K-391 & Alan Walker feat. Julie Bergan & Seungri – Ignite

“Alan in a room with a floating consciousness influencing him with invisible brainwaves.”

Tim: Easy intros first: Alan (producer) and Julie (female vocals) are both Swedish, and we’ve featured them before; Seungri (male vocals) is Korean, and we haven’t. Now, K391: a Norwegian ‘artist’, and I think it’s best if I quote from his website: “The artist called K-391 conceptualizes your musical getaway in the shape of a unique headset.”

Tom: You what.

Tim: Well, quite. It continues: “Instead of an actual person or group of people, K-391 is an innovative headset that is the living embodiment of its creator, functioning as a portal to another reality. When ignited, K-391 enables your escape from reality, with music as the vehicle and the destination only limited by your imagination.” Sounds a bit wanky, I know, but let’s listen to the music (and watch the demonstrative video) before judging him on that.

Tim: As with many tracks with multiple producers, I have no real idea who’s responsible for what – it’s entirely feasible that the K-391 construct provided the melody and Alan Walker provided the rave music, but equally I could be way, way off and it was Alan in a room with a floating consciousness influencing him with invisible brainwaves.

Tom: Or it could just be marketing junk. I’m going to assume that until proven otherwise.

Tim: Either way, they’ve come up with a perfectly serviceable dance track, with some excellent RAVE portions in it.

Tom: I swear I’ve heard that pre-chorus somewhere before, but yes, I suppose “perfectly serviceable” sums it up. It’s a little bit stock-music in places, but then when you have this many people (and, presumably, one artificial construct) working on a track, perhaps that’s always going to happen.

Tim: And, let’s face it, a video that does a good job of showing off exactly what they mean, and how music can help as a means of escapism. So however silly sounding their introduction is, I won’t begrudge anyone that. Nice work.

Alan Walker, Keala Settle – This Is Me (Alan Walker Relift)

“Does Alan Walker remixing it make it better, worse, or just different?”

Tom: I described the original version of this track as “so polished that you could slip on it and crack your head”, although you were a lot more enthusiastic. The question is: does Alan Walker remixing it make it better, worse, or just different?

Tim: Hmm, see I’d been avoiding this one, largely because it was described to me as ‘not ideal’. But go on then, because it is, I suppose, a question I do want to know the answer to.

Tim: Huh – that is nowhere near as bad as I was worried it would be.

Tom: I’m going for “different” and “worse”. Which is a shame: but the original already had percussion and energy, it knew exactly what it was aiming for, this just confuses matters. Unlike a remix that takes an emotional slow number and makes it INCREDIBLE, or that turns a good key change into a ludicrous key change, this… just adds some beats where there didn’t need to be any.

Tim: Ah, you see this is where having listened to that original 20+ times on repeat gives me more info: there’s more than that. In particular, there’s a whole new lovely countermelody under it (which is what you can hear on the obligatory ‘click to subscribe’ bit at the end).

It’s most notable during the chorus, where previously there was nothing – just the vocal – and it actually does add something to it, in a positive way for me. Sure, there was power to come from having the vocal unencumbered by anything else, but I don’t think this detracts from it at all.

Tom: It’s a shame, because there is, no doubt, a good remix to be had here: it just needs to either be much more transformative, or of a different track from the musical.

Tim: Speaking of which, The Greatest Show recently got added to the playlist at work, and my job satisfaction has subsequently increased by at least 150%.

Alan Walker feat. Noah Cyrus with Digital Farm Animals – All Falls Down

“It’s not quite farmhouse, but it’s close.”

Tom: I’ve long said that there are two signs of a Good Pop Song: do I immediately want to replay it? And can I sing the chorus after one listen?

Tom: Yes to the first; not quite to the second, but given it’s the instrumental chorus that takes the lead here, maybe that’s not too bad.

Tim: And given that you’re judging a dance track by the merits of a pop song, I think that’s very good indeed. Mainly because it is very good indeed.

Tom: This sounds almost like an Avicii track: it’s not quite farmhouse, but it’s close. Lots of harmonies, familiar and friendly key progressions, and just generally pleasant to listen to. Apart from the vocal remixing in the middle eight, this doesn’t sound stereotypically Alan Walker — and maybe that’s a good thing.

Tim: Certainly a bit farmy, yes, and I’m definitely in agreement about the pleasant to listen to. I’m not sure about not stereotypical, though – it does sound like a slight evolution of his sound, which is good, but there’s a lot that’s still very much him even beyond the middle eight – the post-chorus, say, is certainly trademark Alan, and very good for it.

Tom: I think you could lose the first twenty seconds of this — as far as I can tell, “eff you” isn’t the radio edit, so it just sounds a bit strange — but the rest of it’s brilliant.

Tim: Hmm – I’d keep the first twenty seconds because I’ve no problem, though yes I’d swap the “eff you” for a “screw you” any day. So yes, that one word aside it’s brilliant. Anyone know when the album’s out?

Alan Walker – The Spectre

“It’s exactly what I wanted to hear, and it’s got me properly excited”

Tim: New one off the accountant-named DJ, or rather a newly-released reworking of an older track with added vocals, and I’ve got a favour to ask: can you listen to it without watching the video?

Tom: Totally heard “ice cream” in the lyrics that first verse, until “your name” followed it and my brain worked out what I’d heard.

Tim: Thing is, I reckon this track is great. It’s the first solo material he’s put out for a while, and it’s exactly what I wanted to hear, and it’s got me properly excited. Thing is, though: while I know I do like the music, part of me thinks I might be getting more excited because of the video, which I also love – the mix of crowd footage, flames and lasers, choreographed dancers and all that weird processed bits with the planet and eyes and stuff.

Tom: Well, you’re in luck, because I reckon it’s good too — although it dips a bit too much for the second verse. But I think it’s good because it reminds me of two things: first, the ridiculous synth melodies of 90s and 2000s europop, and second, good chiptune music. (The two are related.) That melody is really, really good, and he knows how to produce a floorfiller.

Tim: Good to know. And even now as I listen to it without the video, I can confirm it is very much still a great track.

Incidentally, in you’re wondering as I was, the whole vigilante and/or criminal mask/hoody vibe came from growing up in online gaming communities, where “anyone can put on a mask”. Makes a vague sort of sense, I guess?

Tom: More like “I’ll keep my face off the internet”. Wise man.

Tim: …says the professional YouTuber.

Miley Cyrus – Malibu (Alan Walker Remix)

“…that is not Alan Walker’s trademark style.”

Tom: We described the original as Mostly An Album Track. And despite hearing a lot more through airplay, I stand by that: it’s catchier than I thought it was, but the instrumentation’s dull. Can Alan Walker’s trademark style save it?

Tom: …that is not Alan Walker’s trademark style.

Tim: Hmmm, no.

Tom: I mean, it sounds a bit like him, sure, but the usual staccato synths are mostly gone, replaced by something a bit more generic. It sounds like something you’d find on a discount “fitness workout” compilation CD, rather than something from one of the most popular current DJs.

Tim: Actually, I was all set to agree with you until that post-chorus cropped up, but then I changed my mind. Yes, for the first minute I was ready to dismiss it as exactly you said – generic, and something that might pop up on an Almighty CD a few months from now – but that post-chorus brings something else with it. It’s still not your standard Alan Walker sound, but I’d not go so far as generic.

Tom: Even the ending, which does admittedly start to go Full Alan Walker, is a bit disappointing. I reckon he should have led with that, and then gone bigger from there. As it is, it’s just not enough.

Tim: And with that I do agree.

Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like (Alan Walker Remix)

“Bruno Mars just deciding to freestyle over the quiet bits of an otherwise-OK Alan Walker track.”

Tom: So we’re pretty much agreed that Bruno Mars, while incredibly talented, has recently been making songs with irritating lyrics and kitsch retro-sound. And Alan Walker, while incredibly talented, has basically been making the same song.

Tim: Can’t disagree with either of those, particular with this song’s, for example, “Take a look in that mirror, now tell me who’s the fairest.”

Tom: Together, they are…

Tom: …not together at all?

Tim: No, but I quite like that in this case.

Tom: I say that because this sounds like two separate songs that happen to be played at the same time. Or, rather, Bruno Mars just deciding to freestyle over the quiet bits of an otherwise-OK Alan Walker track.

Tim: Yes, and I’ll tell you why I like it: however terrible the Bruno Mars bits are (or rather, I’ll concede, however irritating I find them), there’s the knowledge that Alan (seriously, still no stage name?) will come along soon to make it better.

Tom: It’s always a risk with remixes, I guess, but still: perhaps at least one of them should have adjusted their style a little?

Tim: Perhaps, as long as the one to do that is Bruno.

Alan Walker feat. Noonie Bao – Alone

“That instrumental is going to take me some time to get used to.”

Tim: New one off Alan (seriously, how is he not using a stage name?), and I’ve a feeling it might prove divisive.

Tim: See, verses are great, and so’s the vocal part of the chorus. But ooh, that instrumental is going to take me some to get used to.

Tom: Okay. Surprising thing here: I liked it. Immediately.

Tim: Huh, curious. See, for me, while we’ve seen that volume dipping style before, the issue is that it’s played here almost as a feature to hang the whole track off, and I’m really struggling to accept it.

Tom: And I didn’t even notice it! Which is because, I think, it’s not just overcompression: it’s more clever than that. The entire staccato instrumental just leaves space for the percussion, rather than being crushed under it.

Tim: The rest of it, I love – the line underneath it, verse and vocal chorus like I said – but I’m really struggling not to be put off by that part.

Tom: I do think the vocals sound a bit like the verses of Bagger 288 though.

Tim: I’d somehow never seen that before. That’s quite something.

Saturday Flashback: Alan Walker – Faded (Tiësto’s Northern Lights Remix)

“Suddenly seems a lot more exciting”

Tim: Last Saturday you pointed out that Roger was a rather mundane name for a singer of a great song, which in turn reminded me that one of the biggest dance tracks of the year was by an act with a name better suited to a middle aged accountant than to a superstar DJ; I then discovered that there are TWO remix EPs of said track, and this here’s a good one.

Tim: You see, I love the way that plays with the speed there.

Tom: That’s a rare technique: I’d expect my brain to reject it for being different, but no, somehow it works.

Tim: I cut to forty seconds in because for some reason the YouTube version gets going at the high speed, which kind of spoils it – when I first heard it it took me quite by surprise, and I was tied between “oh, this is weird” and “oh, this is brilliant”, and I very soon came down on the side of the latter. I don’t know if it’s the novelty of it – I certainly never felt the original was too slow – but it suddenly seems a whole lot more exciting, and I love that.

Tom: Admittedly the synth pads sound a bit like they’re from 90s eurodance, but you know what? I like 90s eurodance. I like this.

Alan Walker – Sing Me To Sleep

“Is it too harsh to call it basically the same song?”

Tim: So Faded ended up being a lot bigger than any track from an act called Alan Walker had any right to be. Sticking with the same vocalist, here’s the follow-up.

Tim: And…is it too harsh to call it basically the same song?

Tom: A bit harsh, certainly. Why do you say that?

Tim: The same synths, the same gentle vocal going into a suddenly calm first half of a chorus and the second half of that with the volume control going all over the place.

Tom: And I really dislike that “dip the synth for the drum hit” effect, by the way. Almost hurts to listen to, no matter whether it’s a deliberate choice or just overcompression.

Tim: See, I think that’s the main similarity – it’s just such a distinctive one that it’s hard to focus on anything else. Because yes, there are differences, of course there are, but I can’t help feeling that six months down the line I’ll have trouble hearing one of the tracks and confidently identifying it. On the other hand, if your debut was a big hit you’d be an idiot to mess with the formula for your immediate follow-up release, and it is a tactic that got Avicii two number one albums, several awards and an amazing LA apartment, so why not?

Tom: Worked for Kygo, too. Although this does seem different enough to me — I absolutely love the quiet pre-chorus, although the rest of it sort of slides past me without really making an impact. Why isn’t that “sing me to sleep” melody the main line? It’s the best part of the song.

Tim: Either way, it’s just as enjoyable the second time round, so I’m all for this as long as we have a bit of variety sometime soon please.

Alan Walker – Faded (Restrung)

“Take a seat, love, everything’ll be alright”

Tim: First there was Fade; then there was Faded. Now, we’ve an orchestral version that’s been released separately; I wouldn’t normally bring a remix of a track we’d already featured, but (a) that original really was fantastic and I’ll take any opportunity to bring it up and (b) just listen.

Tim: Because it completely changes the song. Yes, the melody’s the same, and the vocal’s not even been re-recorded, but it’s suddenly gone from being a big pumped-up jump around floor filler to a relaxing, “take a seat, love, everything’ll be alright” track.

Tom: It is: that’s a really good orchestration. The fact it’s been released by the original artist is a big point in its favour too. It’s not all that big a genre switch given the state of the original, but it’s done well.

Tim: What that mood switch may state about the point of the lyrics of any particular song is up for interpretation, but somehow it’s just as wonderful. Strings, piano, full orchestra, all beautiful.

Tom: But here’s the thing: I wanted just some percussion. Not much, not the synth patches of the original, but a little timpani roll here, or some subtle drums going into the final big chorus would have worked well. Even some other instrument in the lower frequencies would have worked. Without it, it feels a little anaemic — still good, but not as good as it could be.

Tim: Incidentally the (still uncredited) vocalist is called Iselin Solheim; we’ve not featured her here previously, but she’s got some great tracks in her back catalogue.