Review Summary: An extremely gratifying nostalgia trip.
16 years old, leaving half-drunken bottles of whiskey in the bushes (to retrieve later) before dancing until 3am in Hungarian small-town nightclubs. 2007, my friend excitedly showing me “Melbourne Shuffle” hard-style dance compilations on the school bus to a sports game. Early childhood, watching the Crazy Frog music video play repeatedly on TV, reaching for the remote each time to escape the trauma.
takes me back to each of these very specific memories from my past. Its 13 tracks are a rollercoaster ride through the most dis-regarded, tackiest and meme-worthy genres of electronic music. It’s an instant and extremely gratifying nostalgia trip – these songs sound entirely born of times when Euro-Trance and maximalist EDM dominated airwaves. Danny L Harle has clearly studied this era to the point where all of his synths, chipmunk-ified hooks and featured female vocalists could have fit in on songs by Lasgo, DJ Sammy or Cascada.
However, what makes Harlecore
so successful is also its main flaw. By staying so faithful to his influences, Danny’s compositions come across more like a pastiche rather than a 2021 interpretation of the source material (to the point where I was sure that “Ti Amo” was already a song from 2007). It’s a shame that Harlecore
doesn’t push into any kind of new territory. Can you imagine if “Shining Stars” worked in some of Danny’s bat*** crazy production from Charli XCX’s “Anthems”? There’s a huge amount of potential in fusing 2000s trance with 2021’s hyperpop and PC music trends (much of which have been pioneered by Danny himself).
Ultimately, there is a lot to love on this record. It’s a front to back adrenaline rush – the only low points are the two DJ Ocean / Caroline Polachek collabs, which are both sleepy electro-ambient ballads that halt the momentum and beg for the skip button. MC Boing is the Crazy Frog of the album, and his tracks are definitely love-them-or-hate-them moments, but their presence on the album feels essential, as they distill all the manic energies of both Danny’s influences and Danny himself, and spit them out into 1.5-minute sugar-rush trips. The DJ Danny tracks (collaborations with… himself?) are all varying degrees of major-key pop bliss, with “On A Mountain” and “Take My Heart Away” especially succeeding due to their crescendo-ing drops and perfectly nondescript vocal features (not to discredit the fantastic vocalists, but the “generic female vocal” has always been a cornerstone of this genre).
If you’ve also been locked inside during the pandemic and itching to get back to raves and re-live the clubbing days of your teenage years, then Harlecore
will boot you straight back there – bonus points if you were clubbing in Central Europe or knew how to shuffle. It’s not breaking genre barriers, but Danny L Harle’s execution is expert and his faithfulness is unparalleled.