Louis The Child, the EDM duo that has helped accelerate electronic music’s diffusion into the mainstream with their future-pop sound, released their second EP this past Thursday. The project, Kids At Play, features a dichotomous sound that partly reflects the group’s roots as a SoundCloud gem for EDM fans and its recent shift toward future-pop hit machine (with slightly more dignity than The Chainsmokers).
Louis The Child made a name for itself in 2014, when EDM began to morph from a pit of avant-garde wubs and noisy screeches into a musical genre that tastefully pushed boundaries of common sound. In this era, the young duo released beautiful remixes of Zella Day’s “Compass,” Oh Wonder’s “Body Gold” and SoySauce’s “Broken Record” that popped with synthetic texture and seemed to be crafted with the laudable goal of advancing EDM’s artistic credentials. Not only were these tracks as sonically mind-boggling as the future bass hits of big names like Flume or Odesza, but they were also extremely accessible, warm and fun characteristics that were rare in electronic music.
The duo rode this unique wave through breakout singles “It’s Strange” and “The Weekend,” but, as their popularity grew, Louis began releasing short and shallow singles featuring a sole female vocalist and mildly innovative production, similar to those corny hits from Zedd or The Chainsmokers that blasphemously crack The Billboard Hot 100. These songs certainly reached a wider audience, but they seemed to falter in quality and integrity accordingly; OG Louis fans were left scratching their heads, quietly in denial that their go-to for accessible EDM had sold out. Fortunately, this downward trend was eventually stifled by a SoundCloud-only release of EDM instrumentals that represented a return to Louis’s roots, letting these puzzled fans rest easy and forging an afterglow of contentment that lasted through Louis’s next string of pop releases.
From here, an interesting pattern arose: Louis The Child would grow their fan base with increasingly accessible and catchy pop tracks, and just before EDM purists would jump ship, the duo would drop sonically progressive music to quell the outrage. This back-and-forth between pop hits and EDM bangers became part of Louis’ identity; the duo could make your party pop and make your head spin. Now, with Kids At Play, the duo’s dual personalities operate on the same project and oppose one another on a track-by-track basis, as opposed to the previous dichotomous releases.
“Interstellar,” the EP’s opener, features a wide, synthetic pre-chorus reminiscent of David Guetta or Calvin Harris in the early 2010s, masterfully dropping into a video game-esque beat with the perfect blend of space and sound, characteristics of the Louis The Child of years past. After faith in the duo’s EDM production prowess is reaffirmed, the project jumps to the other end of the spectrum with two pop tracks, “Breaking News (with RAYE)” and “Better Not (with Wafia).” While these songs might be poppy and shallow, they’re certainly feel-good tracks whose superficiality is less noticeable when preceded by “Interstellar.” “Ohhh Baby” hops back over to bangerville, and then a 3-song pop streak follows. The EP ends with a track featuring another EDM powerhouse, Big Gigantic, followed by an “instrumental” (it’s electronic) that parallels the projects opener.
At the end of it, whether you hopped on the Louis bandwagon in 2015 or 2018, you’re left with mixed feelings, as you were delivered a very mixed sound; either the heavy EDM made you uncomfortable, or the campy pop made you cringe. With that said, the duo is clearly capable of catering to more than one fan base, and given EDM’s diffusion into mainstream popularity and general development of many subgenres in recent years, you can’t blame Louis for riding the wave and diversifying its sound. Doing so is certainly better than the alternative, in which part of the group’s fanbase is unsatisfied and alienated in the midst of its demand for new content. For now, Louis The Child’s double-dealing works well.