Different Faces puts DJ at forefront of dance music

With electronic dance music beginning to dominate today’s popular music charts, it is no surprise that DJs with relative success thus far are now gaining more recognition.

EDM · As electronic dance music has grown in popularity, so has DJ and producer Felix Cartal who mixes vocal and non-vocal tracks on his new release Different Faces in order to create a more diverse, eclectic sound. - Photo courtesy of Scott Loudoun

This is especially the case for DJ and producer Felix Cartal, whose new full-length album, Different Faces, dropped Tuesday.

Though Cartal might be an unfamiliar name to many, he has a prolific body of work. Cartal has two releases off star-DJ Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label — the Skeleton EP (2009) and full-length album Popular Music (2010) — and has also done remixes for popular EDM artists including Etienne de Crecy, John Dahlback, Wolfgang Gartner and MSTRKRFT. His work has also been remixed by the likes of Harvard Bass, John Dahlback and Laidback Luke.

Different Faces, however, marks Cartal’s transition toward producing tracks geared toward a wider audience while keeping elements of the electro-house genre that are prominent in his older songs, including the hits “World Class Driver” and “The Joker.” Cartal’s versatility is exemplified by the contrasting beats and styles he employs on Different Faces, creating an amalgam of both Top 40-esque beats and tracks that retain his original instrumental electronic sound.

In an appeal to EDM newcomers with an affinity for vocal dance tracks, Cartal offers tracks like “H.U.N.T.,” “Higher,” “Don’t Turn on the Lights” and “Black to White,” which sound as if they were produced to be dance club tracks. “H.U.N.T.,” for example, features a repetitive yet catchy electronic beat and pulsing bass in combination with the growling vocals of former dance punk band Death From Above 1979 singer Sebastien Grainger. “H.U.N.T.” is definitely a contender to be a summer smash hit in the electronic scene, especially with a chorus that flaunts the sing-along line “H-U-N-T / Are you with me?”

The fourth track on the album, “Higher,” also features dance-punk influences, here courtesy of British band New Ivory. “Higher” works as a continuation of the growly, punk male vocal stylistics featured on “H.U.N.T.,” only here layered on top of a fast-paced electronic beat.

The album’s first single “Don’t Turn On The Lights” is also noteworthy. The song shows off Cartal’s interpretation of a poppy, mainstream electro beat and features the powerhouse androgynous vocals of Polina, who has also contributed to tracks by Kaskade and Aoki. It’s an easily danceable track that should be a staple in any party or club playlist.

The album’s recently released third single, “Black To White,” impresses. The track starts off with a piano riff oddly similar to that in MSTRKRFT’s “Heartbreaker” and develops an infectious, bass-heavy beat. “Black and White” is another song that seems to have major potential to be a club hit. It’s topped off by the talents of Miss Palmer, the vocalist on Aoki and Afrojack’s track “No Beef,” who here lays down vocals that syncopate beautifully with the beat.

In addition to Cartal’s obvious talent on the production of club-worthy tracks, he also shines in non-vocal house tracks — including “Triple Deke,” “Domo,” and “The Race” — that diverge from the more mainstream sound featured in the rest of the album and form an aural balance.

“Triple Deke” strays away from safe, power-pop electro and touches on Cartal’s electro roots with a touch of trance. The track hearkens back to Cartal’s classic bass drops heard in older tracks like “The Joker,” but with a new edge that could be compared to a cross between the sound of Calvin Harris and The Bloody Beetroots: a heavy electronic beat with lighter, funky synthesizers layered on top.

“Domo,” the second single released in February, follows up a straightforward electro-house build up with a completely unexpected drop that shows off Cartal’s original style of production. Though there are no vocals on this track, it has the potential to be a big hit wherever Cartal drops it live.

Cartal aims to please old fans and new alike with Different Faces and successfully crosses the lines of classic electro, mainstream EDM and dance punk. He does an effective job and cleverly uses different resources, featuring vocalists from various backgrounds and crafting unique-sounding beats throughout the album.

Producers, DJs and electronic music aficionados alike will find it in their best interest to invest in Cartal’s upcoming release: After all, Different Faces is a collection of some of the hottest new electro tracks.