Last week, I put together a remix for Felix Cartal and Elohim's song "Nothing Good Comes Easy."
This mix came together in fits and starts. At first, when I listened to the original track, I wasn't particularly inspired. Over time, though, some thoughts I had:
- Hot take: electronic music for the sake of electronic music, at least in the US, exploded out of its wild and zany roots into the mainstream and is now cresting its wave. Having followed EDM for the last few years from "dubstep" and "electro" in 2010ish (Skrillex, deadmau5) to a proliferation of subgenres like "deep," "melodic," or "progressive" house by 2014ish (Swedish House Mafia, Alesso, Martin Garrix, Tiesto) to crossover EDM/pop acts in 2017ish (Marshmello, Chainsmokers, Gryffin), we're at the point where EDM that sounds like it belongs in 2012-2015 suddenly sounds fresh again, like how an 80s-90s pop culture revival feels in 2020.  Nowadays, it feels like most electronica is this emotional, chill music for vibing along to and not really fist-pumping to, this track included. For instance, you'd be hard-pressed to find an EDM track without lyrics that isn't Rufus du Sol, Anjunadeep, or similar artists that have long branded themselves as more "chillout" music.
- I realized that the chords almost match those of RetroVision's remix of Galantis - We Can Get High and wanted to amp up the energy a bit. That remix feels a little disconnected harmonically, though: the verses use I-II-iii as chords, landing on an F# as part of the D major (II) chord, but the drop is in E minor and uses only E/F/G from that scale. I started out from the drop trying to mimic the RetroVision remix entirely, except I had issues with the F/F# because Elohim's "nothing good comes easy" line uses an F#, so I changed the notes slightly. 
- For flair, I threw in a VI (i.e. A major) chord change at the end of the drop chords. One instance is around 1:01 in the remix. I recently messed around in a friend's studio in SF and got inspired to do more funky chord changes.
- Even though I started out tongue-in-cheek copying the drop of an EDM banger, I ended up converging on something more similar to the original track after stumbling upon Elderbrook - Inner Light and ODESZA - The Last Goodbye. I was particularly inspired by the way both tracks just flow effortlessly from one section to another, which I suppose is characteristic of "deep house" or similar genres designed for vibing. I was also inspired for the end section after the chorus by hearing ODESZA's driving bass. I finally started to realize why house music tracks are so long and repetitive: rather than being both negatives, which pop music might have you believe with tracks routinely pushing shorter and shorter, these traits can complement each other. Introduce a motif, let it soak in the listener's ears for a bit, introduce a new one, float them in and out, see how the different ways they enter and leave can keep things interesting. I found myself wanting to make an extended mix, but probably not this time.
 Or maybe this is just me aging out of the target audience; I don't know. I also have no experience classifying these genres but was relieved to see that reputed record label Armada agrees.
 I have little experience in music theory so I mess up naming chords all the time, but the whole "this note doesn't fit with that note" thing has worked well enough so far.
- I've recently been intrigued by this idea of the contrast between silence and sound. It sounds obvious—making music is all about making sound which is the opposite of silence, right? But having more stark contrast is like a "crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside" effect that accentuates both the gaps in sound and the sounds themselves, making them punchier and more interesting. RetroVision's remix does this particularly well.
- To that end, I experimented with extremely intentional reverb. During the verses, everything is very spacey, but the bass during the drop is supposed to be super wide and in-your-face, which I achieved by specifically cutting a lot of reverb. The two things I think made the biggest difference:
- Tuning decay times and dry/wet levels to the beat. That prevented some of the muddiness that reverb comes with where it sounds like you're in a parking garage and the music is playing very far away. It also gives some nice motion to the track.
- Adjusting the eq on the reverb input to only reverberate the top end. Also helped with muddiness as the other frequencies are occupied by other elements. I think I also automated this parameter to sound like it's sweeping up toward the transition at 1:04.
- The tape stop effects were inspired by RetroVision. Initially, I put this effect on the piano chords in the drop, which I thought would lend to the silence/sound contrast, but I ended up removing it. It's still definitely audible around 1:14 on the vocal though, which I used in addition to a spacey pluck leading into the transition.
- The offbeat elements were inspired by Ellis. Ellis likes to do this electronic/funk hybrid, which I was listening to a lot a few months ago.
- The transition from first chorus to second verse (~1:20) was a late-breaking decision that I made in the last 30 minutes after deciding my first bounce was too abrupt. I initially had no transition at all, that is, going straight into the second verse out of the first chorus. It just so happened that the chords of the extended bit of that audio fit with the verse chords, and I was able to overlap the two in a way I liked. As an example of what I'd do in an extended mix, I'd definitely play around with that transition more, ramping down better and ramping into the new section better. It was a bit of an effort to get away from the straight-and-narrow path of "every section has its own elements" to a more fluid work where elements overlap across sections and tie each other together.
- Sound selection: Thanks Splice and Jonas Aden! I learned a bit more about Serum while producing as I finally discovered where to find Serum presets on Splice (heh) and got to play around with Spinnin's Future House pack. I also used an old folder of samples from Jonas Aden's Tell Me A Lie remix contest I participated in way back in 2019 for some of the FX.
- Stuff that still bothers me listening to it back, because I submitted this five minutes before an 11:59pm deadline:
- The rising bass saw sticks out too much during the build up around 0:43. I think this was just an oversight that I didn't notice until I had listened to it back a few times, but now I can't unhear it.
- The hi-hats are slightly loud on my headphones, although my headphones are known for being very clear in the high frequencies, and this isn't as pronounced on other sound systems like a car where the bass is super heavy.
- I probably could have removed even more reverb, especially on the lead in the drop. I suppose it's a bit odd that only the bass is super upfront in the drop; it seems like all the instrumental elements ought to be upfront while the vocals can be spacey in the background.
Overall I'm pretty pleased with the result though, as this went in a relatively different direction than I started out with, and it's something new for me.