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Martin Garrix: 7 tracks, 7 days

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Electronic musician Martin Garrix rose to prominence in 2013 with the release of the dance floor hit “Animals.” Recently crowned by DJ Mag’s Top 100 poll as the youngest-ever number one DJ in the world, Garrix, 20, has already had a prolific year, having released the melodic “Now That I’ve Found You,” the vociferous “Lions In The Wild,” the endearing “Oops” and the smooth “In The Name of Love” on his own STMPD RCRDS label. It was a welcome surprise to the world of electronic music when Garrix announced that in concurrence with the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), he would be releasing seven tracks in seven days.

  1. Martin Garrix & Mesto – WIEE

First impressions: “WIEE” begins with a standard house beat that creates a danceable mood. The melody in the drop whistles lazes above swelling pads and chords. Garrix’s music production skill becomes clear in the drop. The full-sounding chords alternate well with the punctuated melodic plucks, with the track fading out under the exclamations of “WIEE!!”

Stylistically, “WIEE” is reminiscent of the melodic style tested in Garrix’s “Forbidden Voices” and “Oops.” It is an uplifting brand of progressive house music that imparts a floating, euphoric feeling. The sweeping pads and melodies of the music seem angelic, yet that character is somewhat altered through spatterings of electronic chords. The song evokes images of  a cartoonish blue sky patched with neat, square white clouds; it is heaven facetiously reimagined in 8-bit. The melodic plucks, while aggressive, are neither violent nor disruptive – instead, the syncopations, tipsy and playful, bound among the clouds.

  1. Martin Garrix – Sun Is Never Going Down (feat. Dawn Golden)

Dawn Golden’s deep vocals open this generic, pop-ish dance track. After laying the base down with the smooth-voiced refrain (“sun is never going down…”), Garrix re-introduces the main melody in the buildup, in what amounts to a rather normal progressive house drop: pounding drums on every beat with a spacey melody on top. No one will criticize this track for its production, but its inventiveness is surely wanting.

“Sun Is Never Going Down” is undeniably well-made, but its generic structure is unsatisfying. The good artist will stay within these formulaic confines – but the great artist takes those boundaries, molds them a little bit here and there, chips at the walls of that enclosure a little more and, paying careful mind to the fickle tastes of the listener, progresses the art form. Garrix has done this multiple times with his music already, but “Sun Is Never Going Down” is merely good, not great work. It leaves the listener with no more than a catchy melody. Hardly a standout.

  1. Martin Garrix & Jay Hardway – Spotless

The airy plucks and the vocal motif fit well with the chords. The drop sounds heavy. I’m not especially drawn to the melody, as it comes off as a generic house music riff. The second half of the track is markedly similar to the first – it feels, disappointingly, as if Garrix and Hardway decided to copy-paste the first half of the track.

This is not the first time that Martin Garrix has worked with Jay Hardway, having produced together “Wizard” in 2013. Jay Hardway’s driving, catchy melodies mesh well with Garrix’s adept control of musical timbre. The buildup segues naturally into the drop, with a subtle vocal motif surfacing occasionally from the fogginess of the murky chords. Airy plucks reverberate in space, leading up to an anthemic drop. The rhythmic progression of the melody is interesting: simplicity and complexity alternate synchronously – soaring gracefully at times; dive-bombing the scene of the music elsewhere. It is an epic scene of battle, drawn in red and white ligne claire, between two enigmatic figures, shrouded in chords, melodies and mystery.

  1. Martin Garrix – Hold On And Believe (feat. The Federal Empire)

“Hold On And Believe” places in the category of simple, orderly music. I like the vocals enough: nice and light. The guitar samples, too, are lighthearted. The acoustic piano is deep and rich, the track sounds huge without being overwhelming. The catchy melody is excellent, and the melodic plucks mirroring the melody are excellent as well – but it all resolves in a straightforward manner.

“Hold On And Believe” displays an iota of the creativity that we expect from Garrix. Lyrically, the song sends a message of personal strength and friendship. The chords reflect this nicely – the progression ascends, and then resolves itself succinctly. The melody is straightforward, as well – there are no extraneous syncopations. It imparts upon the track a resolute sense of answering questions, of finding a path. Within the confines of a standard dance track, Garrix manages to create emotion – this feeling of perseverance and continuation – that I find compelling. Still, the track lacks structural and musical innovation.

  1. Martin Garrix & Julian Jordan – Welcome

The intro features a groovy bass, and the sampled metallic plucks come together to give the track a mysterious, airy atmosphere. Suddenly, we are thrown into a heavy, industrial-sounding bass house jam. The sound design is excellent, assimilating dubstep influences into modulating basslines. The chord progression for the buildup is intriguing; it doesn’t quite resolve, but rather swells further.

There is something abstract about a description of “Welcome,” given its technological and complex sound. This track qualitatively epitomizes the inhuman, artificial side of electronic music, with its robotic sounds and chromatic chords. “Welcome” opens with an organic wash of sound, as plucks and vocals gasp for air amidst the powerful bass. Then the drums invade the soundscape, catching the listener unaware, and then every note, every drum hit, every sound that reaches the ears is quantized with a surgical precision, abruptly creating a technological feel within the track. There are no rhythmic deviations – no syncopations in this sonic world of order. Voices and screams distantly perturb the wall of sound to no avail. The voices culminate in a singular word, spoken clearly: “Welcome!” And now the screams fade away.

  1. Martin Garrix & Matisse & Sadko – Together

I am initially tempted to criticize “Together” as formulaic: It follows a generic breakdown-buildup-drop structure. Somehow, Garrix and Matisse & Sadko still manage to inject refreshing ideas into the music. The track opens with a beautiful and clear piano riff. The vocals might be a little too artificial, but they are beautifully smooth. The lyrics themselves, however, are tacky. The chord progression, driven by the piano, is generic, but harmonious. An overwhelming sense of togetherness dominates the track. Although this track could be criticized as formulaic, the musical motifs are still refreshing.

“Together” has an uplifting feeling distinct from the cutesy cartoonishness of “WIEE”; it is a more mature rendition of heartfelt camaraderie. The vocals float lazily above the wash of piano chords, culminating in a spacious melody. Distance is thematic: The track begins with the distant sounding piano and vocals, and here our imaginary protagonist of the song begins to drift on the frozen river, aimlessly, alone in a spacious cave of blue and ice. Walls of ice and of sound close in – and the seduction of the melody, drawing near, grows irresistible, as the vocals acclaim in exhilaration: “Together! Together! Together!”

  1. Martin Garrix & Florian Picasso – Make Up Your Mind

First impressions: I very much enjoy the vocal sample: “make up your mind” endlessly repeated. The drop is exquisite – the powerful kick drum remains undisturbed by the dominant urban yet rave-esque synth, and contrasts well with that sample on the downbeat. What is that sample? Strings, or a forgotten vintage synth? Here comes the breakdown: It sounds melodically, unmistakably Garrix – the timbre of the chords and emotion of the melody matches his ineffable musical fingerprint.

“Make Up Your Mind” charts new ground for both artists, especially Garrix. The music is boisterous, exploding onto the musical canvas from the first beat as a voice proclaims: “make up your mind, make up your soul!” The beat feels lopsided, yet driven, a hallmark of the Latin-like tom motif. The buildup is powerful – the indistinct yelling and the frantic percussion creates a compelling swell of sound. Little imagination is required for this song – the song screams and shouts directly to your ears, impelling the listener to pay heed to its story: its rage, its excitement and its jubilation.

 

Contact Trenton Chang at tchang97 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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