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Pascale Project - Where's The Party? (Ramajam, La Rama, 2021)

The ever impressive La Rama imprint introduce the first record on their RamaJam sub-label, which comes curtesy of House producer and vocalist Pascal Mercier, and the contents are joyous, indefinitely deep and eternally infectious.

Vocals within electronic music have always presented themselves in a myriad of ways, but when their core meaning resides within the melodic frequencies, then magic really starts to unravel from within. Vocals have always been utilised to convey a feeling akin to the music that backs it, but there are certain genres where the vocals and the instrumentation occupy the same tonal frequency, where their application is both one and the same, tethered together by emotion and feeling. Genres such as Soul or Blues, both of which were very much channeled from the heart, would bring tears to your eyes not just from within the lyrical content, but in the way that the voice very much felt like an instrument, not just a top layer but something that winded and quivered with the rhythm and melody. Moving forward a few years, Chicago House saw a similar duality of experience being conveyed, in that many vocalists would meld and bend their voice to provide a high level frequency that dazzled with its dynamism. Aside from these examples, there have been plenty of groups and individuals who have treated the voice very much as a frequency, be it within the realms of Alternative, Ambient, Folk etc, and when you come across these artists you really do sense a differential in how they apply their voice to the music. Within the realms of Dance and Electronic Music, vocals were suddenly not an immediate need, as musicians were able to convey emotion simply through chord progressions and drumming patterns, and in the club it provided to be an instant success. That isn't to say that vocals were done away with, in fact many of the most memorable vocal performances in recent history are found on Dance orientated tracks, but again there are differences in application that make you either feel emphatic or something else entirely. There are a number of producers who utilise their own voice or others on a frequent basis, so much so that is now an integral element of their sound, and in many ways we start to associate their music with hearing some kind of vocal layer imprinted within the top layers. Dance Music in many ways emphasises the need for good tonal application, be it the way in which chords sound, or drums sweep around, or indeed how the track moves from A to B, with all these ingredients ensuring that the listener is provided with the experience intended. When vocals are placed within this balance as an emotional element, like an additional key line or series of pads, then the overall feeling is really enhanced, as it provides us with not only an emotional attachment to the pads and keys, but to the words being spoken and sung too. The manner in which these narratives are interwoven within the music differs completely from artist to artist, with each blend very much remaining their own, floating and drifting from one special place to the next, guiding us through the dance or into our next state of being. The voice is a powerful tool indeed, and when applied in all the right places within a dance music orientated track, it really does lift the sound to some very exciting places indeed.

The concept of weaving vocals with instrumental layers underneath is something that has underpinned the work of Montreal based musician Pascale Mercier, with the blends found within her music likely to both make you dance and feel all within the same breath. Throughout her career, Mercier has always displayed an extraordinary dexterity with all things synthy, with an emphasis firmly placed on weaving sequences together with a keen eye on how these sequences come together and fall apart. Drawing influence from many corners of the Dance and Electronic music spectrum, her sound is one that has undergone a number of shifts throughout the years in terms of genre stylings, but what remains is her fabulous sense of instrumentation and of course, her application of her voice into the mix. Mercier has used her voice in the vast majority of her works, with it either operating as a lead line in a more traditional sense or as a floating element that shifts through the lines, capable and willing to move up a gear when the moment arises. Its the blend of melodic ingeniousness and characterful vocal performances that make her music so infectious, with a joyous charm washing over us within the quieter moments before being lifted up high as the drums come into view. The climaxes, ebbs and flows all operate so smoothly, meandering like water along a stream before gushing out into a tributary of meaning, as we bob along within the current of euphoria, our eyes darting around to get a sense of everything that is going on. Mercier has been very prolific indeed over the past few years, with her releasing music under alias projects like Mathematiques and the Pascale Project, along with features on a number of other records, primarily in a vocal capacity. When you move from one project to the next, you get a sense of Mercier's broad reaching tastes, with the vibes moving from the slow and sultry to the powerful and emphatic, but her voice and impeccable melodic outlines always remain, ever presents within her soundscape of genuine endlessness. Her discography is littered with memorable moments, and we will start off with the Mathematiques projects, with our favourites including the deep and heavy set 'F0rteressen', which arrived in 2012; the groovy and effortless feels of the 'Dossier Pascale' record, which landed in 2013; and finally, the dynamic and thought provoking 'Feel' EP, which arrived in 2014 and would be the final record to be released under the Mathematiques name. Her other main alias, Pascale Project, also features some excellent records, with our favourites including the electric boogie inspired 'Just Feel Good For a Moment', which landed in 2015; the utterly infectious '7AM' record, which arrived in 2017; and finally, the feel good vibrations that leap out of the 'Be Urself' album, which was released in 2019. In all, Mercier's music speaks on numerous levels, be it the excellent musicality of it all, or the positive feelings which reside in almost every track, or the diversity of styles in which she looks to operate, there's so much within her works to celebrate and fall in love with. Her sound is one that captivates immediately, with infectious melodies and cutting edge drumming patterns all intermingling underneath a plethora of inspired vocal performances, which veer from the all encompassing to providing sequences that float into view at just the right time. It's a world that feels alive with emotion and meaning, reflecting the moments in life where we feel quiet and sombre and the times where we feel the sudden urge to leap up and move in all kinds of directions. It's music to keep you involved, informed and full of emotion, and its the kind of stuff we all need in our lives. If you haven't had the chance to check out her music yet, we implore you to do so.

And now we turn our attentions to her latest record, 'Where's The Party?', which arrives on the newly formed La Rama Records sublabel Ramajam. Much like with 'Be Urself', there's a more overtly distinctive nod to House music on this record, with the kicks pulsating through underneath on all the original three cuts, but the amount of additional layers that reside on top, both in terms of drums, keys and of course vocals, remain so very impressive. The transitions are top draw, the progressions are meaningful and pure, and the vibes that resonate from within are oh so addictive, here we see Mercier at the peak of her powers, demonstrating so much of what she has achieved before and applying it further, as she seeks out new forms of expressionism. There's some jaw-droppingly good moments in this record, where the listener is placed within an imagined space, where bodies move around with positivity and hope, with the music filling up the room with colour and vibrancy, the keys and vocals washing over the mind as euphoria becomes the word of the day. Mercier's three original cuts are complimented by a wonderful remix from Dust-e-1, which takes the feel directly into his world, but only serves to make this record feel even greater than it already did. So, on that note, lets dive right into this masterful piece of music, as we prepare ourselves to let go......

Up first comes the title track, which begins with the police sirens to get us going. Out of the noise comes an arpeggio to die for, its energy already hinting at the rhythm to come, and this is confirmed as the kicks and claps come into the mix, and by this point we are already firmly on board for whatever might come next. Out of the distance comes a big and beefy bass line, which moves right into the mid section of the track alongside some short stabs and additional hats which help to fill up the spaces inbetween the kicks. Mercier's voice comes into view at this point, her delivery matching the intensity of the groove perfectly, as we slide along the undercurrent with a breezy infectiousness, allowing our minds to be carried through to new realms of the dance. Her vocal lines repeat onwards within the progression, remaining as a core anchor when other elements drop in and out of time, as we become ensnared within the layers being presented. Around the three minute mark the acid line is introduced, its presence quiet at first but it slowly grows in stature and scale as time passes by, its line of inquiry seemingly right through the middle of the cut. Its fullness is confirmed as the kicks move away to leave just the arpeggio and the acid line, but these two aren't left for long as the pads float into view, and its proper hands in the air moment. The vocals come back into view to lift spirits further, and you can just feel the embrace coming from all around, crawling up the walls and lifting the roof off to expose the night sky, with the extended period of time provided to this sequence meaning we get to revel in this moment for what feels like eternity. The arpeggio returns once more, and this signals the drums to come back into view, and god damn, it is something special. This track set out with purpose, and it ends with purpose. Utterly sublime. Up next comes the Dust-e-1 remix of 'Welcome', and it starts off with that immediate immersion into slow and steady sonic goodness. The drums are typically downtempo and jungly in nature, with dynamic melodic sequences moving in and out of time within the top ends of the track, as the overall texture of the track begins to take hold. Vocal lines drift in and out of space and time within the top layers, their presence fitting in well with the tonal application of the keys as the listener is moved along at a wondrous pace. Slight dips in energy make up the transition points, with the first one coming in around the 2 minute mark, which sees the introduction of some gorgeous bass notes, which in turn move the track into its next phase of being. The dense melodic elements move away to provide some breathing space to the drums, as the vocals flicker in the distance, providing us with a fleeting glimpse of things to come. There's still time for one final build up of the keys, which occurs in beautiful fashion once again, as we take all the time we need to return from cloud nine. Splendid shit, as always.

Up next comes the original cut of 'Welcome', and this one begins with the singular chiming note to get us going. The drums quickly build up some steam underneath the chiming groove, with each kick hitting very nicely indeed, and before long we are greeted with stab like chords which signal the rest of the elements to come into view. The vocals and arpeggios come into view around this time, the track flourishing into its next form with eagerness and beauty, and after a short break Mercier begins on her proper vocal journey, which takes in all it can see across the board. The track then moves into its final form with the arrival of the kicks and hats, with her voice channelling high above the ground beneath, taking in all it can above to give over life and vitality to us all. The lyrics are incredibly hopeful, leading us along with a guiding hand to all the safe spaces both within and outside of our consciousness, with plenty of release happening along the way that has you dreaming of the club and all that entails. The track then dips down in energy to revert back to its original structure, with the focus placed once again on the delightful interplay that persists between the varying elements, and it all just chimes along the the flutters of the heart. 'Go Home' wraps up the record, and this one starts off with the two chord movement to get things going. After a few bars have passed, we see on the horizon line a chiming line start to come into view, with light hats emerging to provide a basis of an electro orientated beat, with the repeating line 'I think its time' gracefully moving within the structure. The kicks then arrive to move the track into a more house leaning space, which signals the vocals to begin their proper journey, with Mercier once again providing this beautiful weaving narrative atop the instruments. The additional chime line key sequence helps to keep things moving onwards, alongside the hats that come into view, as the track continues to wrap itself around us, taking us to places and spaces that just sing and shine, no matter the weather. Its a fitting end to a record that has taken us through some gorgeous scenarios, settings drenched in the warmth of being around those we love or those we barely know, as we sway to the rhythms of life that run through the very core of this experience.

Vocals channel a plethora of moods, energies and emotions, and their effectiveness is very much in the eye of the beholder, depending on what kind of place you find yourself in mentally. There are certain sounds though where the vocals are part and parcel of the experience, their application as important to the development of a track than the introduction of keys, drums or whatever else. Pascal Mercier has spent her entire career exploring the ways in which vocals interact with electronically conveyed melody and rhythm, and thanks to her inate ability to compose and build tracks, her voice remains the final piece of the puzzle, floating up above as a beacon of momentum, movement and grace. This record is no different, as we are transported to the most heavenly of dancefloors imaginable, where the feelings are overwhelmingly positive and the smiles persist all around us, with never a moment imprinted that doesn't give over something meaningful to the listener. We remain captivated with every twist and turn, our eyes filled with promise as we take in the layers, the emotion and the meanings, and that remains testament to Mercier's sound having such a totality to it. To cap it out, the experience contains an excellent remix from Dust-e-1, which provides yet another dynamic into the mix that reinforces the concept of moving things onwards and upwards. A stellar album, and one that will put you in the best frame of mind imaginable, and that is something we all need in our lives right now.

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