Danny L Harle is absolutely nuts. He is on the front line, pushing unfashionable EDM forward with a bubblegum bass edge, to an uncomfortably jubilant extreme. Across Harlecore he is joined by other artists under alter egos (pictured in the artwork) who change up the vibe and approach of the LP with their own distinctive styles. There is aggressive, sugar rush hype man “MC Boing” (Lil Data); ambient meditation tape generator “DJ Ocean” (Caroline Polacheck); mosh pit party synth provider “DJ Mayhem” (Hudson Mohawke); and Harle’s solo persona, early 2000’s gym music fan “DJ Danny”.
Bouncy alias MC Boing’s cuts are the most potent and divisive. The crazed, pounding vocal style sounds designed to be blasted out of large speakers to customers on unregulated fairground roller-coasters. The sort of place you’d find undetected, underage drinking and sprung out teenagers on cheap drugs. ‘Boing Beat’ almost pushes you too far, too soon with its relentless rap/shout but stays on the right side of the line. ‘Piano Song’ temporarily softens this MC work with a gorgeous piano melody which, as you’d expect, morphs into a massive rave tune. ‘Car Song’ takes great pleasure in lining up the persistent, jabbing vocals with similarly performed synths, driving home the extreme nature of the track.
DJ Ocean’s two ambient tracks are not just enjoyable segues away from the more manic sides of this release, they provide necessary moments of calm to quell your over-adrenalised body, as you make your way through the LP. They are perfectly sequenced to get the most out of the party music that lines the rest of this 38 minutes. The dramatic, pained, slow motion vocals are not a million miles away from Björk, beautifully obscured by high pitched drones and sparkling synth textures.
DJ Danny gently warms you up with fuzzy, simmering synths of ‘Where Are You Now’ which give way to a careful build up and carefree, pounding beat drop. The best track on the record is the sentimental ‘On A Mountain’ which plays many of the same tricks but in an even more multi-layered and sophisticated way. The vocals are sentimental without being mawkish. “I can see your heart’s been broken too”. The scatty, hyperactive synths which arrive in the final third are immensely exciting. The bright, triumphant synth melody on ‘Do You Remember’ will mentally place you in a packed gay club at 2am (not very 2021). ‘Take My Heart Away’ recalls turn of the century club anthems from acts like Vengaboys or Aqua, though it’s not quite as saccharine.
DJ Mayhem’s songs are the most overtly playful. ‘Interlocked’ delivers phat, beefy beats and melodic synth bass lines that are like a breeze block to the face. This and its prominent playful vocal make it another essential cut. ‘All Night’ and ‘Shining Stars’ have less personality and warmth than the rest of this album’s offering, but they don’t drop the ball, still providing their fair share of energy.
Across this LP, Harle and his collaborators have delivered four distinctive EP’s worth of material. These would work well as self-contained records, but smooshed together sound even more vibrant and exciting than they would otherwise. Their differences highlight the skill and intricacies in Harle’s work. If you are annoyed by music delivered with a knowing wink then I wouldn’t bother with Harlecore, but if you are intrigued by the sound of this manic, bizarre form of self-expression you should dive straight in – even if you are typically turned off by EDM.
Harlecore is out now on Mad Decent.