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Liner Notes Track-By-Track Album Breakdown: No Mana Presents: Electromag [Mau5trap]

The producers who contributed to No Mana's electro house revival compilation on mau5trap, 'Electromag, break down their tracks for us.
No Mana

No Mana

The heyday of modern electro house was a wild time that came and went with the speed and viciousness of a brash Lazy Rich song. It was like a Four Loko in a song. It was an era at the end of the 2000s and early 2010’s that many dance music fans still look back on fondly, though nostalgia always paints a rosy picture of music. Its peak has come and gone, but there are still some who work in it and remember what it was like to consume and create electro house. That is where No Mana has stepped in to curate a compilation for deadmau5’s mau5trap titled Electromag that seeks to capture the spirit of the electro house era. The 19-track compilations includes contributions from the likes of Wolfgang Gartner, James Egbert, Tommy Trash, No Mana himself and plenty of others.

After you have hit play on the compilation and have the felt the caffeinated jolt of electro house, we decided to get everybody involved to break down their contributions to Electromag. The entire compilation is 19 songs, so you will be reading quite a bit, however some of these will take you down memory lane into the electro house rabbit hole. Get your copy of the compilation here.

SEE OTHER TRACK-BY-TRACK BREAKDOWNS

01. No Mana & Tommy Trash – Can’t Say No

I was happy to work with Tommy Trash on this one. We’ve linked together via management and ended up pitching each other our unreleased music to see what we can work on for a collaboration. The track, “Can’t Say No,” actually started off on Tommy’s end (with his vocals on it as well which I thought was super cool). I loved the punk-clash feel to it as an electro house tune, so I took it and put my own personality to the bassline and overall structure of it. - No Mana

“Can’t Say No” started out as a dodgy 41-second demo I recorded in Bali at the end of my sabbatical. I’d just been asked to go to Colombia for what was to be my last set of Ayahuasca ceremonies and jokingly I thought, "I just can’t say no to this…” so out of tongue-in-cheek I wrote a 41 second demo, mostly mumble lyrics, but with a few lines that kind of made sense. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do with this rough sketch, but when No Mana reached out to do a collab for his album, a light bulb went off and I sent this straight over to him…and sweet baby Jesus did he supercharge the f**k out of it. - Tommy Trash

02. Wolfgang Gartner – The Original

“The Original” is a song I made in about 2 days when I was working out of a studio in Atwater Village, around 2017. It was one of the rare scenarios where I used a hardware synth (Moog One) for the bassline. The sort of haunted chords during the breakdown are something I’d made during a sound design session circa 2007 and found that they worked well with this vibe. It’s very satisfying when you manage to use something in a song that you made a decade earlier. It sort of reinforces the idea that all your time in the studio eventually does pay off. I played the song out at most of my gigs then set it free onto this compilation for the rest of the world to enjoy.

03. EDDIE & Bad Disk – Electro Forever

This is a rare form of electro house from myself specifically… we decided to go for a fun groove over all else for this record. - EDDIE

“Electro Forever” is disco infused 4-to-floor electro house track. It’s a super funky upbeat track layered with some disco sounds and a hard-hitting electro bassline, which leads into an atmospheric vocal breakdown. - Bad Disk

04. EDDIE – Cake Control

“Cake Control” was so fun to write, especially because I’d just built my new custom PC so I was excited to work on it. As per usual for a compilation record I love including a solid combination of my progressive/melodic style and my hard hitting electro style. In terms of what synths I used to make the main elements of this song, I don’t own any fun hardware synths or anything like that unfortunately, instead for this track I used serum & phase plant to create the main leads, bass’s etc.

05. Bentley Dean – Amron

I wanted to include a heavier song and then a more groove focused song on this album – “Amron” completes that goal. This one was named after the most special person in the world, my grandma - just spell the title in reverse.

06. Moki – Saucy

Truth be told, I didn't expect this track to get to where it did. It was initially a 4 bar bass line I had made with some obligatory electro house styled drums and a syncopated chord stab, nothing more. Once the idea had been approved, I set to finishing the project, throwing a spin on the nostalgia theme that the compilation was originally going for by including snippets from projects I had lying around for many years, as well as sounds that fitted the overall funky/disco-esque vibe that the track ended up having. Hence the use of old fashioned sounding synths, an extension to the overall chord sequence at the end, and the almost egregious use of the Funky Drummer sample. Overall, I'm very proud of the result!

07. Foxhunt & Moki – Media Encoder

As far as stagnated projects go, this is definitely up there. The original project file for this dates back to 2017 with some elements dating back to 2014. After literal years of messing around here and there, I ended up with an idea that was very close to being something I could work on and ideally finish, but when it came to the first drop, everything I tried just didn't work. Enter Foxhunt, who not only made the first drop work perfectly, and helped to steer the project in the right direction, but also flipped the project on its head entirely when it came to the orchestral section towards the end, from which I could wrap the project up and get it sent out. I think he absolutely nailed it, and this project simply wouldn't have been possible without him. – Moki

08. Foxhunt – Symphony

I've always been a fan of gothic classic video games like Castlevania, so I've consistently been pushing tracks out with that kind of atmosphere. Symphony is another in this style, with its name being a nod to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

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09. No Mana & Uppermost – Example

I’ve been a fan of Uppermost through various stages of his musical style. I’d repeat his Bandcamp album Control on my study days. It actually wasn’t until later I found his amazing electro house hidden gems from 2008, so I kept him in my mind until I had this brilliant idea to drag everyone together for this compilation album. When I approached him, he replied with “I appreciate your e-mail and interest man, been a No Mana listener for a while, brings me back to some good heavy electro memories.” In my mind I was like, are you serious? This dude’s like a God to me.

The idea was to initially have him on with an independently made track, but it seemed that he had lost the project files to many of his unfinished, electro house productions (since he no longer works with the genre). The track, “Example,” was made from one of such. I took the 30 second audio sample, reimagined a few sounds, copypasta, then the rest is history. - No Mana

10. No Mana – Toys of Violence

This one was one of two bootlegs I’ve done of Shiny Toy Guns “Le Disko” (hence, the totally creative title). Obviously, I stripped the vocals and added a few of my own elements to compensate for the lack thereof. The sound that is basically the backbone of this track is this sample from my Macbeth X-Series, which I overuse on basically any bassline I can fit it in. It’s basically a saw wave, nothing else. The effects were done afterwards, in the box. Of course, me being a huge electro house fanatic, this special saw wave was a requirement on every track I’ve made on the compilation.

11. James Egbert - Old School Sound

This song is definitely an homage to my favorite songs and sound palates that had initially developed my taste in electro house. I thought about the sounds that were coming out of Sweden in the late 2000’s and my favorite artists from that era. THIS is the old school sound that first comes to my mind when I think about electro house.

12. Bentley Dean – youtuberip.mp3

Nothing screams “electro house is back” like a DJ playing a 96kbps mp3 that they just ripped off YouTube before their set.

13. KEETZ – Recalled

This song is a result of me trying to combine ideas from earlier deadmau5 and Feed Me tunes. I believe I had written both drops in two separate projects, the second one being a result of re-sampling sounds in the first drop. After realizing both ideas were in the same key, I combined the projects and wrote the breakdown on the Moog a few months later. I say months because I was very particular about how things transitioned in this song, and when I first started the idea I didn't have the technical know-how to make things sound the way I wanted. This is a good example of being patient with yourself and your writing for other aspiring producers out there.

14. Sysdemes – Off

Honestly when I started the track, I wanted to make something obnoxious. The whole track idea was centered around this very distorted bass chord that couldn't keep a steady rhythm. It’s off a little bit from the prior section whenever the 4 count resets, hence the track name. I also kept FX-like cymbal crashes and sweeps out of this track. It made the production feel more deliberate, which I felt was important for what I was going for. A lot of my mixing choices were guided by trying to get the track as “in your face” as possible.

15. ELAC – Blare

“Blare” is carefully designed to be that HUGE electro-house banger, which will send shivers down your body. From the simple yet effective drop baseline to the euphoric chords in the break & build, it’s sure to be a key track in your “festival track” arsenal.

16. KEETZ – Flat Track

“Flat Track” came about after I re-listened to some of Mr. Oizo's older songs for the first time in several years. “Flat Beat” was one of the first electronic tracks I had heard. I specifically remember stumbling across the music video with “Flat Eric” on YouTube. It was very charming and I was really inspired by the electro-esque sound design and it's catchiness. So in a way, this is a tribute to him and the nostalgia from that memory.

17. Bad Disk – Over & Over & Over Again

"Over & Over & Over Again” is a classic “in-your-face” electro house track drawing a small amount of techno influence with the hi hat shuffles and percussion, layered with retro game sounds and punchy synth stabs.

18. 80M – Squid Lips

I wrote this song with the intention of expressing both my love for classic electro house and my quirky personality. Something about the bassline sounded “squiddy” to me, as if it were the sound of a squid trying to communicate verbally.

19. James Egbert & No Mana – Alive

It had been a few years since my last release (Friction LP) when No Mana hit me up and presented the initial idea for the Electromag compilation. I was immediately on board and I quickly made a number of demos, sending each his way. One of the first ideas that came to my mind was the vocal “I’m still alive,” which played at my absence. Jordan loved the track and asked to work on it together, and so we started passing the project file back and forth. It ultimately ended up housing a few different sub-styles and flavors of electro house throughout the track, and I hope that with this movement, “Alive” can be an anthem for electro house as a whole and a proclamation that electro house is very much “still alive.” - James Egbert

James’ production always had a lot of energy so that’s pretty much the direction we both steered it in. The initial vision I had for the compilation was more minimal, vintage, and almost housey (think old Yacek, Fedde le Grande, Afrojack). What the various artists of Electromag taught me was that there were many more lovable corners of electro house than the one I passively elephant-visioned into, most of which styles having their peak at 2008-2014 (the goal of the compilation was nostalgia). “Alive” felt like it was about those later years, especially when electro house started becoming about the big rooms. Obviously I had to include the obligatory, old faithful, saw wave bassline; and made sure the trance side of it made sense at the same time. When James and I were working on this track, I felt like the product umbrellaed those many corners of the genre in a euphoric, cathartic way. That’s why I placed it last (not because I hate you, James <3). - No Mana

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