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Entries in review (27)

Friday
Jun072013

EDC Chicago: A Photo Review

As a Midwest native, I'd always dreamed of what it would be like to attend an Insomniac event. I was always the one watching their videos nonstop and then begging my friends to watch with me just so they could share this excitement but some just never saw the "wow" factor like I did. I would look at photos and envy and everything about it, wondering when I would finally get the chance to be the "headliner." After Pasquale Rotella had finally made the official announcement that The Road To EDC would make a stop in Joliet at the Chicagoland Speedway, I knew it was finally my chance. So I embarked on the weekend of the lifetime, and while packing to leave, I knew I'd be leaving part of myself there.

This year was not only EDC's first stop in the Midwest but it was also EDC's first and only venue that provided the option to camp during the festival. Insomniac did an amazing job of creating the ultimate experience for campers. Campers were able to enter the campground Thursday and enjoy a pre-party featuring sets from Discovery Project winners Crizzly and Bare. During the day before gates were open Insomniac had plenty of activities available for campers. There were sessions for tie dying, making your own totem poles, and constructing your own "memory bracelets" (aka kandi). Showers were provided daily and Garnier provided a tent to style campers hair. Food vendors provided the option of already prepared meals but campers were also able to cook their own meals at the community grill. To escape the cold, a tent was set up with heaters and a charging station. The tent became a sanctuary for everyone that weekend since the weather was not on our side.

Camping was the perfect opportunity for everyone to connect and establish long lasting friendships and keep the party going long after the festival grounds closed in the early AM. The entire experience was made very safe with Ground Control monitoring the campsite 24/7 to ensure there weren't any mishaps. The most appreciated feature camping provided must have been the option to go back and forth between the campground and the festival grounds. Since the weather hit some bitter low temps, many campers would run back to their tents to bundle up after the sun went down.

Day one of EDC started off with a bang. An estimated 20,000 concert goers flooded Chicagoland Speedway to experience the 60+ musical acts. Insomniac’s interactive art installations, non stop carnival rides, and seven minute firework show illuminated the track the entire night. There was also a surprise performance from the Redbull Skydiving team.

Above & Beyond stole the show Friday night with their two hour set at the Circuitgrounds stage. Feed Me also made a breathtaking performance and was one hell of a performance to mark Johnathan Gooch's temporary hiatus. Other acts that topped off the night were Gareth Emery, Rebecca & Fiona, Martin Solveig, Kaskade, and Nadastrom.

Day two packed about 24,000 fans and festivalgoers were lucky to experience weather that was a tad warmer. Insomniac dealt with many noise complaints from the night before from residents claiming that the music and bass was so loud that pictures were falling off their walls within their neighboring homes. The promoters compromised by lowering stage volumes about 33% and moving the fireworks shows to an earlier time.

Saturday’s lineup featured Tritonal, Cazzette, Bro Safari, W&W, Hard Rock Sofa, Mat Zo, Borgore, Mimosa, Ferry Corsten, Hardwell, Avicii, Benny Benny Banassi, Fedde le Grand, and Armin van Buuren, among others. Armin packed KineticField and put the entire crowd in the ultimate state of Trance in a show-stopping two hour set. Over at the CircuitGrounds stage Hardwell really warmed the crowd up with a dynamic taste of Electro House.

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Saturday
May042013

A Bass Action Movie: Alpha Omega LP - Caspa

Caspa's 15-track Alpha Omega LP is as ambitious as it is diverse. Easily doubling as an action movie soundtrack, this album’s influences should be no surprise: Caspa's recent résumé includes both Kick-Ass 2, and Halo 4, to name a few.

The eponymous first track, "Alpha Omega," is as lofty as the name implies, including almost every element in EDM from its beginning to its end. Channeling the start of a Michael Bay movie, this song could easily be played with quick visual cuts of an aircraft carrier, jets flying overhead, soldiers with camo facepaint – their legs dangling over the edge of a fast-moving helicopter swirling past lavish blue seas in the background, guns locked and loaded. Then, hints of dry, dubstep bass beats bubbling out of molten metal, transitioning to progressive house, then going back to its action movie soundtrack – guns locked and loaded.

The action continues through track 2: "Setting Sun." Here, Caspa’s soldiers have landed, and they’re charging towards their enemy. If "Alpha Omega" was all about adrenaline, this song’s violins and vocals peel back the intensity to replace the adrenaline with high emotion. Everything feels significant. This songs weaves trance through light dubstep, climbing with snare claps in a military rhythm.

Skipping over to "Sexy Beast," the bass beat is slow, meticulous, relentless. Percussive, drowning sounds transition to a quick fade-out into empty space.

"Techno Terry" comes out with a Tiesto vibe: light, bouncy, driving down into low bass with percussive synth melody driving the rhythm along. If the first tracks were a tribute to action movie soundtracks, then "Techno Terry" is an homage to late 90's EDM – but Caspa has managed to make it sound fresh and new again. I only wish it were longer, as we only get a small three-minute taste of this before we delve into the darker, post-apocalyptic sounds of "Ghost Town."

With some solid but forgettable tracks in-between, the album picks up again with Ayah Marar's powerful vocals in "One by One." This track makes it clear why Calvin Harris brings her on tour for live vocals – she nails this track. Caspa, smartly, does not try to shine in this song; he uses light synth and tight, subtle bass to supports her vocals rather than trying to compete with them. A smart track.

"Let the Rush Kick In" manages to sound laid back and adrenalizing all at the same time. It effortlessly strings together roots of 60s Jamaican dub to contemporary dubstep.

The last two tracks bring the LP full circle – back to Alpha Omega’s action movie theme – and they could easily be woven into the outro credits of a Jason Bourne movie. The superfast snare intensity of "Reach for the Sky" eventually relents to the slow wubs and soft synth of "Back for the First Time." This last track fulfills a similar function to Skrillex's "Summit" on his Bangarang EP – a nice, ethereal break from the intensities of the previous songs. A palate cleanser of an ending, giving you a nice moment of clarity to cap-off an ambitious sophomore effort of an LP.

Alpha Omega is a mosaic of an LP, with self-contained genres scattered throughout the album's overriding action themes. Although Alpha Omega can stray from its focus, more often than not it provides the listener with refreshing variety rather than filler.

When to listen: While playing an FPS, or, as an alternate soundtrack to some of your favourite action movies.

Definitely check out: "Alpha Omega," "Setting Sun," "Techno Terry," "One By One," and "Reach for the Sky."

Out now on Beatport!

By Grant Petersen

Thursday
Mar212013

Ultra Music Festival 15 Weekend 1: How It Really Went Down

From the moment I entered the festival Friday I was already impressed with the improvements from last year. The layout was much easier to walk through and the UMF Worldwide stage next to the MegaStructure wasn't cramped. The lines weren't very long to get in except for a few hours on Friday and the staff was very helpful. After getting in around 7 Friday we tried to catch some of the only Trance on the lineup with Markus Schulz and Dash Berlin. Both played fairly Progressive playlists for the short set duration. The sound in the stage was kind of off and not quite loud enough though, which was one of my only complaints the entire weekend. 

One of the best sets of the entire weekend without a doubt goes to John Digweed who had me and everyone else in the MegaStructure grooving hard. I really want to know what he played because looking back it was a classic example of what a dance music show should feel like, everyone dancing together instead of being cramped up waving their hands at the DJ. Carl Cox followed up by keeping the energy really high with a monster set of heavy Tech and left everyone exhausted.

I myself had to see Swedish House Mafia close just because of all the hype surrounding the "One Last Tour." I have to say that their set Friday was not just mediocre but quite disappointing overall, and very exposing to say the least. The crowd was packed but not moving like crazy, which isn't a great sign for any DJ. The visuals were nothing special considering what they had to work with and I left the festival with a false impression of what was to come the next two days.

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Wednesday
Mar062013

Ultra Weekend 1 Highlight: Live Stage Amphitheater (Saturday)

We all know that Saturday of UMF Weekend 1 has one of the best lineups of any dance music festival to ever hit the shores of the US. But beyond the main stage there are still a lot of offerings for those searching for other-worldly auditory journeys. The prevailing theme of the day at the Live Stage amphitheater Saturday is psychedelia. From psytrance to Indie pop to Glitch-Hop, the live stage is your go-to stop for transcedental vibes and feels that are sure to open up your senses to unchartered territories. 

Afrobeta

Afrobeta opens up the Live Stage on Saturday with an infectious, upbeat, funky vibe sure to put you in a happy party mood for the rest of the day! This Electro-Dance duo hails from Ultra’s backyard, Miami, and it’s hard to imagine their music without the influence of beach club life that is so derivative of Miami culture. Cuci Amador and Smurphio comprise Afrobeta, and their combined influences and interest in twisted electro-pop are what make their tracks so fun. Sugary sweet synths get dirtier with super danceable basslines, and Cuci’s voice is like the more melodic version of Ke$ha, spitting out party-themed lyrics with girly poise. A super fun, sunny way to start off Saturday in Miami!!

Icona Pop

If you haven’t heard of Icona Pop by this point, your other habits might include accidentally writing 2012 on all your papers. The Swedish Electro-Pop and House duo is comprised of the lovely Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt, who are the voices behind that insanely catchy dance-pop anthem “I Love It” which has been licensed to HBO’s show “Girls” and several television commercials, including those promoting Governor’s Ball. The girls display influences ranging from indie rock, punk, and Electro-House, but there’s a reason their single has blown up as of late: it’s so fucking fun. This song absolutely makes you want to jump up and down, thrash around and yell along to the best chorus ever: “I DON’T CAAARE!” 

 

Azari & III

(Pronounced Azari and the Third!) What began as a DJ duo between Dinamo Azari and Alixander III transformed into Azari & III with the addition of two vocalists, Starving Yet Full and Fritz Helder. This foursome have a distinct sound, which can be described as a reinvention of 80s style Deep House; it incorporates smooth synths, a dance-y, repetitive bassline, and soulful vocals. Azari and III are relatively new to the scene, breaking in 2011 and enjoying a steady, successful incline since then.  They’ve played at major shows in England like the Glastonbury Festival and Lovebox Festival, so they’re quite comfortable performing live. This should be a set full of seamless mixing and smooth tracks

Disclosure 

Not to play favorites but… I cannot say enough good things about Disclosure! This is one set I will flat out recommend, as Disclosure is proving again and again that they deserve every ounce of fame and praise they’re receiving right now. English brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence are the tastemakers behind Disclosure, and each track is more exciting and enticing than the last. They’ve been around since 2010, but the 2012 release of their EP The Face launched them headfirst into the spotlight, with singles like “Tenderly / Flow” and “White Noise” (ft. AlunaGeorge). Their sound is a refreshing mix of indie-garage, deep house and funk, and it's purely addictive. There was a point when I had replayed Latch (ft. Sam Smith) so often that now I have to force myself not to sing along every time it comes up on shuffle (I usually lose that inner battle). This is one live set I will not be missing!

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Monday
Mar042013

Ultra Weekend 1 Highlight: MegaStructure Friday

15 years is a huge landmark for Ultra Music Festival. Starting as a single-day beach festival, the event quickly drew a larger and larger crowd each year. Not only has the scope of the weekend changed, but so has the vibe. Yet the one thing that will always keep Ultra as the premiere dance music event is its loyalty to the style of music that launched it, in the form of the MegaStructure stage. Miami has seen many scenes throughout the years, but this is 2013. It's about to peak, and I hope you're ready. 

Fatboy Slim

English DJ and record producer Norman Cook has been a world-renowned phenomenon for over two decades. As one of the major pioneers of the big-beat sound, Fatboy has held many pseudonyms over the years but always held true to the same sound that led him to top the US pop charts for 20 weeks ("Praise You") and to play for the Olympics ceremony last summer in London! From House to Funk to even a touch of Rock, Fatboy Slim experiments with different sounds, paving the way for many other artists to follow in his footsteps. For all you dance music lovers who have yet to experience in some Slim, get ready for a mega show at the Mega Structure!

Carl Cox

Another British DJ/Producer who's been taking over the world for many years, Carl Cox is the grandfather of Tech House, and the genre's most vibrant character. He has been part of the scene since disco and still going stronger than ever as one of earth's most prominent dance music forces. With a mix of passion, flavor, flair and soul, Cox holds a legendary Ibiza residency and a global radio show reaching millions of listeners. The Carl Cox & friends arena has been the spot to be the last few years I've been at Ultra, so I can't recommend anything more than catching his set Friday right before Swedish House Mafia! Prepare yourselves for the very best of what Ultra has to offer.

John Digweed

Another Brit, Digweed first started DJing at the young age of 15. From a weekly two hour radio show on Kiss 100 in UK, to holding a Saturday residency at Ibiza's Vista Club, Digweed has had his ups and downs over the years but has never faded into obscurity. In 2001 he was voted the best DJ in the world, though he held a coveted spot in the top 10 from '98-'08. As an artist with a stacked discography, Digweed has in recent years aggressively targeted the record sales industry, taking under his belt the commanding roll of Bedrock Records. His last North American tour was a huge success as he ripped through the nightlife of the USA with fellow House legend Sasha. Be sure to check out their mix below, it's widely known as one of the best mixes of our time.

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