal Music & Big Beat/Atlantic, Ultra Records and taste-makers A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold & Laidback Luke’s Mixmash Records. Playing homage to the roots of house music, Solidisco reps the culture, while keeping the dancefloor rocking in the current landscape of dance music.
As co-founder of the Soda Island collective, 18-year-old Canadian producer/DJ Ramzoid established himself as a fresh new force in electronic dance music with a distinctive sound that has garnered the support from acts such as Jauz, Jack U, and Baauer. Breaking away from the DJ standard, his live show is augmented with launch pads, midi-controllers, and a drum kit, so make sure to check the dates for his upcoming tour with Jai Wolf. Blazing ahead with an EP of his own, Universe, Ramzoid is continuing to put his own spin on Future bass.
Unlike Pluto is an Atlanta-born/L.A.-based DJ/producer who infuses his obsession with electronic dance music with influences and instrumentation from well beyond the conventional realm of the dancefloor. Rightly celebrated as one of Billboard’s Dance Artists to Watch, this multifaceted music creator has only started to reveal his capabilities. “Show Me Love” arrives with vocalist Michelle Buzz’s silky cooing before the track bursts open with spiraling synths, a soulful chorus and a big, expansive drop.
Initially meeting as students at music school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mexico-born artists Americo Garcia and Jorge Medina recognized the potential of their collective chemistry and pooled their musical resources as Boombox Cartel to swiftly drive their informed, innovative sound to the height of the Minneapolis DJ scene. A quick succession of self-releases proved them a force to be reckoned with.
Abandoning chilly Minnesota for the sun and scene of Southern California, the duo has continued to crank out influential singles, catching the ears and accolades of names like Diplo, Skrillex, DJ Snake and Martin Garrix. Their most recent effort, “Supernatural,” finds Boombox Cartel merging with the bass power of QUIX and the sinewy voice of Canadian singer/songwriter Anjulie for a cinematic dancefloor epic.
DJ/producer No Way Back (a.k.a. Anthony Pisano) has earned a reputation for a style that deftly fuses house, hip-hop and soul, as evidenced on his acclaimed debut single “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay,” which stormed the Top 10 of the UK Music Week Club Chart. This latest track, meanwhile, finds him putting a cutting-edge spin on the sound of the hedonistic 90’s via a collaboration with fellow Los Angeleno DJ/producer Le Youth (a.k.a. Wes James), himself renowned for filling dance floors with a cool blend of house and R&B. Keep your eyes and ears out for more of this blissful brand of dance music from both Now Way Back and Le Youth.
Having already established himself as a globally recognized force on the turntables, L.A.-based producer Jayceeoh has earned the respect from celebrated fellow DJ/producers like A-trak, Bassnectar, Boregore and Flosstradamus, and released original trap and bass-driven remixes on influential labels like Dim Mak, Fool’s Gold, Ultra Records, Buygore and more. His latest track, “Elevate,” is poised to only push him further forward, featuring a head-turning vocal performance by Nevve over Jayceeoh’s lush, synth-laden production and propulsive beats.
Not just an accomplished DJ and producer, Goldroom (a.k.a. Josh Legg) makes sparklingly lush electronic dance music, but the soul of a bona fide songwriter lurks just beneath the beats. Layered under the sweeping synths, soaring vocals and “nostalgic production tones” of his new single “Silhouette,” Goldroom dreamily hearkens to another age. Straying from the DJ norm, Goldroom’s been known to bring his music to festivals around the world with a full live band. Could crossover success be far behind? Stay tuned.
A strong contender for song of the summer, “Wheels in Motion” pairs New York City’s TWRK with Amsterdam’s Lady Bee. Initially an anonymous duo, TWRK were already cranking out dance floor hits for Diplo’s Mad Decent imprint when the influential DJ/producer revealed their true identities on his BBC Radio program as Benzi and Esentrik. “Wheels in Motion” is a haunting, mid-tempo jam that will only further their growing reputation.
This New Jersey-native-turned-LA-transplant may be a new face in the DJ world, but he’s no stranger to the stage. As a former member of pop/rock-gone-EDM trio, Cash Cash, Zookёper spent more time touring the globe before his 21st birthday than some acts do in a lifetime. Released by Hysteria Records, “Gunz” has already received support from some of the top DJs around the world, including Martin Garrix, David Guetta, and Morgan Page.
Having cut their teeth in the furtive rave underground of Los Angeles and their native Las Vegas, the Crystal Method – then a duo of Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland – burst onto the scene towards the latter half of the 90’s, boasting a distinctive, big-beat sound that was both informed by the burgeoning, electronic dance music coming out of the UK and augmented with their own inimitably American blend of swagger. Landing like a scud missile during the heady decade of grunge, their 1997 debut LP, Vegas, delivered the same techno wallop as British counterparts like the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy, but came imbued with a rafter-shaking rock’n’roll swing and dirty slabs of soulful funk. Later albums found the duo experimenting with different styles, tempos and collaborators, but still pushing boundaries while making dance music that appealed to club-hopping ravers and leather-clad rockers alike.
Huge success and multiple projects, singles, soundtracks, albums and tours later, however, the Crystal Method found itself at a crossroads. When co-founder Jordan informed Kirkland that he was ready to get off the roller coaster, a decision had to be made. Today, 25 years after first starting the band and 21 years after releasing their watershed debut album, Kirkland is initiating the next phase of the Crystal Method without his partner. Amicably parting ways and tying up loose ends with Jordan, Kirkland went back into a reconfigured studio to craft the sprawling new album, The Trip Home. On the eve of this ambitious record’s release, BMI caught up with Kirkland to discuss the long, rhythmic road of the Crystal Method and what lies ahead.
2018 has been a pivotal year for you, as it marks both your 25th anniversary as a band and the 21st anniversary of the release of Vegas. By the same token, it also marks the dawn of a new chapter of the band as essentially a solo act. In the wake of all this, how are you feeling as you launch into this new phase with the new album?
Well, I’m feeling a little bit old, but also feeling excited. I don’t know where the time went. Ken and I having started this band 25 years ago is a pretty remarkable thing. At that moment, we had a $750 production deal from EMI, and we were somehow able to parlay that into getting ourselves a small record label deal with two guys that had never put out an album before, City of Angels. We sold 3,000 vinyl LPs in the middle of the grunge period. If someone had told me that we were still going to be making music 25 years later, I would have fallen off my chair. But, there is this next opportunity before me to extend what I am as a songwriter, what I am going forward as the Crystal Method and where I can take the sound and the band that Ken and I started. The thing that also makes it a lot easier is the fact that we still have a great relationship. He was just done. He wanted to move down to Costa Rica. I could see that this was something he’d thought long and hard about and he was happy to make this move, and so it made it really easy for us to figure out the logistics of breaking up. Since we were fifty-fifty with everything, I just pushed all my chips to the middle of the table and said “I’m going to buy the studio and buy you out of that stuff so you can move forward.”
A lot of these things kind of just came together. I reconfigured the studio the way I would like it, getting myself a little more out of the box, if you will. I got a Chandler Limiter [sound compressor], a little line-mixer and a couple of great outboard pieces – a Portico from Rupert Neve [microphone preamp], and then I brought all my synths close to me, and really started to experiment with what I wanted to sound like. I didn’t know what I wanted my music to sound like, but I knew how I wanted it to feel. I wanted it to feel warm, I wanted to feel nostalgic. I wanted it to feel classic. The sound of it, the warmth of it, the techniques of going and mixing through a Neve board and going to Sound City and I just wanted it to live up to those kind of crazy synth-rock records that my dad would listen to and hold up to my love of concept albums and the sort of albums that have narratives like Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration or Violator. I just thought about it for probably a little too much time, then just made the moves and started writing. As soon as I got that “Holy Arp” track going, and using some of the techniques going back to Vegas when you just sit with a synthesizer and just nerd-out for 30 minutes and then go and cut up stuff from that session, I just took it all and moved forward.
The Crystal Method has been cited as a primary influence on the EDM movement of today, but you were also one of the first bands to really infuse club music with a more rock-oriented sound and identity, essentially bringing everything that’s considered cool about rock to electronica. Was that an organic process or by design?
I was always sort of blending those worlds. Even when I first started to collect some gear when I got out of high school, I had a guitar, and I’d taken guitar lessons from Mark Slaughter when I was in Las Vegas. But I never had the patience for guitar. I mean, I loved the idea of it. I liked the look and sound of it, but I always wanted to play drums. I used to air-drum in my living room every night, because my mom wouldn’t let me get a real drum kit. My timing was kind of fine-tuned in those early years.
But, yeah, I always loved bands like New Order that had guitars and vocals and, of course, at the same time, all the techno, electronic and house music and those different things that came up around that time. All of it, in our minds, shared that aggressiveness and the forcefulness. I love the lushness and the beauty of some of the big piano lines in some of those early house, trancy-kind of crossover tracks. And then we just brought in all those things that my mom and dad used to listen to and I listened to together. We wanted it to be dirty and have that big-drum rock vibe, and we knew that when people put their guitars through Big Muff pedals, they got some great, crazy sounds, so we thought, “What if we put synthesizers through it?”
To my core, as soon as I got turned onto music, I couldn’t get turned off. I’ve always loved it, and I’ve always been fascinated with not only the different styles, but the timing. That’s one of the other things we were never a slave to – specific tempo. We weren’t always going for a dancefloor vibe. We were going for a vibe that you could listen to wherever you were…. If you were in your car, or on the dance floor or in a club or wherever. We were always conscious of making that song – in some sort of traditional format, even if we didn’t have a vocalist.
How did you approach this new album without Ken? How did it affect your songwriting and the creative process?
I’ve never been one to want it to be all about me. I guess the term for it is a “solo album,” but with the collaborators I’ve been working with on this record, when somebody brought in something special that I couldn’t create, it shifted me in a way that made me strive to go farther. That exchange is a natural one for me, having worked with a lot of different people over the years. It was really just getting my studio acclimated to what I wanted, and bringing things in closer and changing some stuff out, and then just getting in and grinding out those long hours to try to make something special. When I create a track in my folder, it doesn’t say “untitled,” it says “make magic,” and that’s really all I’m trying to do. I don’t know how to do that – it’s just a vibe thing. You go in and you seek and hopefully you’ll be led there by your own curiosity and the others around you that are working towards the same goal.
Do you have a favorite instrument to compose on? No, but recently, I’ve been really inspired by this Dave Smith Prophet Six [synthesizer] and then the OB Six [synthesizer] from Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim, just simply because they have this great combination of sound quality and creativity within reach. I really enjoy the opportunity to open up a dialogue with an instrument that can’t check my e-mail. I sometimes want to take my phone and put it in the other room, because I know it’s so distracting. For me, the magic hour is like 10 pm, maybe one or two days a week, especially when we’re in the middle of working on the album. 10 to, like, 2, 3, 4 am just because the family’s home safe, the city around us has settled, down, the phone’s not ringing, there’s none of that stuff to distract you and you just kind of get into the flow. That’s all part of the whole battle of creativity and trying to find the next note.
Your new record has a very vast, expansive sound with a sweeping, visual aesthetic to the music. Even the album art resembles a movie poster. Is that something that’s always played a role for you – the cinematic aspect? I kind of think about sounds, sometimes, as antagonizing and talking back to other sounds. The predatory sound, the sympathetic sound – however the instrumentation comes along to match those. Sometimes I kind of write in that way, and again growing up in those early days when I was an only child and had those John Williams scores to all those Star Wars movies and I had all the action figures, and I was “I’m doing this! I’m making a movie and playing a score, and I’m get involved in this real intense battle” and drifting off into my imagination while listening to the scores of those movies. I definitely feel that that’s always been a part of our sound, even going back to Vegas, that kind of epic, opening – it’s very cinematic.
As soon as we had a bunch of songs, we figured there were going to be two albums here. I came up with the title after coming home from a trip out doing a gig on the weekend, and I thought, “The Trip Home! That sounds like a really a great title!” Then knowing that we had the other eight or nine songs going to the next album, we thought we’d call it the Trip Out. We’ll call it the Trip series. In a way, it’s ambitious, but I just thought, why not? I’ve got kids, I’ve got family and I’ve got obligations, and I’ve got things going on, but I’m never going to get another opportunity to do this like where I’m at right now. So, I take some time with the family to decompress, but I’m challenging myself to come in and try to work and keep busy and get this next album out in July of next year, on the 18th anniversary of the release of Tweekend, and then set up a tour at the end of next year. And we’ll see what happens in 2020. I want to figure out a way, like the way The Trip Home together, and how I’m hoping The Trip Out will come together, to do something really special for that. There’s a narrative there, there’s a story being told, there’s something that you can follow. It’s cinematic. I’d like to match that with some sort of visuals, potentially, and then hopefully just get out and do something special – make magic, if you will.
What’s the biggest misconception about making electronic music?
Some people don’t care how anything is made. It’s like how they don’t care how the sausages are made. I guess that maybe the idea that everything’s in the box – because so much of what people have access to now, even those bedroom producers who have jobs and they got Abelton Live [software music sequencer and digital audio workstation] and maybe they pick up a couple of plug-ins and they get something like Massive or some other software to really deliver some demo that sounds pretty decent, but I think that most people go into studios. There are few that just pop’em out their laptops. I remember Skrillex used to talk about how he made those first couple of songs on his laptop. I’m absolutely sure that that’s what happened but as he’s gone forward, he’s gone into proper studios. Sure, you can start out and make music on your laptop, but sometimes you got to break out of the box. For me, my sound really came together once I went in and mixed through that Neve board over at Sound City. There’s something really wonderful and magical to what those old boards can do.
What’s your best advice for aspiring music creators?
Definitely to find your sound. It’s like a chef being raised on so many different things, but you’ve got to hone in on things that you like. You’ve really got to find what it is you love about music, I think, and what you want your sound to be. Unfortunately right now, so many artists – especially pop artists who don’t write their own songs or collaborate a lot with others – do sort of take on the personas of the producers they’re working with. But I think the most important thing is to find your sound. We’ve been fortunate to have that attachment. Some can point out “That’s the Crystal Method,” whether it’s something off of Vegas or Tweekend or Legion of Boom or Divided By Night. There’s something there – good or bad – that defines us through our techniques and our creative links to things we grew up with.
There are so many talented people out there, and it’s a lovely community of people who are always trying to take your job. So, you’ve got to keep working. Keep grinding.
Tell me about your relationship with BMI.
I just feel there’s this great community of people that are being nurtured and taken care of by a really great staff and group of really thoughtful and kind and caring people at BMI. So, I’m super happy to be part of the family.