Neon Future, Vol. 1

by: Steve Aoki

Bookending his album with quotes from Ray Kurzweil (author, investor, computer scientist, and full-time futurist) and Aubrey de Grey (author, theoretician, and modern-day Ponce de León with some high-level chasing of the fountain of youth), DJ/producer and label owner Steve Aoki presents himself as the thinking man's EDM superstar with his 2014 effort Neon Future 1, and if that wasn't conceptual enough, that "1" in the title means this is the first of a two-part album. All this highbrow-on-the-dancefloor stuff breaks down once Fall Out Boy join for the everyday EDM anthem "Back to Earth," but one track earlier and Aoki makes the abstract-thought-on-ecstasy dream seem possible, enlisting Empire of the Sun vocalist Luke Steele for a title cut which sounds like Kraftwerk getting goofy on helium and Hardwell. Speaking of Ralf and Florian, "Born to Get Wild" sounds like they just hired as their new vocalist and gave up thinking about modernity in favor of getting laid, then "Free the Maddness" breaks the rules of time, combining snotty rapper MGK and old-school synth blasts as if 2 Unlimited and Kid Rock were both having their heyday right f'n now. Minus the Fall Out Boy fluff, all the above tracks are the right mix of clever, slick, polished, pleasing, and punky, which doesn't happen very often. Add shoe-in floor fillers where party rapper (Kid Ink, Waka Flocka Flame) meets prime EDM earworm ("Delirious [Boneless]," "Rage the Night Away") and the album has its fair share of highlights, but putting the Google guy on one end, and the guy who will save us all on the other, suggests what's in between might be all Pynchon and Hawking. It ain't, but Katy Perry, Fergie, and David Guetta albums aren't either. Until Diddy does acid at Dartmouth, this vibrant jumble of audio adrenaline with flecks of deep thought is, at the very least, an intriguing stab at taking stadium EDM experience somewhere bigger, and better for the soul. ~ David Jeffries

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