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Dada Life – ‘The Rules of Dada’ (album review)

“We want to shock ourselves, and the listeners,” Olle Corneer said from his hotel room in Chicago via Skype. “The goal with the music is to move forward.” The Swedish pairing of Olle Corneer and Stefan Engblom, better known as Dada Life, is out with their first full length album today, The Rules of Dada. The result of one year in the studio, Olle and Stefan explained that they wanted “one track that feels like 11 tracks” — an album completely devoid of “listening tracks,” but rather “just eleven bangers from start ‘till end.”

The energetic and fun Dada Life style permeates the entire album, which is a jumble of bass, synths, and lots of use of their venerable Sausage Fattener plugin. “That’s what Dada Life is about – a combination of sweet, sugary, and super hard… We want the sounds and production to be like you just crashed your face into a wall.” Dada Life has managed to do that with The Rules of Dada, crafting an album that spans the spectrum from hard to downright dangerous, sprinkling in softer elements here and there to make sure you get a chance to breathe.

“We’ve done it the way we wanted.” – Dada Life

For Dada Life, this album was very much about doing what they wanted on their own terms. “We have 100% complete freedom over everything — down to the last line or note. [No one] had any say on anything, we’ve done it the way we wanted,” they proudly proclaimed. Olle and Stefan understand how fast things move in an online world, but said that making an album is “like a small statement for yourself: here’s how we sound right now.”

Incorporating new tracks and old, the album gives listeners a taste of how Dada has been sounding for the past few months as well as how they’ll be sounding for the next few. The album starts off with the familiar thumping bass of “Kick Out The Epic Motherfucker,” a track that draws listeners in with a familiar vocal and sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Feed The Dada” is one of the best tracks for balancing the “sugary sweet” with harder craziness, juxtaposing the softer vocal section with a banging drop that has already proven to be a crowd favorite. Other established favorites like “Happy Violence” and “Rolling Stones T-Shirt” are also present, coming in after a string of new tracks to bring listeners back before the final three new songs on the album: “Everything Is Free,” “Boing Clash Boom,” and “Don’t Stop.”

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Olle and Stefan said that they like to “treat our vocalists like instruments,” and that they “don’t want the vocal to be like a big vocal track, but be in there like an instrument.” It stands to reason that their own favorites on the album would embody this mantra best. “So Young So High” is Olle’s favorite track, and the distorted vocals sort of remind me of the first time I heard Otto Knows’ “Million Voices” for its singable qualities and joyful vibes. “I’m so happy that we succeeded in taking that high pitch style and turning it into something super hard” — or as Olle called it specifically, “hits for kids on crack… chipmunk shit.”

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Another track to incorporate vocal elements in non-traditional ways is “You Will Do What We Will Do,” which draws inspiration from the “huge melodic techno that was popular a lot of years ago in London.” It’s one of my personal favorites on the album, and the use of repeating melodies that effortlessly flow into and out of the drops is very well done. Stefan’s favorite track is “Everything Is Free,” which starts off with slow grinding synth sounds before changing into a familiar Dada-style drop. The progression makes logical sense and works with the vocal perfectly.

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Olle and Stefan say that “we always wanted to do the sugar sweet and the hard at the same time,” but that “the magic happens when these two meet.” They dutifully note that it’s easy for a song to get too commercial and poppy or too hard and monotonous, but they strive for a “happy face music space.”

After listening to the album for a few days, it’s readily apparent that they have put a lot of thought into this album and the songs that were made for it. While the tracks themselves are well-produced and enjoyable, the album can feel a bit one-note — but it’s worth mentioning again that this was supposed to be an album with “11 bangers.” I would have liked to see some more variation in the sounds and arrangements, since the album does get a bit repetitive after a while. The tracks that do change it up — most notably “Boing Clash Boom” and “Arrive Beautiful Leave Ugly” — are either too hard or just feel disconnected from the rest of the album.

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Olle and Stefan recognize that this is just the start and they seem willing and able to experiment and try new things. “It’s about pushing yourself to the limit — forcing yourself to push yourself after this,” Olle said. “I think more producers should do that… They would evolve.” One thing they are keen to remind people is that they’re not “selling out,” and that they said no to lots of proposals and requests from labels who wanted to work on the album. “We could’ve sold out this year, but they said ‘you have to do it like this’ and we said ‘no, we want to do it our way.” The end result is an album that is 100% Dada Life through and through — and one that has grown on me the more I have let it soak in.

It’s about pushing yourself to the limit — forcing yourself to push yourself after this.” – Olle Corneer, Dada Life

The Rules of Dada doesn’t have the same story-like qualities of some of the other more narrative albums that have been released of late, and it doesn’t have any “listening tracks” where you wonder about how they made the cut. Dada Life tracks are like the 5 Hour Energy equivalent of dance music — easily digestible pick-me-ups that become undeniably addictive. I predict that there will be a bunch more hits here, especially with remixes and bootlegs.

You can think of The Rules of Dada as the 11 Commandments of Dada Life — a banging soundtrack and set of instructions to a rowdy night where you drink too much and wake up hurting.

In other words, it’s exactly what they were going for.

Score: 6.5/10

Purchase: The Rules of Dada – Dada Life

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