Steve Aoki

Wonderland

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DJ'ing celebrity parties, promoting clubs, crafting clubs tracks that sold well, running a successful label, and landing the big-name remixes (how's Michael Jackson for big?) unfairly put Steve Aoki on the hipster "hated-on" list, but this first "proper" release is an excellent argument that his talent deserves respect. Approach it in the mood for a high-gloss good time and Wonderland does exactly what it does on the tin, taking the listener on a dancefloor adventure that begins with Weezer member Rivers Cuomo making moping sound triumphant during the electro-mover "Earthquakey People." This pumped-up journey continues as NERVO joins LMFAO for the cheeky fun "Livin' My Love," a track that would be considered an incredibly hip choice if it were labeled "Italo disco." The Lil Jon and Chiddy Bang cut is a big rush on the club tip, as is the Kid Cudi and Travis Barker team-up only with more of a spacy flavor, and when will.i.am dons his mask and becomes his alter-ego Zuper Blahq, "Dangerous" winds up the highlight for fans who don't think the Black Eyed Peas get silly often enough. Never mind that "Steve Jobs" sounds more Namco than Apple, or that Aoki wraps trance, electro-house, and dubstep into one flashy ball that genre fans might find frustrating; he's a fine producer who crafts complementary backgrounds for his guests, plus he has an excellent understanding of melody and song structure, garnishing his tracks with clever touches that are complicated enough to suggest he's done a scale run or two. Towering above it all is the curveball choice of Sick Boy -- veteran punks and former members of the Exploited and Die Kreuzen -- who join Aoki to worship '80s industrial music on the Skinny Puppy-ish monster "The Kids Will Have Their Say." Now that's a Wonderland.

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