Introduction: I have returned.
Looks like we’ve got another new artist today. So, I guess that calls for an artist introduction. This ten-song album serves as the debut of Bliss, one of my top 3 psytrance artists, the other being the subject of my first review, Infected Mushroom and the other being an artist I have yet to introduce. I’ll save him for later. For now, I’d rather focus on Bliss.
Bliss – The Love Hack (6.25): What is the love hack? The secret to fulfilling our desire for acceptance in this world? Well, it could be something existential like I’ve just described (I do tend to latch onto such interpretations) but it could also just as easily be about Bliss’ secret to making music that I love. A mysterious hack indeed. Well, perhaps not entirely mysterious. I am able to put into words why I like this guy.
This song, as well as many of the other songs on this album focus a lot on the classic psytrance vibes, similar to the Infected Mushroom albums I’ve reviewed so far, though this came out shortly after the early Infected Mushroom years. That being said, Bliss is still recognizably different from Infected Mushroom, concentrating more on throwing heavy energetic basslines into the mix rather than the more mysterious soundscapes that Infected Mushroom focused on in early years.
This song is a decent introduction to Bliss’ style, mostly due to the fact, that I don’t have too much exceptionally special to talk about it. It simply fits in with the rest of the usual Bliss soundscape. It has the grooviest possible psytrance bassline and a drive that pushes the song forward, but I don’t feel it does all that much from point A to point B. There are a few moments that stand out in the second half. The build-up around three quarters in takes on a slightly different chord progression than the rest of the song and leads into a good finale, but the rest of the build-up just wasn’t exceptional.
It sounds like I’m a bit harsh, but there’s just so many other tracks that will display Bliss’ skill better. This beginning is just a slight bit underwhelming in comparison to what’s to come.
Bliss – No Gravity (7.5): So, by the title, I would assume that this song is going to float, but that begs the question. Why does this track have such a good bassline grounding it? The last bassline was definitely groovy, but this one seems to dig a slight bit deeper somehow. While never truly the main focus of this song beyond the first couple minutes, the bassline always makes its presence known, even if it has to compete for my attention?
Which brings us to the competition. It all starts about a quarter into the track, with the development of some glitchier bassy instruments that develop over time. They eventually trade the spotlight with some more melodic synths along with some whispering of the song’s title: No Gravity. And while the bassline may have originally defied the idea of lacking gravity, the synth introduced about three quarters in after the whispering ends serves as the true weightless highlight to the song, easily losing one’s consciousness briefly into the song, before emerging with a few other new melodies that bring the song to an eventual close. This song is definitely more of a journey and I feel it’s definitely well deserving of the eight minutes it’s given.
Bliss – Upside Down (7.5): This song’s introduction is the strangest beginning that this album has to offer. The first thirty seconds have a bit of a minimalistic feel to it. With one oscillating tone slowing down to reveal a synth that must perform a solo until the rest of the song has a chance to catch up. It’s an odd introduction to be sure, but it definitely leads to an interesting technological build-up filled with acceleration and a healthy amount of distorted variation on that original first melody.
And really, that distorted variation makes up the majority of what this song has to offer. Not saying that that’s a bad thing and that the song needs more, because Bliss does plenty with said variation that, like No Gravity, makes the song worth its eight-minute runtime. I think my favorite area has to be the section surrounding the three quarters mark of the song, as it features the most drum variation and serves to be one of the more interesting moments the song has to offer. And there was definitely some stiff competition from the odd beginning to the moment in the end where the song deconstructs itself into oblivion (Yes, the conclusion is even weirder than the introduction. Go figure.)
Bliss – The Rhythmus Gene (7.75): And now for the titular track of this album: The Rhythmus Gene. And this psytrance bassline does definitely do a good job of proving that Bliss has rhythm is in his blood. In his DNA.
In his genes.
But don’t worry about that. One doesn’t necessarily need to have rhythmus genes within themselves to enjoy this song. As the vocal sample says, “Things don’t always go as you expect… Sometimes, it’s more fun to throw in a few more unplanned twists.” This song does just that in the second half with a good focus on an entirely separate bassline, this one less traditional for a psytrance song. Instead of the usual rapid constant groove, this new bassline has a bouncier feel to it and it’s accompanied by a long rising tone that allows the song to build up. The preceding more traditional psytrance half was good as well, but I feel like it’s this second bassline and the way it meshes with the rest of Bliss’ psytrance style that really makes this song work.
Bliss – Dirty Boy (7.25): Oh yay. Dirty Boy is one of those songs. I mean it’s not a surprise, considering the song’s title, but the vocals used in this particular song are a slight bit seductively suggestive. It’s not a deal breaker, and I’m sure this style appeals to some people, but it’s just not for me. Thankfully, her odd moans and whispers aren’t incredibly present throughout most of the song and the rest of this song’s content is actually some of the best the album has to offer (outside of a couple of other songs). The bassline, as usual, is at a maximum groove factor and there are some good synths here and there that seem to be a bit common in Bliss’ debut album.
The best parts of this song have to be the guitar that plays throughout the first half. Unfortunately, it becomes a bit absent as the song continues and focuses more on this lady’s speed preferences and some twist contest that we’ve all been waiting for, but there is thankfully a bit of an extra funky groove to take over and keep the song interesting. It doesn’t truly feel the same as the guitar, but it still keeps the song fun and enjoyable up until the last thirty second outro that allows the guitar to lead us out with
I still think I’d like it a bit more without the vocals though. Just my preference.
Bliss – Pause (6.75): I’m going to be brutally honest here, a lot of this song sounds so very similar. And repetitive. There’s very few moments where this song decides to deviate from the psytrance norm (though the second half is lightly better), which does make it a slight bit less enjoyable to listen to, but thankfully, the moments that do stand out are definitely quite enjoyable. Interestingly, each of these moments are relatively evenly spaced with one at the beginning, one in the middle and one in the end. Let’s take a look.
First off, it’s important to note that the first few seconds of a track can create an image in the mind that will affect the general tone of the song. This particular song opts for the creep factor focusing a lot on eerie ambience, simple melodies and an echoing artifact introduced not long before the song pick up. This intro serves as one of the better portions of the songs, before it reverts to some usual not all that risky psytrance with a cameo of the original creep melody (which seems to lose a slight bit of its effect with the bassline, but it keeps the song alive.
The next divergence from the usual occurs when the song begins to slow down, accompanied by a vocal sample of those very two words I’d just mentioned “Slow Down.” And for the namesake of this song, it slows down to a pause, starting the track off from the zero. Allowing a bit of a build-up from nothing in a way. I mean the song did just screech to halt (or pause, if you will) and left the song with a second or two of silence. Anything from there would be at least some sort of build-up from literally nothing.
Anyway, the build-up from nothing does, as you’d expect, serves as my favorite part of the song. With the bassline and drumbeat hidden away softly into the background, the other distorted slightly bassy instruments get a chance in the spotlight slowly building up to a point where the song can return to its full psytrance form, with a few more good moments throughout as the song continues to build with some variety with the instruments from the build-up as well as a few notes that slide up in pitch to bring a bit more energy. All until the song begins to fade out.
Bliss – Tidal Waves (5.75): Tidal Waves definitely has some oceanic themes to it. How do I know this? Well, there’s a bit of evidence pointing to this theory of mine than just the tidal title. Also, there are repeated mentions of sharks throughout the song. You may be asking what the sharks are doing. And I will admit that that is a good question. Unfortunately, it’s been a bit difficult to try and find the source of these vocals, so I’ll have no original context, but from hat I can parse, it sounds like consuming mushroom puts you in a mindset as if you were a shark. Now, I’ve never consumed mushrooms, and I’ve certainly never been a shark, so I can neither confirm nor deny that this is the case, but that’s how this song continues its oceanic themes.
The final element of oceanic theming is the song’s flow. I am definitely forcing this pun, because pretty much all of the songs on this album have a good flow, many better than this one. But good flow is just something Bliss does well. The drums are bit more prominent here than in other songs, but the bassline more than makes up for it by making its presence known as well. The rest of the melodies are mostly absent, meaning this song doesn’t really have much to stand on to keep me interested. It’s by no means bad, but I see no reason to come back to it.
Bliss – Monitor Access (8): Now, of all the songs, on this album, this one is the most familiar to me. Of course, it does have to do with my Spotify listening habits. I have occasionally dabbled in the This Is <insert artist here> playlists and when it comes to Bliss’ version, this is the only song from the Rhythmus Gene that made the cut. The playlist instead focuses a lot on his singles and collaborations (tons of collaborations with Azax Syndrom). To be perfectly honest, I do enjoy the rest of the playlist a bit more as his singles focus on a slightly more modern 2010s style for Bliss that I happen to enjoy a bit more than the contents of his albums. Not saying that Monitor Access and the rest of Rhythmus Gene is bad. As you can see so far in this review, there’s plenty of good stuff to offer and I’d argue that this song quite deserves to be highlighted as one of Bliss’ best. At least, it’s certainly my favorite on the album.
Anyways, enough introduction about the fact that this song is worthy of being declared good. The important part of these reviews is why I (and Spotify’s users apparently) consider this to be the best song off of Bliss’ original two albums. Honestly, a good chunk of that has to do with the sheer variety this track has to offer in comparison to the last two. Pause had some interesting elements to it, and I did roughly enjoy Tidal Waves more than some of the lesser tracks of the album, but nothing comes close to Monitor Access.
I’ve quite taken a liking to a good melody developing over a psytrance beat, as evidenced in other songs I’ve spoken of like Upside Down off this album or Meduzz off of Infected Mushroom’s IM the Supervisor. This song is no different, focusing on one melody in particular throughout the song as it transforms over time along with the rest of the soundscape. This especially begins to pick up momentum at about three and a half minutes in where the melody has a solo with no bassline or drums to interrupt, followed by an amazing rising chord progression. The most transformative portion occurring at about 6 minutes in where it changes entirely from its normal cleaner tone to match with the song’s secondary bassline as it plays alongside the main psytrance bassline. In fact, the are other points in the song where the main melody and the bassline work in tandem with each other to create a shift in the chord progression which I also like.
Also, I wrote down in my original notes that there was syncopation somewhere in the song, but now I can’t seem to find it. I guess that just means that I was rocking to the beat so hard I just assumed it was my favorite type of beat. Regardless, this song does prove to be the best on the album and does indeed deserve its spot on the “This is Bliss” playlist.
Bliss – Miracle Whip (6.25): Like the mayonnaise? I don’t really like mayonnaise though. And I have to deal with 10 full minutes of it? Oh joy. Longest song on the album is about a condiment that I’d prefer not to consume. Does it at least make its ten minutes worthwhile musically? Well…
The song starts off strongly enough with a piano setting the mood in the introduction of the song, with a creep factor similar to how Pause started out. I feel like it devotes itself more to the creepy vibe throughout the song than Pause. But Pause had a few more enjoyable moments, so that kind of evens out with the creepy advantage. The main thing this thing has to offer is that piano intro and its reintroductions later into the song. It’s the only thing that sets it apart from the rest of the songs on the album and the new melodies it plays at the end, make for an excellent conclusion. The rest of the song’s development?
Unfortunately, the majority of this song is missing the piano glue that holds this song together. I think a lot of that has to do with the absence of a main melody to truly develop. There are some distorted synths jumping around here and there and a couple of one note melodies, but other than that, there’s not much else for the song to offer.
It’s just not as good and juicy and fun. Guess I better find Bliss and inflict some pain on him.
Bliss – Spaceless (7.75): As we near the conclusion of this review, we have one final song from Bliss, Spaceless. This song, like many of the others on the album, spends a good amount of its time catering to the general psytrance elements. You can tell straight from the beginning with the vocals sample that we’re in for some psychedelic fun. And of course, it’s followed by speech in the middle rambling on about some trippy existential topic that one might focus on when on drugs, or when you’re me. I think about this kind of stuff all the time. This one focuses a bit on entropy… Is the inevitable deconstruction of all of reality a bit depressing? Sort of. But we’ve got more relevant problems to worry about in the present than reversing entropy. Though if someday we can learn how to defy entropy… Actually, I have no idea what will happen, this whole concept is out of my field of expertise. My true job here is to explore the music.
So, let’s dive into the music of the rest of the song. Does it have anything special to offer? Well, I will admit that this does strangely sound a bit like some of Infected Mushroom’s early work with tons of distortion, and a few extra percussion elements, like the bongos that appear about two minutes in. There’s no true melody to this song (except maybe a couple subtle elements, during the occasional calmer portions of the song), which does make it a bit trickier to enjoy in my opinion, but it still does have a good distorted feel that gives the song a tiny bit of flavor.
However, I think the best part of this song is the bassline. This song goes a bit beyond the iconic psytrance bassline at the midpoint and conclusion of the song, and it spends these moments with a slight bit more of a groovy bassline, making these short sections, my favorite moments within the song. And seeing that the second iteration of this bassline occurs at the end, it seems this album has ended on a satisfying note.
Conclusion: And so, ends the beginning of Bliss. This album is a bit lesser than some other recent reviews, but it seems that quite a few of my favorite artists do have subpar debuts. Usually, at the conclusion, I’d spend a little bit of time summing up my thoughts of the album as a whole, but there simply isn’t much to talk about. It’s a good debut, doing a bit better than Infected Mushroom’s debut, but there is, of course, more to come from Bliss. And what’s to come is quite a lot better.
Final Score: (7/10)