Blisspop Presents: Feedback Friday – July 20th, 2018

Here at Blisspop, we aim to show our audience who’s making their mark upon electronic music culture today. We sort through the good and the bad, bringing you the latest sounds. Back at it again with the latest edition of our series, Feedback Friday. This week, our group of Blisspop contributors includes: Aeron Premo, Alex Rubenstein, Max Hirsch, Justin Barini-Rivers, and Kristina Dandridge. This week’s music includes tracks by Gaika, Golden Features, Helena Hauff, T.E.E.D., and Road Kahan. Check it out below and send us your suggestions for future Feedback Fridays on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.


Gaika – “Immigrant Sons (Pesos & Gas)”

Max Hirsch – I’m pleasantly surprised by this one. GAIKA’s vocals are complemented well by SOPHIE’s production, which manages to tastefully incorporate dancehall influences into a darker, slower format. Vocal stacks are used to emphasize phrases in a way that was very controlled and deliberate, but at the end of the song I felt like there was something left to be desired. I watched the music video for this as my first listen to the song, and highly recommend you do the same – it certainly adds context and depth to this record. (8/10)

Aeron Premo – The beginning of this track made me think that this was going to sound like the Death Grips song we reviewed in this column several weeks back. I was most certainly wrong. However, GAIKA’s voice has a nice flow and it suits the track well. The instrumental (which I was intrigued to see was co-produced by SOPHIE as I am slowly starting to warm up to her productions) is catchy, but sounds a bit like a 50 Cent leftover from the mid-late 2000s era. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I’m sure it will find an audience. (4/10)

Justin Barini-Rivers – It’s hard to describe what I enjoy about this song beyond the production, but this song does have a unique feel to it. The arrangement keeps you on your toes and the horns rolling through the background are solid. I would have prefered a different style of vocal take, but it works. The vocals do help add movement as the song progresses. Overall a solid tune even with the risky rap take. (6/10)

Alex Rubenstein – Ayyyyyyy!! Gaika back at it again and I’ll be goddamned if a team-up with SOPHIE isn’t something I thought only existed in my LSD-soaked fever dreams. But for all the flash of the GAIKA x SOPHIE credits this is a relatively subdued track, both in terms of the beat and the vocals. The sparkly, digi-dancehall beat works very well with GAIKA’s laid-back, politically-charged delivery. While not quite a full-fledged banger, this has dystopian summertime vibes that I fuck with heavy. More of this please! (8.5/10)

Kristina Dandridge – It sounds like PC music had a love child with Caribbean hip hop! The beginning of the track is aggressive and in your face, fueled by politically charged messages. Points off because I don’t think I’d regularly bump this in my stereo. (5.5/10)



Road Kahan – “One Last Time”

Max Hirsch – Oof. The only word that comes to mind when listening to this song is “unremarkable”. Basic chord structure without a progression, simple house rhythm and percussion, a bass line that simply echoes the bass note of the corresponding chord, a cheesy top-end “bridge” that occurs at exactly halfway through the song… ok I think you get my point. Perhaps Road Kahan should have kept this one as a draft. (2/10)

Aeron Premo – It its chillout/deep house wheelhouse, this is a very strong and well-produced track. The beats are chill yet very energizing. The flow is consistent and the melody line is very pretty. However, I do think a vocal line as well as a longer length (perhaps about four-and-a-half to five minutes) would have lifted this track to a higher level, and a higher score from me. Otherwise, it is a fairly solid tune. (6/10)

Justin Barini-Rivers – I enjoy the nostalgia this song brings to me with the 90’s house style drums. I will give it some points for production and arrangement, but it lacks something special. This track could really use the texture of a human voice. The synth choices are solid, but nothing about this track seems to set it apart. I enjoyed it, but on a second listen it feels kind of stale. (8/10)

Alex Rubenstein –  And here we have EDM production 101 on full display. This is incredibly boring and really would only fit on the Grand Theft Auto V radio station that everyone skips over. Snooze FM. Sorry, Road Kahan – but this one just does not muster up. (2/10)

Kristina Dandridge – This is a groovy, chill house track from Armada Chill. It’s perfect for the summer season! This track stood out to me among a sea of submissions we receive requesting coverage on our website. (7.5/10)



Helena Hauff – “No Qualms”

Max Hirsch – Techno evolves not in small steps, but in great leaps, taken by fearless creatives. Helena Hauff’s “Qualms/No Qualms” EP is a great leap for techno. She challenges the very definition of the genre with a kick rhythm that is nowhere near four-to-the-floor yet can easily fit in with any techno set. She tells a story with evolving melodies and dynamics and uses small nuanced changes to progress the sound design without over-complicating the concept. Listen to the two-song EP as a whole instead of each track individually, and you will instantly be transported into her world. (9/10)

Aeron Premo – At around two minutes, it did feel like I was listening to “No Qualms” for five, but in this instance I was in such a happy trance I didn’t need to think about something like track length. I am loving the freestyle-indebted beat on this, plus those extended claps that pop up here and there — yes! The synth designs are insanely good and are put to great use throughout. I have been meaning to listen to more of Helena’s output, and this track is a great start to kick that off for me. (9/10)

Justin Barini-Rivers – What can I say about this queen of minimalist techno? Usually I am not a fan of techno that goes too far, but these lofi 808’s have me jamming. The quality of her productions to me is how she can pull of these experimental sounds. It’s like a quick little dance off style half time techno beat. The kick is my favorite part and that’s what i’ll be dancing to. (8/10)

Alex Rubenstein – What a refreshing take on techno we’ve got here. Helena Hauff’s kick sounds like it’s coming out of the one speaker left your in hoopty because you’ve been smashing it up with banger after banger all year long (in the best way possible.) It’s well-worn, loved and a guide to those weary dancers who are out there still kicking their feet at 5am. “No Qualms” has a real sophistication to it that only an experienced producer/DJ like Hauff can attain. Come for the techno, stay for the techno. (8.5/10)

Kristina Dandridge – That distorted kick wakes me up! This track would be perfect in an old school arcade game soundtrack. Highly nostalgic music, yet still relevant for a 2018 playlist. Points off for the repetitive nature of the track, would love some vocals or another melodic element to the track. (5/10)



T.E.E.D. – “Don’t You Forget About Me”

Max Hirsch – I don’t want to like this song. I really don’t. I fuckin hate this genre, I hate stacked synths, I hate white noise builds, I hate singers that sound like other more popular singers, I hate church choir inspired backing vocals, I hate misleading intros, and I hate over-processed guitars. Fuck it though, because when this song finally breaks down I can’t help but groove. So I’ll begrudgingly give my respect, and I’ll admit defeat on this one (even if the concept could be done in a classier way). (8/10)

Aeron Premo – It is wonderful to have TEED back. And it is especially wonderful to have him back and releasing this knockout tune! “Don’t You Forget About Me” is a downtempo offering that is a masterclass on how to build tension in a track, and no, it is not a cover of the Simple Minds classic. The synth pads that start a slow crescendo around 1:25. The muted Ernie Isley-esque guitar solo (courtesy of the Invisible’s Dave Okumu) right before the three-minute mark. And the key change. Oh, that genius key change! Reminiscing about a lost love, TEED’s vocals are similar to those of Connan Mockasin, particularly after the key change, and the lyrics are very wistful and pack a tender emotional punch. I can’t get enough of this. Just pure amazingness. (10/10)

Justin Barini-Rivers – Something about the majestic nature and beauty of this song will always get me. Timeless music for sure. The arrangement holds onto you without drums. Having no problem commanding the attention of the listeners with just the vocals it seems almost unnecessary to add the drums. I loved the drum outro don’t get me wrong. This song from top to bottom is meticulous. (7/10)

Alex Rubenstein – In all honesty, I completely forgot about T.E.E.D. So naturally when “Don’t You Forget About Me” was proposed for this week’s Feedback Friday I was all aboard the HYPE TRAIN, next stop Groove City. I was initially unsure how I felt about the track as a whole, but once that 3:40 mark hits the beat explodes from a mesmerizing blend of gorgeous synth layers to a slinky funk beat that perfectly underscores the emotive yet washed out vocals. We have a hit here people! (8/10)

Kristina Dandridge – This song has all the feels, I really appreciate how it builds and progresses with layers of luscious synthesizers. The vocals are so emotive! I feel like I would have really latched onto this track in my teens, it’s angsty AF. One point off because I wanted the breakdown to happen sooner! (9/10)



Golden Features – “Always”


Max Hirsch – Anyone else think “Justice” immediately? Anybody? I just can’t get over it. I dig the song, but it definitely sounds more like a first draft off of Justice’s Genesis than a Golden Features song to me. In summary this record does not meet my standards of originality or creativity, and that’s enough for me to dismiss it without regret. I do, however, respect the production and mixing skills displayed so that’s cool. I give it my signature rating. (6.9/10)

Aeron Premo – I have to say that the intro made me think of the cheesy solos prevalent in hair metal music (which I do have a soft spot for thanks to my late cousin Tommy), then it kicked in to a sound which I thought of as Justice or Daft Punk exploring darker territory. I am a sucker for an amazing bassline, and this one is quite cool. Golden Features also does a great job of setting the mood as well. Otherwise, it didn’t do too much for me. I can see this track being on the soundtrack to a horror movie. The mood fits quite well. (5.5/10) 

Justin Barini-Rivers – Golden Features drops the last single before bringing us what seems to be a huge album this year. Originally entering the scene with a mask and no identity beyond his self titled EP he has blossomed into a force in the EDM scene. This track Always is no exception. Pushing techno, electro, deep house, and EDM into a sound that is his. This track feels like Justice and honestly I wish they had put this kind of production into their most recent releases. This midtempo banger comes with some lovely vocals that feels like a mantra more than a vocal cut. (10/10)

Alex Rubenstein – I, too, am getting Justice vibes from this one. Overall, it seems to be a weak approximation of that style the Justice did so well on Cross. The distortion is a bit too heavy for me and the track feels one-dimensional as a result. Not gonna be returning to this one. (4/10)

Kristina Westernik – Not a fan of the vocal processing on this track hence the rating, but when that bassline kicks in after 30 seconds in I just wanna dance! I also think that a 3:24 second song is the perfect length for this track: any longer and it would be a bore! (3.5/10)




The Winners and Losers:

TEED “Don’t You Forget About Me” – 8.4/10

Helena Hauff – “No Qualms” – 7.9/10

Gaika – “Immigrant Songs” – 6.4/10

Golden Features – “Always” – 5.98/10

Road Kahan – “One Last Time” – 5.1/10