Spike Right Drops Scarily Awesome New Mixtape

Of all the wonderful things I took away with me from Electric Forest 2015, perhaps one of the best was my new friend and pretend little brother, Cody.

Cody is a great friend, an excellent rapping buddy, and a really talented producer who goes by “Spike Right.” He just released a creepy, industrial sounding mixtape, “Make America Paranoid Again,” and I’m happy to share it with you. With Halloween approaching, the timing of this release could not be more perfect. Check it out below.

Cody and I talk about music constantly, so I happen to know that he’s a huge fan of both Gesaffelstein and Rezz, whose dark, haunting influences are clear in this new Spike Right release. I’m so happy to see a good friend follow through on something he’s passionate about, and look forward to seeing some horror movies scored by my little bro a few years down the line.

So be sure to check out “Make America Paranoid Again,” though maybe not right before you have to walk somewhere alone in the dark.

Artist Spotlight: Robert Delong

I used to make fun of Robert Delong, for no real reason other than that a music blogger I hated was obsessed with him. She posted about her love for this Seattle-born musician ad nauseum, and even though I enjoyed some of his fun, poppy music, my complete loathing of her writing made me write him off as corny.

Last September, I scored a free pass to see Robert Delong at Rough Trade in Williamsburg, and I went because, hey, FREE. And also, despite my misgivings about him, one of his songs is on my yet-to-be-published list of my top 10 favorite ever bass drops.

Comes in right around the 40 second mark. Love it.

My impressions of the show, and a pretty solid summary of Robert Delong’s deal in general, are reflected in the comments I made in my concert spreadsheet after the show:

“Holy shit this guy is incredible. I always thought he was such a weird cheeseball but in actuality he is a machine and a one man band. He does everything – loops his own vocals, 2 drum kits, other weird sounds via what look like video game controllers, all the mixing, EVERYTHING. Hot damn. Plus, face paint?!?”

It’s true. Delong really never stops moving or creating. Whether he’s looping his own voice or playing on video game controllers or drumming or actually just singing (which he does as well, of course), he’s running back and forth yet never seems frantic or out of control. I cannot even imagine the amount of work that goes into creating each of his songs, as he does almost all of the work live, compared to many other electronic artists who use a base track and then just manipulate the sound somewhat. His overall feel is house-y at times but really heavy on the drums in a way that’s far more exciting than standard house music – at times it almost gets down into a moombahton vibe.

When I had the opportunity to see Robert Delong again at Terminal 5 over the weekend, I jumped at it. In fact, it was the first time I successfully got a ticket to a show off the Jukely wait list (woohoo!). I was not disappointed.

The one sad thing I have to say about my 2 experiences with Robert Delong was the face paint situation. Delong’s own face is painted at all of his shows – often with an orange X, which is his logo – and his street team goes around painting faces in the audience as well. When I saw him at Rough Trade, I had no idea what was going on when a random girl approached me and showed me her paints. I was confused, and so I said no. A few minutes later when I finally realized what was happening, I was sad that I had declined the face paint, because I’m really just a giant child. And the girl was sadly long gone.

Robert Delong was only an opening act at the Terminal 5 show this weekend, and even though I had another concert to go to after, I was gung ho on getting my face painted. Only I never saw any face painters, either because I was too far back in the crowd, or maybe there just weren’t any since he wasn’t headlining. Bummer city.

The moral of the story is, don’t judge a musician by what a music blogger thinks of them, especially if it’s a blogger you hate (unless that music blogger is me – you should always take my word as the gospel because I have excellent taste in music).

Robert Delong is insanely talented, and I look forward to seeing him live again sometime soon. I will not rest until I get my face painted.

Which EDM Sub-Genre Are You?

What I’ve learned over my time as a fan of electronic music is that the music is not just classified by those few simple terms we may hear thrown around – “house,” “techno,” “dubstep,” etc.

As I listened to more music and read more about what I was hearing, I learned to use some of the more nuanced genre labels that you don’t hear as often in mainstream music land: deep house, progressive house, hardstyle, drum & bass, glitch, and so on and so forth.

But as I go further and further down the rabbit hole, I come across names of sub-genres that are just getting wildly out of control.

Cloud House. Trap Hop. Chiptune. Witch House.

What ARE these? Someone out there probably knows. I am not that person.

The fun thing about EDM sub-genres is that you can basically make up whatever you want and since music is a subjective experience, you can be right! Like the most pretentious of wine drinkers, just take a little sip of some music and then spout off whatever words come to mind and you’ll sound worldly and intelligent. Example: at a Slow Magic show a few months ago, a friend and I were trying to classify what his sound was.

“I call it…tribal house,” I said.

“I like it,” my friend replied.

While that term does appear on this insane wikipedia list of EDM genres, I totally made it up at the time and I still have no idea what Slow Magic would “officially” be classified as.

Sounds tribal-y to me! Especially around the 40 second mark once the drums come in.

In any case, just for a little funsies I made a Buzzfeed-style naming game so now everyone can determine what EDM sub-genre they would be! Let me know what yours is! Is it a “real” one? I’m Dark Hop, which sounds deep and mysterious. I like it.

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When Fans Become Friends Who Become Family

The first electronic music festival I ever went to was the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in 2013. It wasn’t even that long ago, I realize, but those two and a half years feel like a lifetime. This blog certainly didn’t exist then, but I wrote a recap of the festival on the blog I had at the time. Part of it says:

“EDC was insanely fun because it was a collection of 20,000 of the nicest, happiest, most helpful people I’ve ever met. There was no anger, no drunken fighting, no drama. Just dancing and making new friends and everyone complimenting everyone else on their outfits. It felt like we were all part of one big family.”

EDC isn’t even really a festival I’d get that excited about anymore, now that I’m more knowledgeable about both the music and the crowds that different festivals bring. But even back then, as a total newbie, I felt an energy that was different than anything I’d experienced before. This was not just a collection of people who liked the same music. This was a community, a shared experience, and yes, a family.

“Family” is a word that’s thrown around a lot in the electronic music scene. In just a little over a year of having this blog I’ve talked about festival families and artist families (AKA groups of fans) and have posted pictures of my various rave families and have had amazing times with my weirdos (who are also family). To an outsider, I’m sure it’s hard to imagine that a group of people you like to go dancing with can be considered family. After all, I’ve been dancing to top 40 music at bars in New York for 10 years now and while I’m grateful for all those nights out with my NYC ladies, those experiences are just that – nights out. To be a part of a music family in this scene – whatever the common thread may be with your particular tribe – is something that runs deeper.

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Forest Family!

You may meet your family because you happen to have taken the same bus to a music festival. You may meet them because you’re fans of the same artist, or because you go to the same type of parties (there’s a spa in Brooklyn that used to host weekly dance parties and I’m pretty sure there’s a SPAFAM group out there on Facebook somewhere). But your connection to these people doesn’t begin and end with loving the same music or spending your summer weekends at the same festivals. To be a music family is to care deeply about other people, to love them and look out for them. You may not even be able to articulate why you love those people or why you feel such a strong connection to them. You just do, because that’s what this scene is about. It starts with the music but ends with this invisible web that somehow connects your heart and your soul to everyone else around you, even if you have nothing besides the music in common. Even if you might not have ever been friends if you met under other circumstances.

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My Mysteryland rave fam!

The spirit of PLUR (Peace Love Unity Respect), as corny as it may be, is ever-present. While I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone use that word seriously, the idea of it is something I see embodied all the time. I’ve seen people post in Facebook groups asking for help and receiving it from total strangers. There are people who volunteer to spend their time at shows not dancing with their friends, but walking around giving out water just to make sure that everyone is hydrated and having a good time. Because it’s not about you and me just happening to like the same DJs or producers. It’s about you and me being a part of something larger than ourselves, of being at this show, or at this festival, or just generally in this world, together.

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Gramatik Girls xoxo

My most recent dose of music family love was administered this past weekend, when I made the 6 hour trek to Hampton, Virginia for Basslights, an annual 2-day extravaganza of Bassnectar and Pretty Lights (and others). This was my first Basslights and my first time spending any quality time with people from the Pretty Lights Family. To say I was looking forward to the weekend is an understatement, but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how many amazing, wonderful people I got to meet and spend time with. While inside the Hampton Coliseum, positive, joyful energy absolutely abounded. You could start a conversation with anyone and the feeling of being around 10,000 people who had all made the same pilgrimage as you did was incredible. But the shows were only a small part of it.

There’s a subset of the Pretty Lights Family group called the Pretty Lights Mamas, which is the ladies-only contingent of PLF. The women in this group come from all walks of life and geographical areas, and on the surface, it seems that the only thing we share is a love of Pretty Lights music (which, to be honest, is not something to be taken lightly in and of itself). In actuality, though, the Mamas group could also be named, “Where Did You Find All These Ridiculously Nice People Seriously How and Why Are They So Nice No One Is That Nice All the Time Are You Sure There’s Nothing In It For Them?” For whatever reason, the people who choose to join this group are all the paragon of what women should be but all too often are not: supportive, welcoming, and loving.

In New York City, gossip is a valuable currency and judging people is the lifeblood that runs through our veins. We thrive on schadenfreude and elitism. And while my friends here are some of the best people in the world, I also meet a lot of women here who are truly awful. So I’m naturally a little suspicious of meeting new lady friends because so often the people I meet who seem cool at first end up being just flat out mean or empty. So to spend a weekend surrounded by women who are so warm, caring, and thoughtful was both reassuring and empowering. Instead of having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, it was like having an angel on one shoulder and then turning your head and having another angel on the other one. And then more angels come around and you have just a group of happy angels circling your head saying positive things to you all the time and encouraging you to be the best version of yourself. Also those angels have awesome taste in music and are happy to indulge you in your desires to talk about music ALL THE TIME (this analogy got out of hand, but you follow me).

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Pretty Lights Mamas at the MOTHERSHIP in VA!

This is not to say that the PL Mamas are the only great people out there. Over the last few years I’ve made awesome friends – both male and female – through a number of artist family groups, and since Basslights is kiiind of a big deal, I got to catch up with a lot of those people too when I saw them around Hampton. The Mamas may have been my core for the weekend, but the love and good vibes certainly didn’t start or end there. Everyone is wonderful. After the weekend was over I even sent a text to one of my friends from the Big G Family, telling him how much I appreciate him incorporating me into the Pretty Lights Family community a few months ago.

“That’s what family’s about,” he said.

For awhile I always thought that college – or possibly my early 20s – were the best years of my life. But I truly believe that I’ve found my tribe in the years since that first Electric Daisy Carnival. I’ve found something I’m passionate about, and I’ve found people who share that passion with me. I’m a happier person, and while I’ll always be that snarky New Yorker, I do make an active effort to be a little warmer and a little kinder.

To anyone in any of my families who may read this – PLF/PL Mamas, Big G fam, my Gramatik Girls, all my festival rave families, or anyone else I’ve met and obsessed about music and shows with over the last few years – thanks for coming along on this crazy ride with me. I had no idea that I’d end up here but I’m insanely happy that I did. I love you all.

Phantoms are the Next Odesza

In May of 2014, my friend and I went to see a little Seattle-based duo called Odesza at the Knitting Factory, a 300 person capacity venue in Williamsburg. Last weekend, one and a half years later, I saw them at Terminal 5 (capacity: 3000) during one of their three sold-out shows there.

Their rise has been meteoric, clearly. And 100% deserved, because Odesza is amazing. Even though they are hardly the most well-known act in my little music community, they’ve managed to transcend the electro-hippie crowd and branch out into the mainstream. I can think of a ton of acts who get better billing at the festivals I go to yet could probably not sell out even one, let alone three nights at Terminal 5.

But this blog post is not about Odesza (surprisingly). So I will start over.

In March of 2014 I went to the Bowery Ballroom (the site of my 2nd ever Odesza show, fun fact) to see Com Truise, who, if you’ve committed all my blog posts to memory which clearly you have, you will remember is terrible. After that show I came home and made a little note in my concert spreadsheet: “Phantoms were amazing!” I added them to my Bandsintown to track if they were ever coming back to New York, and promptly forgot about them.

Last night, after having been notified by my phone that they were in town, I went back to the Knitting Factory to see Phantoms open for another band I had never heard of. I had no recollection of what type of music it was or if it was a single person or a whole band or really anything except that Phantoms, whoever they were, were the bright spot on an otherwise subpar concert over a year earlier.

I walked in a little bit late (oops) and saw two 20-something guys playing a poppy type of electronica and doing live drumming. “They’re like Odesza!” I thought to myself before I had even found myself a spot in the crowd. (Odesza is also two guys in their 20s playing poppy electronica and live drumming). Though Odesza’s music is more ethereal and Phantoms has more of a deep house feel, the comparison between the two seemed immediately obvious to me and I’d be surprised if I were the only person to say it. A quick Google search yields no results for this so I am proclaiming “FIRST!” (that’s what the cool internet commenters do, right? I’m with it, I’m hip).

In any case, the show was really great, and yet again I thought Phantoms were far superior to the act that followed them. I particularly loved this rendition of that Fetty Wap song I hate, a) because it made the song good, and b) because their drumsticks lit up.

Love this @phantoms take on Fetty Wap. And LIGHT UP DRUMSTICKS!

A post shared by Arielle (@notthemermaid_) on

It seems that Phantoms, AKA the suit-clad Vincent Pergola and Kyle Kaplan, have already begun making a name for themselves back home in Los Angeles, but I’m excited to see where they go from here. If they follow along the path of Odesza and sell out Terminal 5 a year and a half after playing the Knitting Factory, I’ll be linking back to this post saying that I called it. Here’s hoping!

(And in the meantime, go download their new EP, Broken Halo, or go check them out on the last few stops of their tour!)

On Repeat: Big Data, “Dangerous”

I love this song. So much. I first heard it because my main man Gramatik has played a remix of it in his sets recently, and finally I just up and figured out what it is. The entire album is fire, if we’re being honest, but this one song is just the BEST.

I bet you didn’t know that I was dangeroussssss.

Can’t stop won’t stop.

An EDM Newbie’s Guide to Camp Bisco

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Among the many wonderful things I experienced at Mysteryland a few weeks ago was the opportunity for 4 of the members of our group – myself included – to begin the complete and total indoctrination of the 5th person into the world of EDM and festivals (“welcome to the dark side,” one of them aptly said).

Our friend was a complete neophyte but had a really open mind, and showed up in a festival-appropriate fun outfit, ready to dance (note to everyone: the only 2 things you really ever need at a festival are a good attitude and your dancing shoes). We showed him the ropes, taking him to see our favorite artists, teaching him important phrases like, “tropical house,” and imparting key lessons such as the importance of always having a full water bottle.

He emerged from Mysteryland completely converted and ready to sign up for Camp Bisco, which happens next month.

Initially, I wanted to write a post called, “A Newbie’s Guide to EDM” that details all the major players (the ones I like, anyway) and would help my friend continue his musical education, but I realized that this task is far too ambitious, plus I’m definitely not qualified to give an overall view of the world of electronica. Instead, I’m writing this post as a homework assignment of sorts, both for my friend and for anyone else who plans on going to Bisco next month yet isn’t quite familiar with the music they’re going to hear there. Here are the people you need to listen to, in order of their billing on the poster. You will not regret it.

Bassnectar
Bassnectar is pretty much a deity ’round these parts. Listening to a Bassnectar set is almost like being outside on a really humid day – the air is so thick with vibrations you feel like you’re swimming in it. Only unlike humidity, it’s awesome. His music is so diverse it’s almost unfair to sum it up in one song but here’s one that’s been on heavy rotation for me recently.

Pretty Lights
This might be the first time I’ve ever talked about Pretty Lights on this blog! (Not). I read recently that Derek didn’t choose this name based on the incredible laser shows that come along with his set, but I don’t believe it. PL is the full audio-visual sensory experience and his live performances are beautiful and moving. Hearing this song at Voodoo Festival in New Orleans might have legitimately been the best 4 minutes of live music I’ve ever seen.

STS9
Is there such a thing as peaceful dance music? If there is, I’m going to throw Sound Tribe Sector 9 (along with Pretty Lights, Tipper (below), and some others) in that category. Like most of the artists on this list, and most of my favorite electronic musicians in general, they supplement with the use of real instruments. This one will be fun.

Big Gigantic
Okay, at this point everyone knows how much I love Big G. Even my EDM newbie friend knows them by now. They need no introduction.

Tipper
I actually don’t listen to Tipper (!) and I’ve never seen him live, BUT I’ve heard all about his psychedelic, artistic visuals and mellow, downtempo tunes. I can only believe that he’s going to be worth all the hype.

Kill the Noise
Kill the Noise was one of the first dubstep acts I really got into. Perfect for jumping around and getting out all that excess energy.

Manic Focus
I have sung the praises of Manic Focus and his power glove many times before. Love his electro-hip-hop feel and incorporation of both current and older rap songs. He was at Mysteryland as well and did not disappoint.

The Floozies
The Floozies bring that e-funk all the way from Kansas. Their live shows are way more upbeat than this particular song, but I love it anyway.

Exmag
Smooth and sexy. With a killer “No Diggity” cover.

Louis Futon
Trap, but a little less frantic, a little more groovy.

This isn’t a full list, but it’s a solid start for now. You may notice that I did not include the Disco Biscuits on this list, despite the fact that they’re top billing and this is actually their festival (Bisco, Biscuits, get it?). I’ve listened to a few of their songs and frankly, I don’t understand them. Which is not to say I won’t check out one of the many sets they’ll do over the course of the festival, but I’m also not committing to anything and I may decide to check out other artists, or shower, or go to the water park, or sleep, or sit in my tent twiddling my thumbs, or otherwise do things that are decidedly NOT going to see them. Sorry I’m not sorry, as they say.

Go forth and listen to good music! 🙂