Straight-ahead techno can be a hard sell for some people who grew up listening primarily to rock, funk, or dance-pop and expect real melodies, real harmonies, and honest to God hooks from their music. But not every artist who is techno-friendly is a purist who caters to ravers exclusively; there are some techno-friendly producers who like to meet those rock, funk, and dance-pop listeners halfway, which is what Felix Cartal does on his first full-length album, Popular Music. As techno-minded as this 2010 release is, the Canadian producer isn't someone who goes out of his way to exclude those who aren't seasoned ravers. Rather, Cartal favors a likable mixture of techno and hard house that often has a lot of pop appeal -- and he manages to achieve a fair amount of diversity while maintaining an electronica orientation. Cartal is at his most rave-friendly on "The Grinch" and "Drone," which are among the more abrasive tracks on this 50-minute CD. But Cartal is a lot more melodic on "I Believe In" and "Why Wait" (both of which are mindful of '80s synth pop but still sound like they were recorded in the 21st century) as well on the infectious "Volcano," which combines techno's hard edge with a classic disco aesthetic. Although Popular Music has plenty of instrumentals, Cartal features various singers at times -- and that mixture of the instrumental and the vocal-oriented contributes to the album's diversity. Popular Music isn't for techno purists, but Cartal's album is well worth checking out if one appreciates a variety of electronic dance music.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson