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Major Lazer – Free the Universe album review

Repurposing sounds from various cultures has identified Major Lazer and put them in somewhat of an uncategorizable genre of their own. But 4 years after their debut album, Major Lazer has probably become more noted for their nationwide block parties than for their collaborative work, and their most recent album Free the Universe proves that justifiably so, as it is anything but Mad Decent.

The album is distractingly difficult to keep your attention and nearly impossible to get through. And after awaiting a follow up to 2009’s Guns Don’t Kill People–Lazers Do, it’s unfortunate to have to come to terms with the possibility that Major Lazer’s long awaited sophomore album is nothing if not underwhelming. The project is a clear reflection of a lack of creative direction, last minute production team swap (DJs Jillionaire and Walshy Fire have now teamed up with Diplo to replace former producer Switch), an inconsistent concept, and the notion that perhaps all the energy Diplo has amassed during the days of  “Look at Me Now” and “Run the World (Girls)” has long since dissipated when it came time to focus on his own work.

The lack of effort on this album is almost transparent. It is a repetitive medley of assumed island sounds with no real marriage between any of the album’s 14 tracks.  Not much has changed conceptually since the debut album, as Major Lazer still seems pretty adamant about their lazy attempt to recreate dancehall music for the fake-poor hipster (The Dirty Projector’s Amber Coffman is featured on “Get Free” and it don’t get more Brooklyn watering hole than that). But at least we can say Major Lazer knows who their audience is.

The album has more features than when Rick Ross was Deeper Than Rap. But unlike the former, Free the Universe falls short of utilizing these names in a way that adds to any of the songs. The first song “You’re No Good” features Santigold, (or did we mean 2006 Nelly Furtado?) but even throwing Jamaican dancehall heavy hitter Vybz Kartel on the track doesn’t completely save it from sounding too “Promiscuous Girl.” And strange enough, the album just goes downhill from there. It constantly takes abrupt turns and at some point even goes from turnt up to electro-indie. “Get Free” serves as that random stop sign you didn’t see coming and leaves you slamming on your musical brakes. It’s not bad. But Amber Coffman’s vocals never sounded so hard on the ears. Overtly stereotypical island lyrics and song titles are distracting (ie: “Jah No Partial”, “Bumaye,” really?), and songs like “Jessica” rely heavily on gentle reggae and doo-wop cadences that you can catch in any one of Bruno Mars’ misappropriated songs.

4 years should have left Major Lazer enough time to cultivate some ideas. All we can hope is that in the music to come they find some creative direction, get some inspiration and not rely so heavily on what they’ve already done in the past. And for the record: Give the dancehall a rest.

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Press Releases

Diplo to launch new zine series Blow Your Head

DIPLO TO LAUNCH NEW ZINE SERIES “BLOW YOUR HEAD” OCTOBER 1ST 2012

PHOTOGRAPHER SHANE MCCAULEY REUNITES WITH DIPLO TO EXPLORE A DIFFERENT COUNTRY AND MUSICAL GENRE WITH EACH VOLUME IN THE SAME VEIN AS DIPLO’S 128 BEATS PER MINUTE

Diplo continues his role as a “cultural curator”, as described in the New York Times, with his newest comprehensive, country by country, genre by genre exploratory zine “Blow Your Head.” Teaming back up with his trusty sidekicke photographer Shane McCauley (128 Beats Per Minute), the first issue of “Blow your Head” will focus on the duos travels through Trenchtown and their visits to Tuff Gong Studios, Gee Jam Studios and Sugarman Beach, documenting and exploring the frontier of the cultures most innovative music through dexterous photographs of the players and venues.

While artistically following in the same vein as the critically acclaimed and tremendously successful, 128 Beats Per Minute, this quarterly zine will be presented as a 8 x 10 inch, 96 page, black and white softcover printed in a limited addition amount. Pre-orders are available in three different bundles – the standard book, deluxe edition and the deluxe editon with a limited silk screen poster.

“Blow Your Head” officially drops and will be available in stores come October 1st via Picture Box, with a special launch event to follow on October 10th, 7 PM where Diplo and Shane McCauley will be signing magazines at FAMILY (located at 436 N. Fairfax Ave., LA, CA 90036).

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Press Releases

Skrillex, Pretty Lights, Diplo, Grimes and more to headline Trans-Canadian Train Tour

SKRILLEX, PRETTY LIGHTS, DIPLO, GRIMES, AND MORE TO HEADLINE TRANS-CANADIAN TRAIN TOUR

PRIVATE “FULL FLEX EXPRESS” TRAIN TO PLAY FESTIVALS IN OTTAWA, MONTREAL, TORONTO, WINNIPEG, EDMONTON AND VANCOUVER

In line with his ongoing attempts to re-imagine the idea of touring and performance, ubiquitous Grammy-winning DJ/producer Skrillex announces a string of Canadian dates featuring some of the most bubbling names in Electronic Dance Music, all of whom will be traveling between cities on a private passenger train. At each stop, a festival event will take place, featuring performances by Skrillex, Pretty Lights, Diplo, Grimes, KOAN Sound and Tokimonsta on multiple stages to crowds in the tens of thousands.

The Full Flex Express concept is inspired by The Festival Express tour that took place along a similar route in 1970 featuring Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and The Band. An assertion of the camaraderie and like-mindedness of the performers, this tour is less about practicality than it is simply enjoying the ride. When asked about the run of dates, Skrillex said “we were really inspired when Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharp and those guys did a train tour. We wanted to do it as well and share this music with people across Canada. Just to do it and have fun”.

Audiences will undoubtedly share in the exclusive revelry, much as concert-goers in New York and Los Angeles did earlier this year when Skrillex ambitiously played a series of “takeover” club dates in diminutive venues on both coasts.

FULL FLEX EXPRESS TOUR DATES:

Fri. July 13 – Toronto – Fort York
Sat. July 14 – Ottawa – Ottawa Blues Fest*
Sun. July 15 – Montreal – Parc Jean Drapeau
Wed. July 18 – Winnipeg – Shaw Park
Frid. July 20 – Edmonton – Kinsmen Park
Sun. July 22 – Vancouver – PNE Coliseum

*no Grimes

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Press Releases

Delicious Vinyl To Release DELICIOUS VINYL ALL-STARS: RMXXOLOGY – Classic songs reworked by Peaches, Eminem, Diplo, Hot Chip, Spank Rock, Phillipians, Ed Banger’s Mr. Flash, and Bobby Evans

Classic songs reworked by Peaches, Eminem, Diplo, Hot Chip, Spank Rock, Phillipians, Ed Banger’s Mr. Flash, and Bobby Evans

Go back to the future with Delicious Vinyl RMXXOLOGY, an all-new, 15-track album featuring classic tracks by Young MC, The Pharcyde, Masta Ace, The Brand New Heavies, and Fatlip re-imagined by artists including Peaches, Hot Chip, and Eminem. The first two singles from the album are already embedded in the hearts and minds of DJs and party people worldwide: pioneering electro goddess Peaches’ sizzling update of Tone Loc’s immortal “Wild Thing” and Aaron LaCrate and Debonair Samir’s gutter-bumping Baltimore blast of Young MC’s “Know How.”

RMXXOLOGY was born a year ago when Delicious Vinyl honcho Rick Ross met Peaches after a show. After agreeing that she would do a version of Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” they began brainstorming a dream team of artists to let loose on the Delicious Vinyl catalog. This led to the creation of The Delicious Vinyl All-Stars, a collective including prime-time players like Eminem and Diplo, as well as upstart French freakers Mr. Flash, Breakbot, and Don Rimini, and L.A. new jacks Cory Nitta (Pink Enemy/Philippians) and Bobby Evans (Brother Reade). Soon each of the Delicious Vinyl All-Stars was having their way with a Delicious Vinyl classic of their choosing…

As Rick Ross puts it, “Peaches is my co-curator on RMXXOLOGY. We reached out to people who know how to have fun exploring their influences and adding their own magic to something they love. That’s the creative core of what the RMXXOLOGY project is about: Start with these dope raw materials and reassemble them into something new and fun, revitalizing the music for a new generation of fans.”

The album runs the gamut from Pink Enemy’s tech-soul take on The Brand New Heavies’ beloved “Never Stop” to Eminem’s head-knock redux of Masta Ace “Slaughterhouse” and, the real stunner, Hot Chip’s transformation of The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” into a sacred hymn. Rick Ross explains: “RMXXOLOGY represents a whole variety of styles. It’s all about creating alternative versions of these classics, rather than remixing them expressly for the dancefloor. After all, the original songs always brought people to the dancefloor anyway.”

But don’t fear: The dancefloor isn’t being neglected. The third single from RMXXOLOGY, “Bust A Move RMXXS”, finds Diplo and Don Rimini manhandling the Young MC classic into club-savvy form. (Already #1 on Beatport and Turntablelab’s digital charts, “Bust A Move RMXXS” will be released on 12″ vinyl on May 22.) And then there’s the album’s lead track, Bobby Evans’ “Freak-A-Zoid Robots (RMXXOLOGY Theme)” an homage to Afrika Bambaataa and old school electro that embodies the album’s past-is-present spirit.

RMXXOLOGY will feature gold sparkle artwork that flips the classic Delicious Vinyl logo in the same way that The Delicious Vinyl All-Stars have re-thunk the original music.