Russian progressive house don Arty makes his artist album debut with the imaginative Glorious, released via Insomniac Records, the recently launched imprint from Insomniac in partnership with revered label Interscope Records. An album two years in the making, it bears a significant awareness for Arty: You never get a second chance to make your first pop/mainstream impression. And what an impression it is. Dipping his creative brush into sounds as diverse as ‘70s pop, traditional big-room house, and 2015-era trap, he presents an album where no two tracks sound the same. Instead, they paint a picture in full of a man-as-artist who aims to exceed the sum of his very diverse parts.
Blissful alt-pop vocals slide into a comfortable yet booming build and cascading breaks against a bubbling and insistent synth to make Glorious opener “Shadow” feel unique, but somehow still natural in the progressive house genre. For those unfamiliar with what makes Arty a production star on the rise, it’s all right here. There’s an awareness of direction, an ease in creation, and an ability to discover an uncharted route in an otherwise overcrowded lane.
“Glorious” ft. Blondfire
Guitar licks and a glistening pop vocal dominate the mix, which remains airy enough to allow the production to feel like it’s doing everything and nothing, all at once. Kicks slide into the mix, unfettered by any other part of the production, and the track excels in successfully blurring the line between Top 40, vocal-driven pop and dancefloor-ready jam. As the album’s title track, expect a ton of remixes of this cut; given how pristine the mixing and mastering is, all of them should sound amazing to different degrees.
“Braver Love” ft. Conrad Sewell
Though not the intention, Elton John-style organs and a brassy female vocal recall John’s duet with Kiki Dee on their 1976 version of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” Similarly, “Braver Love” is not necessarily a dance single, but more so a great song that can be danced to. Banging big-room kicks and heavy filtering on the piano melody amplify the track’s modern yet timeless feel. A giant peak-hour jam, it’s worthy of as many rinses as possible.
“Up All Night” ft. Angel Taylor
Fanciful songwriting and booming vocals punctuate a production that has a locomotive feel. “Up All Night” is majestic and does all sorts of amazing things, the filtered synths shooting through the bottom end at the three-minute mark, serving as a focal point. The vocal performance is a highlight, too, and because of its energy, the potential for a trance remix—allowing vocal and track to commingle—is high.
“Stronger” ft. Ray Dalton
The cracks in Ray Dalton’s vocal are the kind of thing that are usually fixed in post-production, but they give “Stronger” the color to separate it from so many other big-room house productions featuring a booming male vocal of late. The not-so-vocal sections of the track feature the zipping, house-style funk familiar to Avicii circa his “My Feelings for You” era—a club-ready sound that works in larger spaces sorely missing from dance right now.
Dub-added techno is hot in the streets if you listened to the Chemical Brothers’ Born in the Echoes album single “EML Ritual.” “Inertia” is a certain dancefloor exciter, and the way the breaks snap against the bassline adds to the track’s overall feel. Slide whistle samples, warping synths, and the eventual inclusion of a proper techno break just make this production overwhelming in the best possible manner. This is a 4am anthem somehow shoehorned onto an album of a big-room heavyweight, and it might be the best-produced track of the lot.
“Closer to You” ft. Clarence Coffee Jr.
The minor key squelches all over the synths in this track don’t diminish the feels of Daft Punk’s “Da Funk” in this one. The vocals here are an added touch, separating Arty’s production from its clear progenitor. Ideally, there’s a music executive somewhere that would see to it that Arty and, say, Justice would make something happen together. With rumors that the legendary Ed Banger electro band is back in the studio, anything could be possible.
The suavely delivered and highly melodic “Last Kiss” scores via a trilling piano and ‘70s-pop kick drum that’s ever-so-subtly dampened. Feeling like a modern remix of something straight out of the Time Life – AM Gold collection in the best way, it’s possibly the biggest breakout track of the album. With Arty’s wide-lens take on pop music, one can only hope he gets some high-profile pop production opportunities through how far-reaching his vision is on this album.
“Young Again” ft. Bermuda Star
The timelessness of youth as a metaphor for a great night at a festival is a well-worn trope in current EDM pop trends. Arty walks into the belly of this monstrous beast with “Young Again.” There are moments on this album that please the expectations of mainstream pop ears, tracks built for the festival sets. We’re not yet at the place where everyone is making expectation-shattering albums à la Porter Robinson’s Worlds, but we end up with tons of good material like this.
“Feel Your Love”
The bounce, bang and swirl effect on this track is really quite something to take in as the song reaches its peak and full execution. Arty uses his mixing formula for busier tracks here to perfection, and it does a twist, turn and stab against the bassline that’s exciting and progressive. Throw a female vocal on top of everything, and it’s a gigantic thing of beauty that demands a deep listen; get completely lost in its dancefloor excellence, too.
A chord-changing, undulating synth mixed with a bright, major-key melody, puts pressure on a simmering bassline. Sans 8-bit fancifulness, this track aims at that iconoclastic and aforementioned Porter Robinson atmospheric vibe. The wide and thick breaks at the end feel like a moombahton edit of Avicii’s “Levels,” which make the track feel more like playful exploration than grandiose epic. On a dancefloor, this feels like a space to build into a section of music delivering something more.
“Waste Your Time” ft. Clarence Coffee Jr.
More pure pop ballad than emotive dance groove, “Waste Your Time” features a double-time skip into a heaving synth drop, which is kind of amazing under the vocal hook and provides a knockout punch of an earworm. The 808s are stomped down so deep into the sub-bass, it’s almost like this track has a desire to be a trap anthem, but it isn’t its only intention in creation. As much an exploration as a creative statement on repetitive trap ballads, Arty takes a step into future bass that may warrant a few more.
It’s 2015, so a Russian progressive house don with forward-thinking pop tastes producing warped synth bass-trap anthems isn’t out of the question. Arty runs the trap, and in adding a stomping and swaying rhythm to his production, he actively attempts to make what could likely be his one and only “trap anthem” something memorable with “Wicked.” The ambient melodic sections provide a counterpoint to the storming and wicked energy and flesh out what is a left-field track that again expands expectations of Arty as an artist and as a producer.
“Poison for Lovers”
Vocal layering reminiscent of ‘90s-era Sarah McLachlan on danceable pop singles is a welcome presence here; the chilling, cinematic-style synth breaks are fantastic. The decision to opt out of making this too directly pop is great. As a track that is a point-counterpoint between an ethereal female vocal and chilling bassline, “Poison for Lovers” works.
Glorious from Arty is available now via Insomniac Records/Interscope Records.
Marcus K. Dowling wholeheartedly believes no Arty, no party. Follow him on Twitter.