The biggest problems existing within mainstream pop music today have little to do with a lack of talent and almost everything to do with a lack of creativity. There hasn’t been a revolutionary change within popular music in a long time now, and some could even make the argument that this decade is due for some experimental fortitude before retreating into the thick pages of the medium’s history book. Fenix & SM1LO don’t claim to be rewriting the rules with their new LP Where We Begin, but for electronica fans, they come close to doing just that in the fourteen unique treatments they give the record’s title track. Pop and electronic music’s commercial factions might be wilting in the summer sun this season, but there’s no denying that the underground is finding new rulers in the form of artists like Fenix, SM1LO, and their well-chosen singer here, Llexa, who together are changing the game for a new generation of sonic pioneers currently emerging from the background.
The first half of Where We Begin (a combo of standard, instrumental, radio and house mixes/remixes) is very aggressive and recklessly rebellious in certain spots. When Llexa sings, all of the attention is directed towards her, and the instrumentation clears out of the front of the master mix in accordance with the lyric-focused structure of the hooks; but, when it’s only Fenix & SM1LO working their melodic magic behind the tables, the tone of the music takes a drastically sharp turn into violent, uncontrollable territory. This doesn’t disrupt the flow into the second half of the record as much as you might think it would; we enter with the “Fenix House Radio Edit” and make our way through layers of distinguished, and often deliberately robotic, rhythms outfitted with tinny bursts of percussion, and though the contrast in the music is really cerebral (to put it mildly), it makes for more interesting substance that anything else currently getting consistent airplay in American and European clubs has contained. It’s not flawless, but Where We Begin is certainly a massive collaborative achievement for Fenix, SM1LO and Llexa together.
It’s a sonic experiment of the grandest variety, but I still feel comfortable describing Fenix & SM1LO’s new album as a divine interpretation only made possible through the chemistry and conditioned efforts of two criminally overlooked players, one of whom is coming out of in an exciting and boldly intuitive European underground scene. Where We Begin is required listening no matter what substyle of electronica you enjoy; it’s got the spacy excess for trip-hop, trance and dubstep fans, slick grooves for mainstream pop addicts, a danceable beat in every one of its mixes placed there especially for club kids, and a bevy of tonal intricacies that aren’t normally found in an EDM release. It might take a couple of listens to completely appreciate, but trust me when I say that every spin you give this LP allows for another opportunity to explore the minds of the two musicians responsible for its creation. This is music with a provocative edge made for an incendiary, and often neglected, fan base that spans the whole world over.