DJ Snake (real name William Sami Etienne Grigahcine) is a French producer who is best known for his trap banger 'Turn Down For What', as well as last year's collaboration with Major Lazer (and arguable song of the summer) 'Lean On'. These songs seem set to go down as two of the finest of the 'EDM era'. With these two songs, Snake has accompanied Skrillex and Diplo in showing they are just as able to make radio hits as dance floor bombs. Snake is one of the most talented (and visible) of the 'EDM trap' producers who have found a middle ground between dance music and hip-hop, its wayward cousin. He speaks enthusiastically in interviews about hearing 'electronic trap' and first realising the two styles could be combined. It might even please the 'real hip-hop' heads to know that Snake is no mere dilettante and has a deep love and respect for the culture having started in his teens as a graffiti artist and DJ.
Encore is roughly divided between tropical house songs, club tracks and a few hip-hop numbers. The two singles ('Middle' and 'Talk') that were released before this album are both beautiful examples of the finer qualities of contemporary pop-dance. Both use their vocal collaborators exceedingly well, where they sound like they were used for the qualities of their voice rather than just their fame. 'Middle' is particularly strong with Manchester singer Bipolar Sunshine's wonderfully English phrasing adding something particularly unique. Disappointingly, his other vocal appearance on the album (on 'Future pt. 2') is basically the exact opposite (I was frankly surprised to see that it was the same singer). Also notable, but maybe slightly less enjoyable, is 'Let Me Love You' a collaboration with Justin Bieber. The track comes across as a B-league version of some of Bieber's recent EDM-collabs, which to be honest probably says a lot more about the strength of those. 'Sober' is another strong track of the pop side of this album; its slight nod to the chord progression (which is two chords!) of Underworld's 'Two Months Off' has even given them a songwriting credit on the song.
'Pigalle' is an obvious standout of the club-focused tracks. It's a big, dumb banger with a 4/4 drop and a bass sound straight out of Doctor P's 'Sweet Shop'. 'Propaganda' is also very strong but is very clearly a club track which will leave little to anyone listening on cheap headphones on the bus. The other club tracks have their moments of greatness but perhaps work slightly less well. 'Ocho Cinco' perhaps tries too much as the drums change style from hardstyle to trap and moombahton beats. Disappointingly, "Sahara", with Skrillex, is an unremarkable track from each of these producers.
The hip-hop tracks on the album are all solid but fail to reach the considerable heights that the featured rappers and singers (Young Thug, Jeremih, Migos, Travi$ Scott) are capable of. Snake seems mostly interested here in imitating the production styles of current hip-hop producers (particularly the DJ Mustard-ish 'The Half') rather than adding anything notable of his own. While he clearly loves the current crop of US hip-hop it sounds like he has little to say as a straight hip-hop producer.
Overall, Encore is a worthwhile listen. It obviously suffers from many of the problems that dance music albums generally suffer from but it does well to show off Snake's ear for hooks just as well as his ear for drops. If you're looking for an EDM artist to make a perfect album then you're sort of missing the point.
7Ed Ledsham's Score