Blisspop Presents: Feedback Friday – October 12th, 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: Justin Barini-Rivers, Alex Rubenstein, Jonathan Sherman, Michael Khalifeh and Katie Bowles. This week’s music includes tracks by Sneaky Sound System remixed by David Penn, Whipped Cream, Kelela remixed by Tre Oh Fie, FJAAK, and Sigala. Check it out below and send us your suggestions for future Feedback Fridays on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Sneaky Sound System – “Can’t Help The Way I Feel” (David Penn Remix)

Jonathan Sherman – I absolutely love the vibe on this track. David Penn’s work on Defected Records and the recent additions to his catalog have really spoken to me. I think as Disco House comes into the forefront of the underground scene, I could see his sound, which combines tech, disco and progressive house, becoming more popular, especially with such a vibrant and verbose groove as seen in this remix. (8.5/10)


Alex Rubenstein – Okay, even without hearing any of the other picks for the week this seems like it will win the “most basic” award. There just isn’t anything in the way of new ideas or exciting execution in this remix. The bassline is a bit funky which is nice, but everything else screams “I made this in 10 minutes.” I’m also pretty sure this is the song that is playing on Sirius XM’s two electronic stations anytime I happen to tune in. With all that being said, I don’t explicitly dislike this track, it just does literally nothing for or to me. (4/10)


Justin Barini-Rivers – Sneaky Sound System has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. The drums are well produced but lack creativity. A smooth bassline fills the track nicely and there are some vocal cuts for those who can’t listen to music without the human voice. This is slow heater of a track, slowly building momentum on the simple, yet effective groove. My favorite part of the track is the break; it feels genuine to what I want from a house track. I could have done without the off beat synth stabs, but I’m not mad about it. Points for a clean production, but I wish there was something that could separate it from the rest. (5/10)


Katie Bowles – This track immediately caught my attention with its Bell Biv DeVoe-esque drum hit at the beginning. I also really enjoyed the almost-hypnotic bass line. Sometimes I find myself getting bored with dance music as songs go on, but this one kept me into it with an unexpected breakdown/rebuild in the middle.  Nice! (7/10)


Michael Khalifeh – David Penn has been on absolute FIRE lately, with his Todd Terry remix and “Nobody” both getting plays all summer long. He’s got a great feel for mixing house, disco, and tech house in just the right doses. That being said… I feel like he kind of mailed this one in. It sounds a lot like some of his previous stuff. It’ll get the job done on the dancefloor but he can do better. (5/10)


Kelela – “TRE OH FIE_WAITIN_150 BPM”


Jonathan Sherman – This is such a creative and innovative track because of how the vocals interact with the hard drum and bass back beat. The track’s kick is perfectly aligned, and I like how there are significant, yet subtle chord progressions whenever the synths, chimes and vocals cut in. I also appreciate the use of the drum and bass back beat as both a rubric and transition tool throughout sections of the track. Very well done! (9/10)


Alex Rubenstein – Kelela’s debut LP, Take Me Apart, was easily one of the best releases of 2017 (as I knew it would be) so it’s no surprise that her remix album is equally as good. She has recruited an eclectic collection of producers, singers and bands to reimagine these songs and they all do the originals proud while still putting a new and fun spin on them. I chose to highlight Tre Oh Fie’s take on the standout cut, “Waitin.’” I had never heard of Tre Oh Fie before now, but what he does to flip “Waitin’” into a footwork monster with a sugary sweet shine is beyond infectious. The kick is huge and gets your head banging right away; the choice to pitch up the vocals may sound tired, but it is actually really refreshing in the context of this remix album. This one is short and to the point and primed for dancefloor destruction. A+ work right here. (9/10)


Justin Barini-Rivers – The drums are wild and all over the place in the most lovely way. Diverse and swung, the percussion is top notch, moving all over and keeping the arrangement fresh. This track is a ball of energy; the pace is never lost as the drums and vocals really push together towards a common goal. This song is over before I am ready and I immediately want more. The underground style of drums is awesome but what really catches me is the mixdown. Most songs with this style of arrangement really lack in the post production but this track has the right amount of mixing to keep the drums pristine but not surgical. Very happy with this tune. (8/10)


Katie Bowles – Kelela’s music isn’t always for me, but I love to see a D.C. artist “make it.” This song is enjoyable for sure.  It’s not one that I’d listen to regularly, but I could definitely listen to it while driving (or maybe to the beach?) (6/10)


Michael Khalifeh – It’s always refreshing on the ears to hear something from this type of tempo and rhythm. This kind of sounds like if Machinedrum and Cashmere Cat had a baby, using intimate and sensual vocal chops alongside some reckless drums to move your body and mind into uncharted territory. This remix (and album) is a good time. (7/10)


Whipped Cream – “Blood”


Jonathan Sherman – Just in time for Halloween, this track kind of gave me the spooks! I can appreciate the creativity and dynamics of the dubstep tempo and Serum-style synth included in this track, but I really struggled to understand the complete point of the record. While I understand that the dubstep style can include very colorful transitions, I was hoping this track would come to some penultimate climax with a bright synth and verbose beat but, sadly, it missed the mark for me. (5/10)


Alex Rubenstein – The intro to this song made me worried that I was about to be sacrificed in some sort of strange blood ritual, but after the drop came I wished I could have sacrificed my ears instead so I did not have to listen to this. I thought we as a culture agreed to move past this kind of music? There is absolutely nothing redeeming here. This is just too crunchy for me. Sorry, not sorry. (0/10)


Justin Barini-Rivers – Whipped Cream consistently releases huge tracks and continues to astonish with a heavy banger. This reminds me of a post apocalyptic world. Her use of silence in the drop is one of my favorite parts of the track. “Blood” is jarring and powerful; it hits you properly with a wall of sound and is going to shut down clubs for some time.  This isn’t dubstep or EDM as Whipped Cream doesn’t stick to formulas. This is a left field banger for the Halloween season. (10/10)


Katie Bowles – OH MY GOD I love this. This heavy, heavy track immediately took me back to my college marching band days spent playing “O Fortuna” all the time, then the drop hit and made me want to mosh. This song reminded me why I like dubstep; the anticipation of the drop in this one is just as good as the actual meat of the song. The only change I’d even consider would be to edit the vocals for the “whipped cream” line – the untouched sound of the woman’s voice took me a bit out of the experience, but then I was immediately back in it within seconds. (9/10)


Michael Khalifeh – I’ve been a huge fan of Whipped Cream ever since I met her last spring. Super genuine person and an incredible DJ and performer. Up until now though, I’ve been curious about how she was going to progress herself from making simple trap bangers on Soundcloud into creating her own sound. I think this track is a great step in the direction of carving out her own slice of the EDM pie, though not a full one. I love the concept and energy of this track and it’s home run aspirations for the main stage, but I don’t think she’s fully got a grasp on it yet. It’s just missing something for me. Excited to hear what’s next though. (6/10)


FJAAK, Koogan – “Take Your Life”


Jonathan Sherman – I really like how this track builds up; it is so dynamic and has multiple synth progressions that create groovy ebbs and flows throughout the story. I can also really appreciate the arpeggiation of what appears to be an analog synth, which is really cool to hear as a producer. I don’t know how I feel about the choice to make a pungent hi-hat counter a fat tech beat at the end of the track, but the overall EQ on the beat is solid and makes up for the difference. Overall, this is a solid track. (8/10)


Alex Rubenstein – I do not know anything about FJAAK or Koogan, but now I am not sure I want to. This is like some strange mashup of psytrance and techno but with angsty vocals that sounds like they came from a high school, goth kid’s notebook. I’m glad this was only 3 minutes. Again, not for me. What is happening this week??? (2/10)


Justin Barini-Rivers – I enjoy all things techno (I doubt that is a surprise) and FJAAK, for those who are unfamiliar, are a force in the techno scene. This track is fire with some broken techno pushing a heavy 303 arp line that is sure to fill the floor. The room around the drums is lovely; I want to be there. What always sticks out to me with FJAAK is their ability to branch out in the drums but still hold onto that Berghain vibe. This is a solid tune. I always look forward to techno that is new and different. The vocal line really cements the dark and underground techno vibe. Love this tune. (9/10)


Katie Bowles – I really liked the beginning of this song (specifically the syncopated drum beats,) but it lost me after awhile. I initially enjoyed the mix of the Prodigy-esque vocals and melody, but after over three minutes of it I’d had enough. However, I think that’s likely a personal preference; I could see this track doing well late-night at a rave. (6/10)


Michael Khalifeh – Love love love this RAW energy coming from the FJAAK boys in the first single off their upcoming debut LP. It’s a track that’s so simple, yet effective with its delivery, using a hyper acid sound alongside some vocals that really encapsulate a rebellious, punk persona that’s getting revived in techno right now. This one’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish; now excuse me while I go run through a wall. (8.5/10)


Sigala with Paul Janeway of St. Paul & The Broken Bones – “Brighter Days”


Jonathan Sherman – As a huge fan and loyal follower of Sigala, I was so optimistic for this record but, sadly, I think Sigala tries to do way too much; it just misses the mark for me. A combination of tropical and disco influences on a progressive track, I can appreciate the up-tempo and summer vibe of the record, but I think it’s a bit too pop for me and doesn’t fall squarely in any of the styles he typically releases. I’d love to see Sigala return to his nu-disco style in the coming year. (7.5/10)


Alex Rubenstein – From the moment this started I knew I was going to hate it. And yeah, I hate this. This sounds like if The Chainsmokers and Kygo fucked and that baby somehow got ahold of GarageBand. I can see this soundtracking a recap video of TomorrowWorld, highlighting every girl in their daisy headband and neon-clad bro fist pumping the day away. I could not listen to this a second time. (0/10)


Justin Barini-Rivers – There are aspects of this song that make me bored but overall, this is a pop house track with an amazing vocalist. The production is arranged to get the most out of the vocal layers and adlib calls. I find the intro feels quite cheesy but beyond that, the track is able to hold its own. This song moves between pop house, deep house and pop. I like that, regardless of the simplicity. I will be checking out the rest of the album for sure, listening and holding onto the summer. (7/10)


Katie Bowles – The quiet, building intro to this title track on Sigala’s debut album drew me in, but Paul Janeway’s strong vocals kept me there – such a departure from his usual St. Paul and The Broken Bones fare. Sigala should gain a lot of new fans from this album, which features 16 danceable tracks and a ton of recognizable voices (Janeway, French Montana, Kylie Minogue and more.) (7/10)


Michael Khalifeh – I don’t have a whole lot to say about this track. Yes it’s well done, yes it’s catchy, but beyond that, what else? I just don’t know if there’s much substance in this, it’s like, pure sugar. This Galantis-esque sound has been totally washed by a combination of Soundcloud repost networks and frat bros for a while now. In all fairness, I might’ve been a bit more receptive to this tune at the beginning of summer instead of the beginning of fall. Meh. (3/10)

The Winners and Losers:

Kelela – “TRE OH FIE_WAITIN_150 BPM” – 7.9/10

FJAAK, Koogan – “Take Your Life” – 6.7/10

Whipped Cream – “Blood” – 6/10

Sneaky Sound System – “Can’t Help The Way I Feel” (David Penn Remix) – 5.9/10

Sigala with Paul Janeway of St. Paul & The Broken Bones – “Brighter Days” – 4.9/10