Album Review: Danny L Harle – Harlecore

By Kiah Easton, Editorial Director
[Mad Decent; 2021]

Rating: 7/10

Key tracks: “Where Are You Now”, “On a Mountain”, “Take My Heart Away”

Harlecore is the long-awaited debut LP from PC Music affiliate Danny L Harle (HUGE DANNY). In an Arte Tracks video released in 2020, Danny is quoted saying, “The one thing that we maybe all [PC Music] dislike is things halfway between things. If you’re going to make something loud, it’s got to be the loudest thing you’ve ever heard. If it’s going to be quiet, it’s got to be incredibly quiet. If it’s got to be simple, it has to be the simplest thing in the world.” Harlecore lives up to this by unapologetically exploring the extremes with pure indulgence.

In a time void of clubbing, Danny has based his album around the creation of a conceptual club, “Club Harlecore”. The club hosts four “resident DJs”,  all of whom are an iteration of Danny’s musical palette: DJ Danny, DJ Mayhem, MC Boing and DJ Ocean.

“On a Mountain” features DJ Danny, represented in videos as a mold of Harle’s body, textured with reflective and sparkly chrome. DJ Danny is the most representative of Harle’s past discography, highlighting the tastes of pop and perfectionism. A piano melody paired with a soft impact lands like a drop of dew, sending shivers down the spine as a soft and pure voice sings,  “We can lay here / On a mountain / Me and you / Can you feel it? / This is something new / I can see your heart’s been broken, too / So just lay here / On a mountain / Me and you”. 

Read more: Album Review: Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now

It feels like the embodiment of pop vocals, like the “simplest thing in the world.” This simplicity is intentionally crafted so that it fuses effortlessly with the track’s movements, creating a palatable set of emotions in the instrumental alone. Though simplicity allows for relatability, a minimalistic approach that connects deeply with the audience is a huge challenge.

The next song shows the contrasts between the personas Harle has created. MC Boing is spastic and harsh, packed with an energy that feels forceful yet contagious. Their visual representation is a blue, toy-like character that bounces to the beat. Harle recently became a father and seems to tap into the dorky dad joke energy through MC Boing’s performances even more than in the past. “Piano Song” begins with a slightly pitched up chant: “Playing the piano / Playing the piano / All day, night, all day, night, all day”. Unsurprisingly, a piano enters directly afterward, playing short, repeating stabs. The vocals repeat, becoming a mantra of blinding hype. Once more, the acute simplicity adds to the theme of boundary pushing. 

DJ Mayhem takes the energy found in MC Boing and fuels a darker aesthetic. Visualized as a hulking wolf-like beast with its mouth caged and surrounded by a reddish glow, DJ Mayhem strays from the typically upbeat emotional energy of Harle’s music. “Interlocked” displays this dark aura through slamming drums and bitcrushed synth melodies. Despite the change in pace, even DJ Mayhem brings moments of pure and heavenly euphoria.

DJ Ocean brings the project full circle, calming the energy level down and reflecting on spacious ambience. DJ Ocean is a massive, flowing jellyfish with a glowing green complexion. With vocals by collaborator Caroline Polacheck, the ambience found on both “Ocean’s Theme” and “For So Long” is led along by her uniquely melodic voice. Although DJ Ocean’s contributions are not, as Danny described, “incredibly quiet” in terms of volume, they do impart an extreme softness and sense of space.

Danny L Harle’s Harlecore is an innovative, refreshing and beautifully blunt concept for exploring the highs and lows of expression. Harle shows the beauty in indulging the simplicity of an idea, and he plays with the universality of musical motifs, pushing moments of euphoria to the limits. Although some of the tracks do not reach the same euphoric peaks as his catalogue of singles, within a project, they represent something more; a full representation of Harle’s range of sound and emotion. As the bio of the Club Harlecore’s instagram reads, “THAT MUSIC SOUNDS THE WAY I FEEL.”

Listen here:

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