Electronic dance music, more colloquially known as EDM, is an acquired taste. For the genre’s most elite players, taking the right blend of emotionality and physicality into the studio comes as second nature, and in Where We Begin, the new record from the buzzworthy Fenix & SM1LO, listeners are offered the rare chance to see this effortless expression of talent in action. Where We Begin introduces us to what profoundly gifted musicianship looks like in an electronic setting, and over the course of its fourteen mixes of the same song, a new generation of EDM fans can perhaps better understand the intricacies that come with making a genre of music as rooted in experimentalism, Dada, existential thinking and animalistic emotion as this one undeniably is.
Fenix & SM1LO, who are joined by Llexa in eight of these fourteen tracks, employs classical Europop aesthetics in the design of the choruses we hear in the house and club mixes, but the standard version of “Where We Begin” feels more American to me (undoubtedly due to SM1LO’s influence here). The tonality of the synths isn’t quite there, but their bonding with the beat is seductive in all the right ways. Longtime fans will be able to spot which parts are Fenix’s work and which are those of SM1LO, but regardless of who is responsible for what in Where We Begin, the chemistry is as cool as it gets for modern collaborative efforts.
There’s no showboating, but instead a lot of drawing the most provocative elements out of each other’s instinctive abilities, resulting in stimulating content everywhere we look in this record.
Llexa almost sounds too soft in her approach to the lyrics in the “Club Remix” of “Where We Begin,” which is a lot different from her dynamic attack in the Kali and SM1LO remixes, which wrap-up the tracklist with some sensational pop grooving. I can only imagine how difficult these sessions must have been – deciding where to put this bassline, how to adjust that synth’s melody to be a little more assaultive – but I definitely think that Fenix & SM1LO did a good job of making every one of these tracks sound really unique and originally styled. They were smart to pick a strong vocalist in Llexa, who I had never heard before this record (but intend to hear more of in the future just the same).
Where We Begin could be a one night only-style event for EDM fans just as easily as it could be the start of a beautiful relationship between these individual artists, each of whom earn a lot of additional street cred and points with indie critics through their work on this LP. Personally, I hope that it’s only the first of many hit collaborations that we’re going to see between Llexa, Fenix, SM1LO and Kali, whose remix of “Where We Begin” concludes the album better than anything else could have, because there really isn’t anyone making the kind of thunderous beat magic that they are in Europe, the United States or anywhere else at the moment. At its most simple and straightforward, this is an outstanding record that goes against the grain in a time of unparalleled, unilateral conformity.