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Boys
Noize: Mayday (Boysnoize Records)

Alexander
Ridha has been in the game a long, long time now, and as one of the
contemporary driving forces of more caustic electro-house dance music
in the early 00s, it’s hard to fault him for still infusing his
‘floor-ready productions with plenty of that muscly EBM and discord.
But what of another full album of tracks from this act that’s well known
for infectious singles and gnarly remixes? Mayday feels like a well-earned expanse on the catalogue that’s preceded it.
Listeners who associate BN with that distorted, grinding
electro-house that sort of preceded the American EDM boom — artists
such as Alter Ego, Justice, Digitalism, and the like — will not be
surprised to hear some more of that on Mayday, but it’s hardly the
full picture. “Euphoria” has a bit of late 90s fidget about it,
with a choppy organ hook that’s funky as hell.

“Overthrow”’s
prolonged breakdown (complete with a cheesy MC sample, “I can break
it down”) will no doubt play well to fans of the proverbial drop,
but it’s also a really successful aping and convergence of the
underground and the mainstream, to my ears. Those detuned sawtooth
synths are irresistible to me, even while it’s big beat drum loops
recall the earliest Fatboy Slim, tempered by fatter, fuller
production that reminds me of The Hacker. Ridha is smart to change up
some of his beatmaking, with the bulbous, fuzzy kick of the title
track staggered like a chugging machine, falling somewhere between
the swagger of grime and the industrial-strength wallop of Diamond
Version or Lucy. That same heavy-handed lurch applies to “Revolt,”
a convergence of big beat grandeur and industrial groove. It’s a nice
complement to more pop-infused cuts like “Dynamite,” a
collaboration with Benga carried high by a vocal refrain and a
thick, stabby FM bass.

“Rock the Bells” feels like Paul’s
Boutique on steroids, chunky and beefy and eventually writhing with
the slippery grind of a distorted 303. Those coarse acid sounds are
peppered throughout Mayday, but there are other left turns such as
the electroclash monotony of “Would You Listen” or the Liaisons
Dangereuses homage of “Los Niños” (and perhaps a nod to Skinny
Puppy’s Cleanse Fold and Manipulate in its choice of samples).

What’s
most satisfying about Mayday is that Ridha avoids being pigeonholed
in any particular corner of aggressive dance music and instead
manages to do all of it, with many tracks sounding quite unlike one
another. And yet through the fidelity of his productions, his sonic
palette, and his knack for toothy basslines, it all works even as it
nods in the direction of the cheesiest EDM and club jams at times. It
doesn’t feel as joyless or airless as many of the cuts on his last
full-length, 2012’s Power, but its obvious flirtations with pop music
may be a turn-off for fans of his rawer sounds. The production on
Mayday is just as laden with details and layers, but it feels
clearer, more balanced, less tangled up in itself. It’s a slick and
smart walking of the line between the more earnest underground and
big arena mass appeal, often oscillating from something edgier to
something glossier and back again.

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