When your birth name translates to “glory,” the expectations put on you from day one are automatically high. Russian-American producer and visual artist Slava Balasanov, who goes by Slava, might never make music that you’d equate with something as lofty as glory, but he was able to produce a sweet and zesty footwork-rhythm-heavy follow-up to his 2012 EP, Soft Control.
The new record is titled Raw Solutions and it’s filled with intense, stuttering drums and R&B samples. I know you’re probably thinking that you’ve heard enough of this kind of music for one lifetime, but Slava’s ability to add an upbeat twist to each song is what makes this album stand out. He uses the same simple recipe that many producers resort to: biting drums, screaming synths and catchy looped samples. So how does he manage to make it so damn different?
Songs like “I Know,” “Hold On” and “Girls On Dick” incorporate dancehall or Chicago juke drums that will make you move at any hour. Percussion is one of his strong points. “Heartbroken” and “I Know” are songs that drift you out into an endless void of thought, with the constant thump of the drum combining with incomprehensible vocals and soothing synths.
Having lived in Chicago since he was a young teen (and now based in New York City), Slava was obviously influenced by the hip-hop culture, as most of his songs are mixed with catchy one-liners that sound all too familiar. “How You Get That” and “Girls On Dick” are some of the less kid-friendly songs off the album, but they’re sure to get the club crowd up and at ‘em. If you aren’t in a club though, then there aren’t many reasons why you should be playing these tracks. “How You Get That,” while entertaining, is ridiculously repetitive. After the first 50 “How you get that pussy poppin?” questions, the next 50 are a little hard to bear. “Girls On Dick” does a better job of not becoming a monotonous song, simply because of the yeahs, oohs and aahs added in there. I do enjoy when artists manipulate voices to that cryptic high-pitched level, but Slava overdoes it.
That’s the only downfall to Raw Solutions; other than that, Slava was able to bang out some incredible hits. “Hold On” and “Girl Like Me” are the standout tracks on the album, finding the perfect mixture of drum and bass, dancehall music and hip-hop. All the parts shine brightly without overshadowing their counterparts. When I saw the song title “I Know,” I was anticipating a sample from Jay-Z’s track of the same name, but what was to come instead was something very futuristic. I can imagine radio stations (if they’ll still exist at that point) bumping this as people swerve about in their hover cars that run on vegetable oil. The beeps and horns sound like they come from a different planet, and Slava mixes them with eerie synths—and Britney Spears’s “I know I may be young”—to make a smooth, endearing song.
The album cover sums up Raw Solutions best: It unravels itself while unraveling you at the same time. It’s happy-go-lucky on the surface, more mellowed out underneath. And despite the many styles torn through on each track, they all zip together to form Slava’s body of influences.