French EDM artists Clement Aichelbaum, Damien Vandesande, and Jonathan Illel, better known as “dOP,” have been making music with one another for over a decade. Before they were the Deep House artists they are today, the three experimented in genres such as rock and roll, reggae, and blues, and around six years ago, the three shifted their energies into composing EDM. Their first releases came about in the mid 2000’s on labels MilnorModern and Circus Company, and since then, the trio has made a name for itself through its unique and often outlandish stage performances and near-constant touring. “dOP” is also one to flaunt its friends. The trio has collaborated with other electronic musicians such as Nôse, Aquarius Heaven, Sety, and many others, and in 2009, the group released a series of remixes for labels Electrochoc, Brownswood, and Synchrophone. I had the opportunity to listen to their newest release, “Kisses” EP, and found that the music walks a strange line between eerily distant and overly personal.
The opening track “Your Feelin’ (Orignial Mix) feat. PillowTalk,” starts out with nothing but a clap track and bass drum. Within a minute, a smooth, spacey synth line softly emerges from beneath the beat, setting a subdued, mysterious atmosphere. At one minute, Pillow Talk takes center stage begging listeners to “release your thoughts, release your tension.” At two minutes the vocals drop out, and the music solidifies into a funky, hypnotic dance groove; the bass line is bouncy and prominent, and a celebratory synth line peaks through every few bars to keep the listener on their toes. Suddenly, the musical energy drops, handing attention once again over to PillowTalk. And it begins again, the same buildup of ideas, leading to a similar musical peak, and the eventual deconstruction of individual music elements, marking the end of the song.
Overall, the music flows well from one idea to the next, but tends towards redundancy. On the other hand, I was impressed by how streamlined the music came off. That is, I found that it drew solely from one or two genres (Deep House and maybe a dash of Old School Hip-Hop) and used its familiarities with these genres to create very complete sounding music.
The second track, “Kisses (Original Mix),” takes a similar, vocal -heavy approach, but the overall result is vastly different. The track opens with synth shaker and synth tambourine, which establish a nice percussive texture at the base of the music. Enter the washy synth and vocal sample saying “Kiss, kiss, kiss again,” around thirty seconds, creating a subtle, but increasingly intimate ambience. Hushed synth chords are heard moaning in the background just before the main vocal line begins to whisper in the listener’s ear. The voice is speaking, not singing, gently guiding listeners through the music. The voice quietly and poetically criticizes listeners, “you just want to drink,” and then himself, “I don’t say anything important.” The chorus feels more personal in nature, and perhaps when he sings, “thanks for everything, thanks for the love, thanks for the pain that makes us grow up,” he is addressing someone in particular.
On the whole, this track has a lot of commentary regarding why people go to clubs, or why people listen to EDM in the first place. Furthermore, I like that the self-awareness of the track does not come off as flashy or pretentious. The music is subdued, rarely growing past a dull roar, and the resulting mood is sad and regretful. Listening to this track did not make me want to get up and dance. Rather, it made me want sit by myself in the corner of a room and drink.
The last track on the EP, “Kisses (Instrumental)” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the same music as track two but without the voice whispering into listener’s ears. I suppose this lets the listener focus more on the music, which actually has some nice atmospheric touches that were ignored previously. For example, the occasional synth piano tone that punctuates the atmosphere and the soft bursts of white noise create a very pleasant, dreamy atmosphere. Ultimately however, this track is not nearly as successful as track two. I feel it’s necessary to have the quiet commentary in order to make this music engaging, because, in all reality, the music is really dependant on the vocals in this track, due to it’s lack of complexity and static energy throughout.
On the whole, “Kisses” EP is a good collection of music, but much of it is forgettable. I appreciated the simple, genre-focused approach, but ultimately, much of the music is nothing I haven’t heard before. Furthermore, the EP is too dependant on vocals, as “dOP” doesn’t do much of a good job in creating energy arcs, keeping many of the tracks feeling static. On the other hand, track two, “Kisses (Original mix),” has something unique to offer. I like the intimate (and slightly uncomfortable) atmosphere that’s created, and the lyrics have a lot to say about EDM culture. In the end, I’d like to hear more from these guys, but in the future I hope they spend more time constructing their sonic atmospheres and energy builds so that the vocals will be a supplementary addition, rather than the driving force, behind their music.