In mid-March, Liverpool’s Friend Within shared his new LP Hope. Released via Toolroom Records, Hope is stuffed with stuffed with feel-good house anthems designed to help shake away the 2020 malaise. The album is produced with several live instrumentation elements which, when partnered with Friend Within’s undeniable drum machine grooves, give Hope a natural and immediately-enjoyable feel.
The record’s unique sound can be best exemplified by lead single “Know Each Other” featuring A-Trak, a summery track constructed with shimmering sounds and an underlying optimistic outlook. Another hallmark of Hope is the seamless transitions that give the record a live DJ set feel. All in all, Hope is a shining monument to house, summertime, and a deep hope that we can all move toward better days.
Dancing Astronaut caught up with Friend Within to chat about the inspirations behind his new record, working with A-Trak, and the impact the last year of lockdown has had on the dance music scene. Listen to Hope and read the full Q&A below.
Throughout Hope, you clearly draw influence from classic house sounds while putting your own fresh spin on the genre. How do you find the balance between using old school house elements without sounding overdone?
Friend Within: “In every track I make I try and do something that I’ve not done before. I never want to churn out tracks that all sound the same so even if I’m using a disco sample or a classic house piano I try and incorporate something new. I try and steer away from fads or copy techniques in the popular songs of the moment. If all you do is replicate the top 10 tunes on Beatport then, in my opinion, you’re not gonna last.”
After a year that had many people feeling down constantly, you named your album Hope. Do you have any tips for staying optimistic?
Friend Within: “Now that’s a big question! I’ve always been a calm person and very rarely fell down or flustered. I’m from Liverpool where finding the humour in things is a way of life. This is pretty much how I am. I just try and have a laugh in every situation. Being a DJ during a pandemic where all your work is wiped out instantly can be a huge burden, but thankfully I’ve been fine and have enjoyed being at home with the family. Surround yourself with good people and talk to them. That’s the best thing you can do.”
What do you hope people take away from your new record?
Friend Within: “I hope people get to know me more as an artist. The whole album is a perfect representation of all the styles of music I like to make in one complete package. I like the fact that now someone can go onto my Apple Music or Spotify profile, click on my album and just listen to one body of work. I think there is enough variety and interest on the album that people will listen all the way through and keep coming back. I also like the idea that people will get to know the running order and will be able to predict what tune is coming up next. I always liked that about albums. No putting it on shuffle please! Haha.”
What was it like working with A-Trak on “Know Each Other?”
Friend Within: “It was good. This track we did completely remotely from an idea that I had started. The previous track we did called ‘Blaze‘ we did do together in the studio. A-Trak had literally just stepped off the plane from America so I thought he would be knackered, but fair play to him he carried on and we pretty much got ‘Blaze’ finished in one go. I guess that’s why he’s as successful as he is as his work ethic is so good.”
How do you think dance music has changed over the last year of lockdown?
Friend Within: “I don’t think we’ll know the full extent of the change until another year down the line. Will clubs be able to survive? Will there be enough sound engineers? Will there be enough bouncers to be on the doors? In Britain there is a pathway for things to fully re-open in June, so we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out. I do believe there is going to be a massive appetite for clubbing from everybody. I’m hoping there will be more locally run nights and people will support small parties and resident DJs. In terms of the music itself there must be tons of music that has been held back for release. What will happen to it all?”
It looks like festivals are coming back soon! Where are you most excited to perform your new material when shows come back?
Friend Within: “Some time at the height of summer playing outdoors as the sun sets. That’s my favourite type of festival set. That transition from daytime to night time is quite magical. People change from trying to look good and being self-conscious in the sun to letting themselves go in the darkness. Gimme some of that.”
Synth designer Vlad Kreimer shared this demo of the new SOMA Laboratory COSMOS Drifting Memory Station.
Here’s what he has to say about it:
COSMOS is a drifting memory station, designed to work with meditative states through music. The design of the controls, functions and generated soundscapes are intended to evoke, in both performer and listener, states and experiences inherent in meditation, such as limitless space, fluidity, spontaneous development, presence, the ability to hear, tranquility, the experience of subtle harmony and happiness enveloping the whole world.
From a functional point of view, COSMOS is a large array of sound memory, in which recorded sounds undergo constant recombinations, spontaneously generating an ever-changing soundscape. This is achieved in three ways — by a mathematical shift based on the relationships between large prime numbers (the size of all delay lines are different primes), an asynchronous operation of the LFO, and modulation with a slowly changing chaotic signal. As a result, it allows the endless layering and processing of various sounds, as in a looper, but without an intrusive, repetitive loop.
COSMOS generates rich, fluid and evolving soundscapes perfect for ambient music. Using COSMOS, you can play an entire meditative solo concert while being in a spontaneous flow and without using studio-prepared sequences, backing tracks and other things that can’t be a reflection of the “here and now”.
MOD Devices let us know that they’ve released an update to the operating system for the MOD Devices platform, covering all of their products. They describe the update as ‘a significant step forward for the MOD Devices platform.’
The Mod Devices OS. is part of their platform of open-source multi-effects pedals and effects. It lets you load over 400 effects plugins, available for free, and use them in a hardware device.
With the debut of their newest audio processor, the MOD Dwarf, the company has released an update that also enhances their Duo X and MOD Duo, devices.
The update improves the platform’s user interface, and also unlocks new features, including a file manager UI inside the now-familiar web interface.
With upcoming plugins and sampled instruments, users will be able to upload their own audio and MIDI files and IR files to and from the device. This opens up many new use cases for all MOD Devices: using it as a backing track player, MIDI player or impulse response loader – it will even be capable of running sampled instruments.
The number of user control pages has also doubled on the Duo X.
While actuators have been unlocked to become momentary switches when activated. They can be set to either “momentary on” or “momentary off”, opening up new performance options.
Similarly, you can now set the buttons of the Duo X or the footswitches of the Duo and Footswitch controller to cycle through different colors with list-style parameters. On the Advanced settings for the assignment, you can set the LED color to be static or to cycle. In cycle mode, the LEDs will change the colors helping to identify the position in the list that has been currently selected offering a clear presentation of the user’s personal set-up.
Additionally, you can assign toggle parameters – such as the effects on/off switch – to all knobs
The Duo has received the most visible UI changes, including:
cleaner look for assigned parameters
pedalboard and snapshot names in the header of the displays
foot navigation mode showing names of previous and next pedalboard (since the active pedalboard name is already shown in the header)
blinking LED in foot navigation mode – you know the pedalboard is loaded when the led stops blinking
From 10 random sounds comes true creativity. This is the ethos of Red Bull Mystery Pack, a weekly video series that tasks producers to craft a studio-ready original using just a Splice-supplied sample pack comprising 10 sounds. The debut episode of Red Bull Mystery Pack‘s second season hit Red Bull Music’s YouTube channel on March 25, pitting five-time Billboard charter Kato On The Track against an array of unusual samples.
From a cell phone buzz to a sheep’s “baa” and eight other sounds in between, the Atlanta-hailing tastemaker, whose resume boasts work with Snoop Dogg, E-40, and Joyner Lucas, among others, can be found rising to Red Bull’s challenge below. Ensuing episodes in the second season of Red Bull Mystery Pack will enlist KVYREN, DRAMA, and Danny Wolf; stay tuned for more.
Featured image: Koury Angelo/Red Bull Content Pool
In Dirtybird camping festival tradition, attendees will be split into three groups: Gator Squad, Flamingo Fam, and Scuba Squad. The different teams will have the opportunity to compete in float races, obstacle courses, and more. Other activities to be featured at CampINN 2021 include Dirtybird’s quintessential talent show, bingo, and crafting sessions.
To ensure camper safety, all ticket holders will be tested for COVID-19 when attempting to enter the event. Dirtybird has enlisted the assistance of OnSite Safe to facilitate testing. Those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can bypass the on-site COVID-19 test, but must complete temperature screening. Anyone with a temperature 100.4 degrees or greater will not be admitted.
All guests will be required to wear face coverings and are advised to social distance. Due to capacity restrictions, single-day and night passes to CampINN will not be sold. Tickets to the 2021 camping event are available here.
ADE will return to its pristine physical format to celebrate its 25th anniversary along the scenic canals of Amsterdam from October 13 – 17, 2021. The announcement comes after the Dutch government’s recent promise that music festivals would return later this year.
ADE made the best of a challenging situation in 2020, adapting its insightful music conference to a digital medium and inviting attendees to participate in its exclusive ADE Pro social networking platform. The three-day event was as eye-opening as it was necessary, with James Blake‘s discussion about mental health in the industry arising as an example of ADE’s ability to continuously bring attention to topics that warrant it. But, truth be told, there is no substitute for the city-sprawling adventures of a proper Amsterdam Dance Event. The festival has already announced events with DGTL, Awakenings, Audio Obscura, and Dockyard, meaning that those in attendance can be guaranteed the intimate parties and experiences at unique locations that the Dutch mainstay is known for.
According to the festival, ADE is only able to happen thanks to Holland’s increased COVID-19 testing capacity and ongoing vaccine distribution. Find more information about this year’s event here.
Few moments are more sacred than the reprieve Saturday night provides from the daily grind of school and work. Its importance is meant to be emphasized, and thus, a feature dedicated to “doing the night right” was born. Saturday Night Sessions are set around energizing mixes meant to get the (socially distanced) party started. New or old, each episode has one cornerstone thing in similarity: they serve as the perfect backdrop for the weekend pregame.
KSHMR is a household name in the electronic music community, but like many of the genre’s impactful acts, he has never actually released a full length studio album. A trend unique to the electronic music industry, Niles Hollowell-Dhar launched his KSHMR alias in 2014 after years of being one half of production duo The Cataracts. KSHMR marked the beginning of his career as a solo artist, and it took practically no time for the project to gain momentum. This is in no small part thanks to the astounding success of his 2015 single with Tiësto titled “Secrets” featuring Vassy, which gave the artist the floor to prove his unique approach to production. Prove this he did as fans celebrated his distinctive sound netting the artist mainstage bookings across the world.
California-born Hollowell-Dhar grew up in a household with an Indian father and an American mother. His father’s origins strongly influenced the KSHMR project, and he shared years ago that he is a “guy who makes Indian-sounding electronic music, incorporating Indian instruments.” Hollowell-Dhar’s sound has built upon this foundation as the years have gone on, and when he shared that fans could expect a full length album from him in 2021, many wondered what the LP would yield.
Harmonica Andromeda, like all of the producer’s longer bodies of work, is a sonic journey that is part of a larger narrative. The 14-tracks follow the story of a young boy who has just lost his mother. Upon her passing, she leaves him instructions to embark on an adventure exploring different worlds. Each song takes the listener to a new destination, and only three of the releases came out before the album’s March 19 full release.
The anticipation for Harmonica Andromeda only heightened after the producer faced a slew of skeptics in reaction to a January 8 Tweet, which was sent just a week before the first single release, “The World We Left Behind” featuring KARRA. He writes that the album is “one of the most ambitious, maybe even one of the best electronic albums of all time…”
An artist feeling an overwhelming sense of pride over an album is not unique and is usually a given after the amount of work that goes into completing one. While many are used to artists sharing how ‘proud’ or how ‘excited’ they are to share their art with the world, Hollowell-Dhar’s sentiments that Harmonica Andromeda is one of the most ‘ambitious’ and perhaps even one of the ‘best electronic albums of all time’ certainly piqued the interest of fans and the music community alike. He set the bar high, and many were left with immense anticipation for the March 19 release date.
When assessing community reception of Harmonica Andromeda, it seems that Hollowell-Dhar did not speak out of turn when describing the body of work. The production is nothing short of special, and it sounds unlike anything fans have heard before. The producer not only met the bar he set, but exceeded it.
He clarifies how producing Harmonica Andromeda was indeed one of the most ambitious things he has ever done, explaining his process. Hollowell-Dhar shares, “Just to be clear haha, I said it’s one of the most ambitious and maybe even one of the best. I think it is ambitious, and I think I have the authority to say that because I tried to give so much to each song and never settle for the obvious approach. Sometimes that meant the song would take two or three turns before it was done, and I think it’s rare in my experience, in dance music (for having made music for 20 years) that someone would put so much into an album – like spending a week on eight bars at the end of one song. So in terms of the effort and the details that went into these songs, I do feel it’s the most ambitious thing I’ve done, and I love it.”
When addressing the community’s reaction to his Tweet, he explains, “It’s difficult to explain how you could love something you made and not be arrogant. It’s like if you chipped away at a rock and you believed there was a gem inside, and you get to the center and say it’s the most beautiful gem. I fought to uncover the potential of each of these ideas, and it was hard just in a practical sense. It was time consuming to follow each of these ideas to their conclusion and make them work. So music is of course- it’s not like shaving rocks, but hopefully you can understand how I could be so in love with something that I’ve made and not judge me for it.”
While each song on the album is undeniably ‘special,’ there is also a specific approach to the production of Harmonica Andromeda that makes it worthy of this description. To put it simply, the producer was able to let each song evolve in multiple directions stylistically while still making the final product a pleasant holistic listening experience. This meant producing each small section of each individual release with painstaking detail and ‘purpose.’ The final output was so dependent on the extensive and well thought out smaller sections that comprised the larger sound of each song that it took him two years with an accelerated production period during quarantine to complete the creative process.
He discusses this when he shares, “With a few exceptions, most of the songs were difficult. Some were especially difficult. ‘The Little Voice’ especially, because each section is a departure from the last and how it continues on this trajectory upward that is not necessarily difficult in itself to make, but making something that changes that much coherent – the arc, the energy, its momentum – is difficult.”
He continues, “When I first started making music, I wanted to put everything into every song and then my music sucked, so I simplified everything after that. With this album, I said ‘fuck it, maybe I’m good enough at music now that I could fit a lot of ideas into one thing, and make it work.’ The short answer is, it’s possible, but I’m not THAT good at making music, so it took so much work once I committed to having multiple ideas in one song.”
In addition to pushing himself to his limits as a music producer, Hollowell-Dhar achieves another feat with the album release.”Paula” is the artist’s first time as KSHMR using his own vocals on a song. “Paula” is influenced by his overwhelming love for his mother, and it was born out of him imagining a world with his mother no longer in it.
While heartfelt “Paula” closes out the LP, the title single opens it. If one song could embody the KSHMR sound from 2015 until 2021, “Harmonica Andromeda” would be a top contender to represent the artist during the first third of the song. The rest of the song sets the stage for what is to come on the album. Naturally playful energy blends brilliantly with far East influences and instrumentals, but before the listener knows it, they are plunged into a guitar laced production with sweeping female vocal accents pivoting from the initial sonic influences. A collection of vocalists narrate the song in a way, guiding the listener through to each new section of the production.
In celebration of Harmonica Andromeda‘s full release, Hollowell-Dhar crafted a one-hour long Saturday Night Session to give listeners a taste of what the live experience will be like. The mix is the perfect accompaniment to a stellar body of work, and the producer leaves listeners with a parting thought, sharing, “I’ll be using the mix to show people a lot of the new album and I absolutely cannot wait for people to hear this new music.”
With Lion Across the Field– you accompanied the auditory work with a children’s book and a seven person band for the live performance among other live elements. Can you talk about how you plan on bringing Harmonica Andromeda to life outside of the music itself?
KSHMR: “Because of quarantine it’s a little bit tough to bring the new album to life to the extent that you mentioned. There are restrictions because of the pandemic so having live players etc. will come in time. Right now I’m focusing on the album release event. This album is in a much different tempo so making it make sense live is my priority and it means a restructuring of the live show.”
Each song on the new LP brings the listener to a new setting. Have you been to each of these places? What inspired you to shape your album around a new location for each single?
KSHMR: “These are places that in some cases I’ve been too but that wasn’t the driving factor in deciding where the main character would go. I think we all love traveling through stories that we hear, it’s a way for us to explore places beyond our means. We can do so many things through a well crafted story so these are places that I think have been inspiring creatively to me. The locations inform the instruments and the melodies, I would say it’s more inspiration than a practical tribute for something from my own experience.”
You shared that you believe this album is one of the best electronic music albums of all time. What sets this album apart from the rest in your opinion?
KSHMR: “Just to be clear haha I said it’s one of the most ambitious and maybe even one of the best. I think it is ambitious and I think I have the authority to say that because I tried to give so much to each song and never settle for the obvious approach. Sometimes that meant the song would take two or three turns before it was done, and I think it’s rare in my experience, in dance music (for having made music for 20 years) that someone would put so much into an album like spending a week on 8 bars at the end of one song. So in terms of the effort and the details that went into these songs, I do feel it’s the most ambitious thing I’ve done and I love it . It’s difficult to explain how you could love something you made and not be arrogant. It’s like if you chipped away at a rock and you believed there was a gem inside and you get to the center and say it’s the most beautiful gem. I fought to uncover the potential of each of these ideas and it was hard just in a practical sense, it was time consuming to follow each of these ideas to their conclusion and make them work. So music is of course, it’s not like shaving rocks, but hopefully you can understand how I could be so in love with something that I’ve made and not judge me for it.”
Do you have a favorite track from the LP, or one that is most meaningful to you?
KSHMR: “There’s a song on the album called ‘Paula’ that I wrote for my Mom. For the first time as KSHMR, I used my own vocals for the track. It’s a very personal song to me. When I wrote it, I had thoughts of what it might be like when I don’t have my mom around anymore. She means so much to me, I thought about the weight of all the experiences we’ve had together and tried to put that in a song.”
How long did this LP take you to make and were any of the track’s particularly difficult for you to create/complete?
KSHMR: “It took 2 years to make the album but the pandemic was an enormous accelerant. It was maybe not even possible to make this album without quarantine because at times, when I’m touring, it felt irresponsible to experiment in ways that was necessary with this album. I usually just work on singles because I’m constantly catching flights, but I was able to spend the time and make something I’ve wanted to make for years. With a few exceptions, most of the songs were difficult. Some were especially difficult. “The Little Voice” especially, because each section is a departure from the last and how it continues on this trajectory upward that is not necessarily difficult in itself to make but making something that changes that much coherent – the arc, the energy, its momentum – is difficult. When I first started making music, I wanted to put everything into every song and then my music sucked so I simplified everything after that. With this album, I said fuck it maybe I’m good enough at music now that I could fit a lot of ideas into one thing and make it work. The short answer is, it’s possible but I’m not THAT good at making music so it took so much work once I committed to having multiple ideas in one song.”
What kind of a Saturday Night is your Saturday Night Sessions mix going to get listeners ready for?
KSHMR: “I’ll be using the mix to show people a lot of the new album. I absolutely cannot wait for people to hear this new music.”
BRONSON have shared their third and final installment in their BRONSONremix EPs. After debuting the LP in August of 2020, one month later, ODESZA and Golden Featuresannounced a trilogy of remix packages in support of the album and released BRONSON Remixes N°.1 and N°.2 in October and January, respectively.
The final piece in the re-imaginative puzzle, BRONSON Remixes Nº.3 recruits the talents of established and upcoming producers alike, including one of Dancing Astronaut‘s Artists to Watch in 2021, TSHA. Set Mo, Eats Everything, Riton, and Krystal Klear also make appearances on the unique parcel, which comes laden with an invigorating assortment of melodic, deep, and progressive reworks.
R3HAB has teamed up with Taiwanese singer-songwriter Jolin Tsai for “Stars Align. The single, which represents the duo’s first time working together, is featured in the third anniversary of the Battle Royale game PlayerUnknown’s Battleground‘s mobile version, titled PUBGM.
Tsai is famous for pioneering the genre Mandopop and her silky vocals add allure to R3HAB’s production. He favors boisterous house notes and a bumping melody that helps bring the song together. In addition to releasing “Stars Align,” R3HAB celebrated PUBGM’s third anniversary through an in-game live set. Alesso and Lost Frequencies were also tapped to perform, and the artists participated in a special celebrity show match alongside famous gaming influencers from regions around the world.
R3HAB spoke about “Stars Align” with Dancing Astronaut, telling us,
“I’m a long-time player of PUBGM so it’s a huge honor to be chosen to create the game’s lead single. ‘Stars Align’ has a beat that’s perfect for getting focused in the gameplay; it feels very natural. This is my first venture into Mandopop. I’m glad to have the chance to create with Jolin and I can’t wait to play this song for our fans.”
Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Ape Drums have dropped a Reloaded edition of Major Lazer‘s Music Is The Weapon. The extended album features five fresh tracks, one of which marks the reunion of power pop supergroup, “LSD.” Diplo, Sia, and Labrinth‘s combined skillsets shine through on “Titans.” Sia is first to take the vocal reigns in the midst of Diplo’s moombahton production. Her intoxicating “eh eh eh’s” carry the Major Lazer anthem to a thrilling beat drop that highlights beautifully sung staccato harmonies provided by Labrinth.
LSD hadn’t put out any new music since the release of the trio’s self-titled debut record back in 2019. And, needless to say, when Music Is The Weapon’s initial release in October of 2020 didn’t feature “Titans,” fans grew impatient. Two days after the release of Major Lazer’s sophomore LP, however, Diplo confirmed that “Titans” would arrive in 2021. There was something to look forward to—and now, it has arrived. Stream the long-awaited collaboration below.