How much do albums even matter in EDM? That's one of the questions that's dogged the genre throughout its unparalleled ascent in America over the last half-decade. Even more than in pop, dance music is a singles business. In today's teeming EDM festival crowds, fans might not even know who the artist onstage is, let alone have a desire to stick with them for a full LP.
Two new releases from genre veterans look to challenge that assumption. Tiesto and Deadmau5 are at the peaks of their careers in dance music and are asserting their visions in a longer format. Whether their fans care or not is beside the point - it's obvious that the artists still do, which means they have eyes on legacies longer than a few Sahara Tent singles.
Tiesto is a relative old-guarder in today's dance music, cultivating a huge European and international audience in the late '90s before the American EDM wave eventually returned the favor.
"A Town Called Paradise" seems calibrated to capitalize on his pop potential – most of the songs here feature vocal collaborators like Icona Pop, American Authors' Zac Barnett and EDM's go-to songwriter Matthew Koma. It's a path that peers like David Guetta and Avicii have traveled before. But given Tiesto's varied partners here, the production is surprisingly one-note.
The album is in a permanent state of digital uplift: "Written in Reverse," "A Town Called Paradise," "Footprints" and a half-dozen other tracks have essentially interchangeable structures and melodic ideas – 130 BPM, single-finger synth lines and long, drum-smacking bridge buildups. "Wasted" slows things to a more thoughtful mood, and Ladyhawke adds some needed vocal grit to "Last Train." But this album is a purposeful move into Top 40 that misses the quirk of well written pop and the sonic inventions of EDM.
Deadmau5's double-album leviathan "While(1<2)," however, makes room for many new moods while playing with his genre's formulas. The producer born Joel Zimmerman is famed for his profound skepticism (if not outright loathing) of EDM culture, and his latest artist album reflects his uncomfortable alliance with it.
"Creep" shivers with Squarepusher-style noise bursts levied with genuinely pretty pianos; "My Pet Coelacanth" starts as a wall of white noise, then unravels into a prickly after-hours banger. Album closer "Seeya" has some fun with Chicago house, poking its down-tempo piano bounce with modern, evil synths.
The album comes with two remixes of Trent Reznor projects Nine Inch Nails and How to Destroy Angels, which suggest that's more where his allegiance lies than the fields of North American rave fests. It's a smart move – after all, Reznor has made some pretty classic full-length albums.
"A Town Called Paradise"