Release Date: Sep 30, 2014
Record label: Ultra
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Club/Dance, Progressive House
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 will.
There’s no denying that EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, has stormed the music industry and given artists of several different genres a reason to sell records again. From the artists that go out of their way to sing EDM (Britney Spears, Rihanna) to the artists that jump on EDM tracks to widen their audience (Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown) EDM has become an extremely accessible cash cow that many artists and producers are quick to milk, as it were. However, with any genre of music, there will always be three main categories: Those that dominate commercially, those that disappoint commercially and those that do neither.
The EDM trend is neither cutting-edge nor ripe for ironic reappropriation and therefore may not be of great interest to Guardian readers. Steve Aoki remains worthy of note, however, having a claim to be the EDM-est of them all. His interests include flinging custard pies at his pie-eyed crowd and riding them in inflatable dinghies, and he’s also about to launch a YouTube series on how to enhance humanity through technological augmentation.
We're all familiar with Steve Aoki — the electro wonder kid best known for hitting all the circuits, playing all major festivals, travelling relentlessly and producing EDM that has, at one point or another, appealed to just about everyone. His latest album, Neon Future I (which, as the title suggests, delves into "future-themed music" — cue robot beeps and splashes of space dust) finds Aoki attempting to appeal to a demographic who find acts like Fall Out Boy still relevant (as evidenced by "Back To Earth," a glitchy, repetitive track with Patrick Stump's musings dribbled across it). The album production is great, sure, but would you expect less from a large-scale DJ who caters to a crowd content with mainstream electro sautéed with the likes of Waka Flocka, Chris Lake and Afrojack? Aoki initially carved a niche with this sound, but we have to wonder when a progression from the safety of this oversaturated market will eventually occur.