Steve Aoki is an idealist. With dreams for the future that are bold and bright, he hands us his vision on a silver platter with new album Neon Future I. Despite being full of party happy EDM bangers and superstar feature collaborations the record falls somewhat short of an idealistic future with a somewhat short 10 song track list.
This 10 song track list includes a 2 minute intro and 90 second outro, pushing the limits of the labelling Neon Future I an LP. It opens with Transendence, featuring an interesting spoken vocal by Ray Kurzweil. “In the neon future, we’re going to transcend and overcome the limitations that have plagued us for thousands of years / we’re going to overcome illness, ageing / we’re going to be able to have more profound relationships / profound music, art, we’re going to become smarter, we’re going to live longer / we’re going to actually have radical life expansion, not just radical life extensions.” That’s a lot to live up to.
The nothingness of Transendence is quickly cut off but a percussive beat of song two, the title track Neon Future featuring Luke Steele of Empire Of The Sun. It hits you with the beat right away, but the vocal feels disjointed to the point of confusion. Luke Steele is a genius and constantly intriguing but this foray into Aoki’s heavy beats doesn’t quite work. Back to Earth gets closer to the mark with a standout vocal feature from Fall Out Boy and a more commercially sound vibe to the track.
Born to Get Wild might be my favourite track on the record. The Will I Am collaboration feels the most authentic, and less like a mash-up than some of the other attempts. It has a big bad Aoki drop and dishes out a big dose of colourful futuristic ideals the album promised. However Rage the Night Away lets me down again, with a half time beat and messy screaming vocals from Waka Flocka Flame that feel more suited to a Lil Jon record.
Delirious (Boneless) is a track that has been doing the rounds for a while, now rebooted to include a vocal layover by Kid Ink. I loved this track sans vocal, but this new, typically LA refresh has taken something great and commercialised to a point of something lame. Will it make for more radio airplay? Sure. But the “la la la’s” are a bit much for me.
The record picks up from here with Free The Madness ft Machine Gun Kelly and Afroki ft Afrojack and Bonnie McKee. Both tracks are bouncy and fun with huge uplifting drops and powerful synth builds that is the direction Aoki does best. Get Me Out Of Here is a cool little flirt with dub step producer Flux Pavillion, with a delicate intro that seamlessly morphs into an enormous, smooth beat. This was another track that topped my list.
We wrap things up with Beyond Boundaries, a 90 second outro that bookends Transendence nicely with a spoken vocal by Aubrey de Grey. Life has limitless variety, but today because of ageing it does not have limitless scope / In the neon future, life will have opportunity to explore it’s limitless diversity / Life will have no boundaries. I wish I could say the same for Neon Future I. While it certainly shows Aoki can play with different genres and deliver some sick party anthems, it it ultimately nothing groundbreaking. There is potential in Aoki’s future vision, but Part 1 doesn’t quite take us there.