If imitation is supposed to represent the highest form of flattery, then famous electronic dance music DJs such as Skrillex, Avicii, Major Lazer and Deadmau5 must certainly think DJ Savant is bowing down to them.
The Norwegian’s new album Alchemist offers a surprisingly eclectic mix of sounds and styles, but unfortunately, his attempt to be versatile only translates as a poor man’s attempt at a “Best of EDM” compilation. It is not that Savant isn’t talented; in fact, Alchemist is actually a great listen, full of songs that could become iconic on their own. The problem, however, lies in his lack of a distinguishing style that radiates throughout the whole album.
The opening track, “Mother Earth,” offers a promising start. Pseudo-synth violins strike a nerve in the listener while the beat crafts a perfect tune for those long car rides in L.A. traffic. Set to a perfect pace — not too quick that your head hurts, but not too slow that it makes you fall asleep — “Mother Earth” is a true mark of ingenuity. Yet, just as “Mother Earth” gets the album off to a good start, the songs that follow begin to bring it down. “Sky Is The Limit (feat. Donny Goines)” is a fun track, as is “Sledgehammer,” but the latter is such an obvious rip-off of some of Skrillex’s best work that it’s hard for electronic music devotees to get through it without gritting their teeth.
After all, DJs gain their fame based on their signature styles of music. Fans of Skrillex, for instance, flock to him for his energetic mixture of heartfelt vocals with overpowering, hair-raising, body-tingling dubstep drops, while Calvin Harris and David Guetta are known for their R&B-infused, straight-from-the-Ibiza-beaches techno hits. And it’s almost impossible not to smell a reggae-influenced Major Lazer tune from a mile away. To make your mark as an EDM DJ, you have to become one with your sound, but Alchemist reads more as a textbook manual for popular EDM rather than an expression of who the artist is.
While listening, it’s almost impossible not to ask, “Wasn’t this on [insert electronic DJ here]’s last album?” Between the third song “Sledgehammer” and 13th song “Bananonymous” on the 22-track album, Alchemist offers no breakthroughs. No track truly excites or inspires, which is a must if a fan is going to shell out big money to see you work the decks at a rave. But as soon as “The Horror” starts, Alchemist takes a rare turn. Instead of nosediving into more pseudo-Top 10 EDM plastic, the track shows us just who Savant could be as a musician.
“I’m tired of being human,” is the opening line of the song and from that moment you know that you’re going to be in for an interesting ride. When the track drops into a rock-based beat, the combination of devastating lyrics, electronic production and heavy metal styling manages to excite.
“The Horror” is the kind of a song that could define an artist, but immediately after the track, Savant decides to revert back to his habit of jumbled beats and tunes indistinguishable from one another. His last song could have perhaps attempted to wrap this confusing package together, yet “Sayonara” is another song that appears to have come from nowhere and in no way comes even close to matching any of the other tracks on the album. The strongest EDM DJ can put out an album with songs that are individualistic but also tied together with a common style and atmosphere, which allows its audience to experience the whole album in one sitting. The only continuity that Alchemist has is its devotion to electronic music. Is Savant really producing tracks that he loves, or just ones that he thinks will make him loved? Die-hard fans will certainly agree that listening to the album would not be fatal, yet when there are so many better options at a higher quality, why settle?
But for those who are new to the EDM scene, Alchemist might be a great way to introduce yourself to this strange and fantastic world. Though the genre’s greats, such as Skrillex, Major Lazer and Swedish House Mafia, might be harder for beginners to appreciate right off the bat, Alchemist gives listeners a taste of what’s to come and serve all of your beginner needs.
Hopefully, Savant’s next album will show a mark of growth and a focus on a consistant style and tone. Though artists may change and adapt over the years, they always stay true to their roots. Savant just needs to plant the seeds first.