#NewMusicFriday: ‘Glass Mansion’ by Elephante

The second EP from American DJ and producer Elephante (real name Tim Wu) contains songs as delicate as the record title itself. Glass Mansion, following on from the artist’s 2016 debut I Am the Elephante, seems to adopt a more stripped-back sound whilst still preserving the electric grit and punch of the previous release.

It’s a sound which was hinted by singles such as Troubled and Come Back for You, switching pulsating  synths for smooth guitar melodies. With that being said, the chill vibes of Plans appear throughout the EP, and the grungy Black Ivory instrumental gets a follow-up in the form of Red Smoke.

Come Back for You opens up the EP with smooth guitar, dramatic fanfare and marimba alongside soulful vocals courtesy of Matluck. It’s a song which feels somewhat selfish lyric-wise, working with the instrumentals to give off a sense of loud, bold bravado. It’s certainly a strong introduction to the nine-track release.

Contrast this with the following three songs, and the record becomes more reflective. Have It All featuring Elephante regular Nevve (from Catching On and Sirens on the previous record) comes with a slightly harsher feel no doubt compounded by deep, hazy synths. It’s a return to true Phante grit, but unlike previous tracks, the instrumentals are saved for the hook. Soft verses pour out emotional messages before being bolstered by expressive choruses which, although not your traditional party sound, bring with them a feeling of calm euphoria.

Off the back of perfect seaside track The In Between, Wu returns to the mic to sing alongside singer Knightly on the bouncy All Over Again – the layered vocals seeming to cleverly represent the frustrations of two individuals stuck in a complicated relationship.

Yet, it’s the fifth track of the EP, No Room for Lovers, which is perhaps the most significant. Not only does it serve as the beginning of a new emotional mindset across the remainder of the record, but it also strikes listeners as being the most ‘out there’ in terms of Elephante’s typical sound.

Completely devoid of any electronica, this track – featuring female vocalist Crystal – instead adopts plucky guitar and a fluid drum beat to give it a boisterous, confident groove. It’s your traditional sassy funk hit, and it sure as hell embraces that.

After Red Smoke serves up an expressive instrumental break, the final three songs of the EP become increasingly reflective, uploading and upbeat in nature, concluding an emotional arc present across the nine tracks.

In a series of tweets on Twitter, Wu said the EP is about “the journey of finding grace and happiness in a half-built home” and over the course of the record, the producer takes a creative and imaginative approach to this concept whilst also fleshing out a new stripped back style.

If his debut I Am the Elephante was the weekend party record, then Elephante’s Glass Mansion is the EP for chilled evenings.

Rating: 4/5

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Just Got Something’ by Codeko feat. Alex Winston

Lyrically speaking, it has the traditional make-up of a summer dance song. Cue vague and confusing lyrics about something romantic or some unorthodox relationship. Yet, it’s the instrumental elements of Codeko and Alex Winston’s Just Got Something which gives this track an edge.

A fluid, off-beat drum beat allows for some interesting experimentation with pace and tempo throughout the song, Winston’s soft vocals often overlapping with the snappy snare drum. It’s this bouncy rhythm already established at the start of the song which lends itself to the track’s build-up, working alongside pulsing, hazy synth to create suspense before the main hook.

The melody itself clearly establishes what sort of vibe the song wanted to go for. Pronounced synth notes which sound somewhat like trumpets allude to a carnival tone, complete with an electronic fanfare. Mix that with a punchy drum beat and you have something a lot more interesting…

Just Got Something is available now, both on Spotify and Apple Music.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Dirt’ by Emma Blackery

It was no surprise that Emma Blackery’s latest single Dirt was going to be firing some shots at a certain someone. With promotional images seeing her posing with bitter labels, sipping tea and bathing in receipts, the singer-songwriter’s track is packed with sass as radiant as the synths at its heart.

While the music video has the vibrant art style of a Chloe Höwl video, the song itself has clear Taylor Swift vibes with blunt, sly muttering in amongst the vocals. Add this to the nursery rhyme of the key line I’ve got dirt on you and you have a song packed with soft, bubbly instrumentals with sharp, flowing and edgy lyrics.

Sure, Dirt is a clear and stark contrast to the calmer tones of the Magnetised EP (which Blackery described as being about ‘mending’), but with cup and saucer in hand, Emma Blackery is stronger than ever.

Musical Discovery: ‘Message’ by Audien

As the name suggests, Some Ideas – the latest EP from the American DJ Audien – contains three songs all completely different from each other. From chill house to hazy synths, it’s a release which sees the musician flex his producing muscles. Yet, by far the most traditional-sounding song of the lot is the EP’s opener, Message.

After all, there’s the repeated lyrics – message from my heart/too loud to stay apart – alongside Audien’s signature beat drops (be it a bass drum or sudden pause in the song) and delicate piano. It follows the usual structure, too: minimalistic piano chords guide the track all the way up to the main lead, which is complete with the occasional off-beat note and a satisfying rising and falling melody. Yet again, US artist sure knows how to create a euphoric dance hit.

Whilst part of this song is down to sampling and the repeated lyrics may come across as simplistic, it must be remembered that this is quite an experimental assortment of songs. Message, Resolve and Rampart see Audien try out new sounds, with each track different from the other. Simply put, it’s a pick-and-mix EP, and there’s a high chance you’ll like at least one of the three.

Musical Discovery: ‘Night Bus’ by Gabrielle Aplin

We’ve all been there: a rainy car journey or an early train ride and we picture ourselves in a music video or black-and-white movie with sad, upsetting undertones. For Gabrielle Aplin, however – known for her 2012 cover of The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood – a bus ride home is the focal point for a track from her EP, Miss You.

A bouncy 6/8 beat is at the heart of Night Bus, which, when combined with a triplet synth melody, only adds to the reflective and heavenly vibe Aplin always manages to create with her soft vocals. When analysed alongside Miss You, both use electronica to heighten their tone. There’s no doubt that this injects some positivity into this particular song, but not enough to detract from the bittersweet meaning of the track itself – that on the way home, the singer is considering ending a relationship.

To throw Night Bus into the ‘generic breakup song’ category would be a terrible mistake. Throughout, the lyrics are wonderfully imaginative and take the us back to a reflective journey on public transport which we have all experienced. The second verse, complete with descriptions of dazed and complacent reflections and lovers that hide from the cold white light, paints the perfect picture of the bus ride. Whilst the setting may be simplistic, the adjectives and the individual’s thought process makes this an honest and open track from Aplin.

As the lyrics float around the fluttering rhythm perfectly, it’s likely that the beat is the more distinctive part of the track, emboldening and placing emphasis upon Gabrielle’s reflective vocals. From her electro-heavy EP Miss YouNight Bus is a blissfully relatable and heartfelt song from the 24-year-old artist.

Musical Discovery: ‘Waking Up Slow’ by Gabrielle Aplin

Gabrielle Aplin has fully embraced an electronic pop sound, and I for one am completely happy with that decision. The Please Don’t Say You Love Me singer made the switch on her Miss You EP, with the song Night Bus and the title track both offering fluttering synths. Now, with Waking Up Slow, Aplin is squeezing out the last little bits of summer with a euphoric, fuzzy hit from her upcoming release, Avalon.

It’s a track full of blissful harmonies, one of the most beautiful being in the pre-chorus in the lines: you know I’ve never/been so lonely on my own. Yet again, whilst poppy instrumentals bubble in the background, Gabrielle’s vocals remain pure, soft and smooth. Calm in the verses and then jubilant in the chorus, it’s a slow build-up towards an upbeat chorus.

There’s no denying that it’s a positive song to listen to – and that’s without the knowledge that Aplin has described this song as an ‘a-ha moment’. Much like Miss You, the song is an open letter to a mysterious lover and whilst the aforementioned track sees the singer talk wanting to resume a relationship, this one is a lot more upbeat, with the lyric: when I’m with you/it’s like everything glows proving that this is a warm, summer track to dance to.

Following on from the hit that was Miss You, one wonders if more electronic music is to come from Gabrielle when Avalon drops on 15 September.

Musical Discovery: ‘Clap Your Hands’ by Le Youth feat. Ava Max

With a name like Clap Your Hands, it’s understandable for people to approach Le Youth’s latest single with Ava Max with some heightened scepticism (so many artists have sung about clapping your hands over the years) and assume that it’s a traditional pop song which lacks any particular substance which makes it stand out. However, whilst the lyrics to the song are quite simplistic and bland (look no further than the chorus for proof), it’s Max’s smooth vocals on top of flowing instrumentals which saves the song from falling into the generic brand of mainstream music – think Daft Punk meets the voice from How Deep is Your Love by Calvin Harris and Disciples.

Throughout, one off-beat synth chord plays underneath various drum beats – the main one being a groovy rhythm with a double-stroke hi-hat which is to be expected from such a funk-heavy track. The surprise opening of the hi-hat every once in a while keeping the groove fluid and interesting. Swap this for clapping in the final bridge and the beat remains tight throughout.

As for Ava Max’s vocals, the aforementioned synth keeps things nice and stripped back for the American singer in the verses. Pure and soft, it’s a smooth layer to the electro-funk vibes whipped up by Le Youth. The harmonised ah, ah, yeah really adds to the vibrant, chilled feel of the track and makes it a brilliant debut collaboration from the artist, who’s set to release some new music towards the end of the year.

Alongside showcasing the talent of his featured vocalist, Le Youth also stops to show off some of his talents as a producer. Whilst the main chorus offers little progression from the verses, it’s the main instrumental where the true funkiness of the track shines through. A fluttering bass synth hides as a slightly whiny-like electronic melody flows. Listening to this alongside the colourful music video, it’s wonderfully psychedelic and both work brilliantly together to capture that disco funk style we all know and love. To judge this track from its very typical title would be a poor mistake indeed.