Archive for December 2012

Aruna Exclusive

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     Equipped with an angelic voice and a degree from Berklee, the versatile singer, songwriter, DJ and pianist who goes only by her first name has been impacting the dance music world since 2007. Three years of vocal accompaniments for the likes of Filo & Peri, the Thrillseekers and Ronski Speed preceded the debut of her Velvetine project, a collaborative effort with Myon & Shane 54. It was in October of that year that her first solo project was released to the masses. “Let Go” was a monster hit, featuring on Anjunabeats Volume 8 and warranting remixes from trance heavyweights Nic Chagall and Who.Is. This year, the American songstress’ most successful to date, saw the resurgence of Velvetine, another solo single and vocals for the most popular single off of Ferry Corsten’s latest album. Earlier in 2012, Aruna talked to The Hawt about women in dance music, her new role as a DJ and her relationship with Myon & Shane54.

Where are you from, how long have you been in music and what is your claim to fame?
     Aruna: I'm from Flemington, NJ. I've been a musician since I was about seven but didn't start pursuing it professionally 'til i graduated Berklee and moved to LA in 2001, and didn't fall into EDM ‘til about 2007. My "claim to fame" as you put it would vary depending on who you ask. To some it's having written a song for Hannah Montana. To others, it’s probably my recent track with Ferry Corsten "Live Forever" as that was far and away my most successful dance release to date. 

We were pleasantly surprised to hear that you picked up DJing over the past year. How have you been received as a female DJ? Do you still get booked as a vocalist? Do you ever perform both as a singer and as a DJ? We’ve never seen you live; what are your sets like?

     Aruna: It's been interesting so far, lots of very diverse reactions. For some reason it seems EDM is still in the 1950s in terms of the way it views the role of women. Honestly there have been some moments where I really felt pushed down, as if certain entities/individuals (not naming names of course) viewed it as some kind of threat to themselves or to some established order or I don't know what, it was very strange to me and of course very frustrating.  I think especially since I became known as a singer first and only stepped into the role of DJ not that long ago that oftentimes there's a bit of skepticism at the outset but usually once they hear my sets they're pleasantly surprised and really into it from that point on, case in point my Trance Around The World guest mix. I got literally hundreds of thousands of new subscribers to my podcast, The Hot List, in the months after that, so I must have done something right! Girls especially have been extremely supportive and encouraging. It seems they really love seeing a female in that role. Its very empowering for them. They need a cheerleader in this scene, an ambassador, someone with a visible presence and a brand, not someone who's merely relegated to the sidelines as 'featured vocalist'. DJing has been great for live performances cuz it really gives me a solid block of time up there with my fans to showcase my taste and take them on a nice ride, and yes every show I do they always want me to sing, so lately I've been doing both, usually spinning for an hour or so and then closing with a few live songs. My sets tend to be pretty high energy, trance of course but on the techy side with some house elements but always very musical,  that’s the most important thing to me at the end of the day. Even when it's banging, it still has to be tasteful.

What tracks have been the biggest in your sets thus far this year?

     Aruna: Pretty much any of Maor Levi's remixes work really well. He's a perfect example of someone who can knock it out HARD in his productions and really get people jumping but what he does always makes musical sense. I LOVED what he did with Leon Bolier's US. I played that in El Salvador and the place exploded. And of course when I play my own tunes people get pretty excited too. I remember dropping the Shogun mix of Live Forever in Vancouver and people were singing louder than the record, it was great! 

With EDM continuing to rapidly gain popularity, it seems as though more artists are being swayed into mainstream tendencies. Do you think mass popularity hinders quality?
     Aruna: Very interesting question. I don't think being popular or even trying to make something become popular means that it has to be bad, although it might mean a more simplified, predictable structure. Some of the most mainstream tracks on the radio in my opinion are actually quite good. Because there's so much money there, they can do whatever they want in terms of working at the best studios, working with the best writers, etcetera. However I think people that get into it only for the success and the money and the chicks and everything else that comes with it, well…you can kinda hear it in their work. There's just no love there, and you can tell they're not musicians. But I don't think those people will be around long. The amount of passion and enthusiasm required to keep things going, if thats not there, then I don't think ego and greed is enough to sustain you long term. Most of the people that I know personally who are at the top live and breathe music, and they genuinely love it, they love the creative process and are always striving for excellence. Those are the people who have built an enduring brand for themselves, and will continue to evolve as necessary to stay relevant and keep things interesting for themselves.

What can you tell us about Save The Day?

     Aruna: The writing of "Save The Day" started a little over two years ago while I was staying with Myon in Hungary for three weeks. It was a really creative period for both of us. We were working on three different tracks at once, "All Around You", the one that came out on Cosmic Gate's album and also another tune which will be Myon & Shane's next single, out in early 2013. I came up with a chorus that I LOVED and showed it to Myon for their single. He felt it was a bit too commercial for theirs but said it could be great for mine. So basically I built up the whole rest of the song around that chorus. The lyric basically describes a failing relationship, that moment you realize that the magic and love is just gone and that it's more or less unfixable. For me that moment was always the saddest point in a relationship, the actual breakup is just a natural extension of that. Strangely I wasn't in any sort of situation like that at the time I wrote it, but as fate would have it I ended up there right around the time the track was released. So it was incredibly prophetic, almost feels like I wrote it to my future self, never had anything like that happen before. 

Which came first; Myon and Aruna or Velvetine? Did either of those partnerships cause the other? We promise that’s our only quasi-personal question :)
     Aruna: Hahaha! The musical relationship came first, and yes it definitely fuelled the personal relationship. It's a very intimate thing, creating music with someone, especially when the chemistry is there on so many levels, as it was with us. And of course the personal relationship affected the musical relationship too, sometimes in good ways as I've written quite a few songs about him by now, "The Great Divide" being one of them, but also in not so good ways, like if we had a fight it would definitely affect our ability to work together. You can't just shut those feelings off and say "OK, its time to work now". So yea, you take the good with the bad. It was a great experience and I don't have any regrets, but I'm also glad we ultimately decided to call it off and go back to just being friends. It was a hard decision but I think in the end it's the best thing for our musical relationship, it keeps things very steady that way. But the feelings are still very strong on both sides, and probably always will be.

Congratulations on having “The Great Divide” become a worldwide trending topic! Despite its lengthy gestation period (TATW 400, right?), did you ever expect the track to reach such levels of hype before its release?
     Aruna: Seeing as Safe, our first single together, did really well, we knew we had some big shoes to fill and that the anticipation, especially amongst the Anjuna crowd, would be massive. We all knew we had a really sick track on our hands, and we knew Anjuna and Above & Beyond would push it hard, but at the end of the day even with so many cards stacked in your favor, you never REALLY know how something is gonna do. We were very happy with the way it was received. 

The last Velvetine track came out way back in 2010. “The Great Divide” already being a huge success, do you envision giving this alias more importance? Or will we have to eagerly wait another 2 years for the next release?
     Aruna: Hah! I sure hope it wont be another two years! We already have a good jump on our next single, and have even discussed plans for an album, its just a matter of all of us making the time for it. Between crazy touring schedules, making radio shows and doing other projects and collaborations, that can be more difficult than it sounds. I think the bigger Velvetine gets, the more it will continue to become a priority for all of us, especially once we start doing official Velvetine Live shows. So far we've only done Myon & Shane 54 and Aruna shows, Velvetine Live will be a very different format and experience.

Finally, do you have any plans on coming to Montreal anytime soon?
     Aruna: I would love to! I've never been and it would be a great opportunity to practice my French! Nothing's planned though, so for anyone who wants me there, make sure to tell your local promoters! Believe it or not, most of them pay close attention to what (and who) fans want.

Aruna Official
     I’m typing out these words with one hand and dialling Circus Afterhours with the other. Happy New Year from all of us at The Hawt!

Change of Heart

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mad weed

     Whenever I listen to a song for the first time, I usually have to give my initial impression a week-long grace period, because I have a tendency to change my mind. As my closest friends will tell you, my musical opinions are quite polarizing; I either hate a song, or I love it. So when I say that I change my mind, I go from totally disliking a track to being absolutely enamored by it. This week’s tunes have gone from bad to great and I sincerely hope they stay in my good graces as they are all sublime pieces of music. Let’s dive in, shall we?
     Originally, this track had not a single chance of joining my iTunes library. When I downloaded Todd Terje’s “It’s the Arps EP” in January of this year, it was for the incredible “Inspector Norse.” I very briefly skimmed over the other tracks, almost instantly dismissing each one as a piece of garbage.  It was not before mid-November that I took another look at the release, more specifically “Swing Star pt.1.” Despite being listed as 107 BPM, the low-pitch bassline, the beautifully crafted rapidly firing synths and the numerous hi-hats give an ear pleasing illusion of fast-pacing that make the rest of the release worth checking out.

Todd Terje – Swing Star pt.1 (Original Mix)
Released on January 10th on Smalltown Supersound Norway
BeatportJuno Download

     I think what turned me off to Julio Bashmore’s “Battle for Middle You” was the album art, which is quite plainly a legless woman made of pink gelatin reaching for her shoulder blades. Not only did I not (and still don’t) understand the connection with the music, but I let the image hinder my love for genre crosspollination and subtly powerful basslines.

Julio Basmore – Battle for Middle You (Original Mix)
Released on January 10th, 2011 on PMR

     After I had fallen for “Skyward,” I went on a lengthy Internet journey to find other Masoud tracks that sounded similar. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered his tendency for the mainstream Trance sound. Fast forward to 2012, when a YouTube sidebar thumbnail draws my attention and takes me to the Iranian’s remix of Dave Emanuel’s “Four Noble Truths.” Unique in its own right, Masoud’s remix features a long melodic breakdown and an uplifting drop that is somewhat reminiscent of the previously mentioned “Skyward.”

Dave Emanuel – Four Noble Truths (Masoud Remix)
Released on May 31st, 2010 on Arisa Audio

     To cap this week’s acoustic treats, here’s a recent 2-hour mix from Jeremy Olander, containing 17 of his own unreleased tracks, 16 of which are still unsigned. It features his popular “Malensa,” the Carl Cox approved “Tenfifteen,” a remix from young Montreal hotshot Richie G and a track from Jeremy's next Pryda Friends release.

     Montreal’s holiday events schedule is a who’s who of the major players of most of EDM’s subgenres. On Friday, December 21st, while Stephan Bodzin and Sied van Riel respectively play Stereo and Circus, the undeniable legends that are Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Stacey Pullen entertain what is likely to be an older and more knowledgeable crowd at the Telus Theater. The following night brings Montreal native and turntablist extraordinaire Alain “A-Trak” Macklovitch to New City Gas, who will be scratching just prior to the Martinez Brothers’ set at Stereo. Things slow down for family time and pick up once again on Thursday the 27th, when Skrillex brings his Full Flex Express tour to New City Gas (sold-out). On December 28th, Sebastian Ingrosso and Borgore take to New City Gas for an irregular dubstep and house combination. On the 29th, it’s Porter Robinson and Hard Rock Sofa’s turn to play the overused Griffintown showroom, which closes its doors until New Year’s Eve, when Third Party, Max Graham and Nic Fanciulli take to the stage. Also on New Year’s Eve is Nicole Moudaber’s visit to Stereo and Circus’ yearly Odyssey party. Leon Bolier, Orjan Nilsen, Basil O’Glue, Raneem, Omar El Gamal, Mr, Jean Louis, Etienne Ozborne, Jay Lumen and Koen Groneveld will all provide Montreal’s finest afterhours establishment with the grooves necessary to properly ease all attendees into 2013. Montreal’s dance music community is given less than 24 hours to rest before the party continues on new year’s day with Ben Gold and Nic Chagall at Circus and Chus & Ceballos at Stereo.

     This week’s video comes from the UK town of Bristol. Last year, Resident Advisor began a video web-series called “Real Scenes” where they explored the underground dance music happenings of a chosen city. The reason I chose to include the episode from Bristol is because it features producer Matt Walker, also known as Julio Bashmore, who prominently figures in this post.

Real Scenes: Bristol from Resident Advisor on Vimeo.

     Since this is the last post before Christmas, I’d like to wish all our readers a very happy holiday and new year on behalf of Fred, Nikhil and myself. Have a great week!

Ear Tears

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From the sweat of my brow, I have worked to please the education gods, slaving over the finals exams that just about brought me to tears (I did okay). As the clock hit noon, and thousands headed home to a good old joint, the first people I thought of were my readers (lies). The duties I have taken to keep a consistent outflow of beautiful music, which brings the ears of many to tears, was a responsibility I was not about to turn away from. Many people have started their top of 2012 list; however, do not expect this from me until the very last day of the year, for there is a lot of great music to come within the following weeks! Under the influence of Mariah Carey's Christmas album, and from the comfort of my home, allow me to please you, musically, of course.

     Get your ears pumped for the JETS's FACT mix which was released a few weeks prior.  For the uninformed, JETS is a collaborative project between Travis Stewart, more properly referred to as Machinedrum, and Jimmy Edgar. Within their sound, one can distinguish the peculiarity of Travis's fondness over relatively spontaneous upbeat sounds, while Jimmy brings a relative balance to the overtone of it all, with the use of his paced synths, wondrous sampling as well as some crisp percussive sounds. Consequently, it is logical to assume that if you are a fan of either of these artists, you should take a listen to their self-entitled EP; and while it's loading, I was thoughtful enough to include what has been called "the mix of the year" by many right below. Also, the playlist to the mix below comprises songs that are mostly unreleased, giving this mix an extended shelf life. Expect to be hearing this for many months to come!

     Coming to you from Canada, the collective King's Deluxe is celebrating it's second anniversary in the business, and what better way to enjoy the start of a third year than to release a free album for all to listen to! Amongst the many names appearing on the track list of this rather varied work, I wish to bring your attention to a piece by Alphabets Heaven, remixed by Kwala Headshotboyz. Alphabets is an artist who seems to draw inspiration from his video-game saturated childhood, and this is reflected through his sound. Allow yourself to live vicariously through the life of Sonic, Link or Donkey Kong as the following song sets the tone for your upcoming adventure.

     While the video-game soundtrack is on lock, down in Los Angeles there are two twin brothers who have been wrecking havoc as of recently. Having worked on the production of Earl Sweatshirt's latest hit "Chum", Taiwo and Kehinde Hassan have brewed up a musical concoction under the alias of Christian Rich. Entitled XIX, and premiering on their upcoming album, this song is something between Jamaican dub, intricate glitch and trap hop. Basically, these guys took a bunch of pretty cool genres and stuck them all together to make a rather breezy sound. The vocal sample is ambient yet necessary, and one feels as though the homogeneous nature of it all is required to capture the entirety of your simultaneous day-dream.

     For the video of the week, I bring to you a tune from UK producer Max Cooper in collaboration with the Canadian BRAIDS. If I could sum this piece up, I would have to say it is rather progressive, but for all the right reasons. As the song intensifies, the many layers begin to cumulate and take effect. Additionally, the effect does not only comprise of ear-tearing; the video seems to grow with respect to the song. In it, well, um... I can't really describe what the fuck is going on, other than that it is quite awesome. If you enjoy existentialism with a grain of LSD, feel free to embark on this audiovisual experience.