Saro – “Eyelids”

Los Angeles based artist Saro has been specializing in dark, jagged electronic R&B for some time now, and his newest single “Eyelids” from his upcoming sophomore EP is no exception. Multi-faceted and exhilarating, the new track features gorgeous, expertly controlled falsetto vocals from Saro, as well as eerie, brooding synth to keep everything grounded. Though the track is about rejection, an essence of romance and intimacy still exists within the chaos and destruction towards the ending, perhaps to remind us that the negative feelings are only temporary.

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photo courtesy of artist

TENDER – “Nadir”

With their addictive new single, London electro-pop duo TENDER have officially initiated my quest to find every half-pure pop, half-brooding track for the upcoming summer months. “Nadir,” the newest addition to their already impressive repertoire, begins with synth resembling plucks of sharp metal, then explodes into a multi-textured soundscape, the vocals provided by James Cullen soaked in reverb. Though it explores the emotions felt during a separation, the melancholy adds to the vibrancy, finding immense power in sadness.

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photo courtesy of artist

Leo Kalyan – “Versailles”

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been immersed in soft, electronic R&B, and thankfully, Leo Kalyan has escorted me back into the haze. The London based singer-songwriter released his debut EP Silver Linings in 2015 and his second Outside In last year, containing the soft, vulnerable track “Fucked Up” as well as the most sparse, yet delicate reimagining of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” I’ve ever heard. His flinty, reverberated voice shines once again in his newest single “Versailles,” along with more multi-dimensional bursts of synth and and soft twangy effects. He compares his beloved to the Gardens of Versailles – a meticulously designed and maintained botanical entrance to the Chateau de Versailles in France – and, fittingly regards them as absolute perfection. The track pulses and sways so beautifully it’s hard not to nod along, his voice a constant reminder that it’s okay to succumb to aesthetic beauty every now and again.

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photo by Maximillian Hetherington

Cosmo’s Midnight – “History”

The last we heard from Cosmo’s Midnight – also known as twin brother producers Cosmo and Patrick Liney – was their Moments EP, which included the smooth, hypnotizing track “Snare (ft. Wild Eyed Boy)” and the bouncy “Walk With Me (ft. KUČKA), which flawlessly intertwined complex beats with energetic, smooth vocals. Now, the Sydney based duo is back with an absolutely stunning new track to add to their already impressive repertoire. “History” is a gorgeous r&b/pop gem, with bright, punchy, phaser-like synth and an absolutely killer vocal track. We’re hoping this will lead to a full-length album from the twins in the future – we can’t seem to get enough of their addictive persona.

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photo via astral people

Flume – “Heater”

Last week, Flume released the Skin Companion EP, a handful of unreleased tracks from his most recent album released this past summer. Unlike the Aussie producer’s self-titled debut album, which was highly experimental, complex, and introverted in composition, Skin was chock full of tracks more suitable for the dance floor or headlining large festivals, considering their upbeat, pulsating natures as well as the cast of artists in which it included. “Heater,” one of the previously unreleased tracks, seems to find a spot in both Flume’s past and present – his signature inclusion of bright, cooing vocals and thick, thick waves of synth sound as if they were from his very beginnings, and the way in which the track bursts out of its murky, digital introduction points to the more extroverted, unapologetic personality expressed in Skin. It starts off on a high, and, in true Flume fashion, never gives you a chance to lose that sense of wonder.

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photo courtesy of artist

The xx – “On Hold”

After four long years, The xx is finally back with a fantastic new single as well as news of a brand new album out in January. The new LP will be the follow-up to their absolutely stunning sophomore album Coexist, which had the trio waist deep in dark, shimmering synth, moody vocals, and simultaneously minimalist and complex beats. They have always been a band fascinated with the frailty of the human condition, as well as the intimacies and flourishes of love and the lack thereof. Their newest single “On Hold” expresses the evocative aesthetic they have exclusively been known for since 2009, yet also contains more of an emphasis on Jamie xx’s production skills than what was heard in the past. Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim share the absolutely gorgeous vocals, the lyrics conveying the pain of letting someone go for the last time.

The xx’s new album I See You will be released January 13th.

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photo by Laura Jane Coulson

EP Review: Von Sell – Von Sell

Brooklyn-based artist David Von Sell creates the kind of unique electronic pop that surely deserves its own genre, considering the complexity of its composition as well as the thoughtful way in which its ideas of love and passion are presented. His aesthetic has slowly revealed itself to be the perfect amalgamation of the addictive nature of the synthetic with a living, beating heart, and the electronic pop phenom has now solidified it in seven breathtaking tracks.

Before settling in Brooklyn, Von Sell began his journey while growing up in Hamburg, Germany, creating bedroom pop at home in his late teens. He has attended the British Academy of New Music and the Humboldt University in Berlin, as well as the Berklee College of Music, which simultaneously portrays Von Sell’s wunderkind-esque nature as well as explains how he’s able to create such complex, memorable sounds. He emerged back in 2014 with the boisterous, elaborate track “Ivan,” which was so stylistically dense that it ended up sounding like a bright menagerie of effects and techniques all rolled into one – glitchy, shimmering synth effortlessly floated in arpeggios above thick, splashy drum beats, and the strong vocals became their unrelenting, binding force, locking the listener in place. Throughout the year, other angles of his persona were revealed through additional tracks, including the softer, more emotional “I Insist” and the experimental, yet oddly delicate “Stay.” Both of these tracks have now seemingly found their direct counterparts within the new EP, being the sugary, infatuated “Miss Me,” and the blatantly human “Names,” respectively. The first pairing both sound beautifully desperate, emulating desire with screeching synth and soul baring lyrics (“come on and hurt me now/ you know I know you want to”), and “Miss Me” even tends to echo the soul and intensity of 90’s R&B. The second pairing both shudder with synth, although in “Names,” it eventually drops out to focus in on an evocative piano interlude where it sounds enraptured and possessed, a rare hollow in the track where it seems like countless epiphanies could take place. There’s a part in John Milton’s L’Allegro where the narrator, in his prayers to the goddess Mirth, wishes to be overwhelmed by a song “with wanton heed and giddy cunning/ the melting voice through mazes running/ untwisting all the chains that ty/ the hidden soul of harmony.” Perhaps it’s merely because my personal studies of Milton and my admiration of Von Sell have both occurred at the same time, but these brief lines have repeatedly come to mind when listening to this little spot within “Names,” possibly our favorite track off the EP.

One of the best parts about Von Sell as a whole is that it’s mixed masterfully. Each layer of sound and every effect can be heard without distortion or risk of them blending together, which really makes a difference in an electronic pop album, where essential aspects like vocals can often become distorted and unrecognizable. Von Sell’s vocals not only ring crystal clear, but also remain one of the most potent and powerful aspects of each track – it rises and falls in “I Insist,” swells and expands in “Names,” enters a bright falsetto in “Miss Me,” and adds to the experimental, cinematic quality of stunning opener “Energystabs.” The EP also includes a reworking of “Ivan,” where a jangly guitar melody is inserted seamlessly after the first chorus and ethereal vocals are added towards the end, making it even more of a multi-faceted masterpiece.

When listening to these songs, it’s easy to forget that they’re the result of a single person, someone delicately orchestrating electronic pop in such a way that it ultimately equates with pure human emotion and passion rather than noise meant to soundtrack a dance floor. Von Sell has changed what it means to operate within the confines of the electronic pop genre, showing that it doesn’t always have to be vapid or blatantly synthetic. Instead, his music remains intrinsically human, and, through these seven tracks, beautifully expresses the importance in letting the heart overpower the mind every now and again.

9.7/10

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photo by Jen Maler

Hudson Scott – “Panning For Gold”

Hudson Scott released his debut EP Clay earlier this year, and now, the electronic artist is back with “Panning For Gold,” a delightful continuation of his modern retro aesthetic. Scott has played backup for Foals as well as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Petite Noir, so he’s no stranger to the world of meticulous production, which may be why the new track is so solid instrumentally, as the brooding beats and bassline mingle closely to achieve a deep, concentrated sound. The vocals that pulse through evoke slight Tears for Fears or even Pet Shop Boys vibes, and the ironic control it has while evoking the desperation that the existence of love commands from the soul makes the track that much more irresistible.

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photo by Pete Banks

Von Sell – “Names”

Brooklyn based artist David Von Sell has been our favorite electro-pop musician since he released the bright, technically complex track “Ivan” last year, and the admiration just keeps growing. This year, he has added to his impressive repertoire with the smooth, emotional “I Insist” and the shuddering, passionate “Stay,” showing off the different angles of his unique aesthetic, tending to seamlessly blend the boisterously synthetic with a pure, beating heart. “Names,” Von Sell’s newest track, contains the same complex, pounding synth beats and quivering vocal samples that have now become his trademark – however, it somehow sounds more euphoric and enraptured than the trio before it, especially when the synth drops out to make room for the arresting piano melody that rests underneath the chorus. It’s the most blatantly human Von Sell has been thus far, and it’s absolutely stunning.

Von Sell’s debut self-titled EP is out this Friday, October 14th.

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photo via impose magazine

Nick Murphy – “Fear Less”

A few days ago, Australian producer Nick Murphy parted with the now well-known title of Chet Faker and embraced his true self, solidifying the change with a brand new track. It seems as if the name wasn’t the only thing Murphy changed, considering the deep, electronic whir of synth and throbs of bass, as well as sparse, yet incredibly dense vocals, worlds apart from the fluid, melodic hum of Built on Glass. Ambitious, intimidating, and enchanting all at once, its a great next step for Murphy, one that should only increase in bravado as the hopeful news of a new album is slowly released.

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photo by Philistine DSGN