Since “Mojito,” House Rulez’s first record, the electronic duo has had a steady stream of house music releases. Their style mixes their namesake dance genre with jazz, trance and lounge elements. On their latest release “Final Fantasy,” House Rulez tone things down with mixed results.
The collaborative side of “Final Fantasy” is light, focusing on three vocalists. Urban Zakapa’s Jo Hyun Ah doesn’t make a great performance as I would have liked, with an unenthusiastic performance on “Melody.” The production on both versions leans toward lounge electronica, but lacks emotion and feels unfinished.
On the two title tracks, House Rulez does better, with better beat progression and production that goes the distance with trance, with more pronounced drones and reverb. The Eva-featured “First Love” is a lullaby, with softer melodies that compliment her voice. These tracks are nice, but don’t leave much impact. The three singers aren’t used to their best abilities and House Rulez doesn’t go full on with the down tempo dance genres. Thankfully, the instrumental tracks fix that.
With the voices out of the way, the duo does much better. The first of these, “설레여,” is one to lose yourself in. Bright, with mellow drones and just right percussive sounds, this track is one of the best examples of what House Rulez aims for in “Final Fantasy;” music to relax to, but not sleepy. Where that approach is fully realized is on the all-too-short dance numbers, “Celebrate 2014” and “Break Time.” The former sprinkles dubstep and features smooth sax playing, while the latter features a funky jazz band on top of their chill production approach. Marrying house and lounge in these two is the best trick the duo has up their sleeves, but like magic, the songs are over too quickly. By focusing solely on the production of the songs, House Rulez makes an excellent foray into intimate dance music.
With a name like House Rulez, I couldn’t fault you for expecting house music; I did. When their debut record came out in 2007, the dance duo released great music reminiscent of the genre’s 90’s heyday. For “Final Fantasy,” the mood is markedly relaxed, opting for more lounge and trance effects rather than hard hitting drum sounds.
The LP is a mixed bag, with the vocal tracks feeling half-done and unpolished. The instrumental tracks are the highlights, with better structures and fully realized trance and lounge, “Celebrate 2014” and “Last Winter” among them. As a whole, “Final Fantasy” has its good moments, but for a group this long into its existence, the record is not an indication of their talent.