The distance between Amsterdam and Los Angeles spans 5,550 miles. Despite that physical separation, the cities share quite a bit in common, remaining creative hotbeds for their respective continents. Both locations fortified the foundation of YELLOW CLAW’s second full-length album, the appropriately titled LOS AMSTERDAM (Mad Decent). For the first time, the Dutch electronic duo—Jim Aasgier and Nizzle—enjoyed an extended stay in the City of Angels in order to write and record before heading back to Amsterdam to finetune their compositions throughout 2016. The process mirrors the musicians’ distinct sonic alchemy, fusing elements of European dancefloor panache and gritty American trap seamlessly.
“Over the past year, we’ve been thinking about how Los Angeles and Amsterdam are very similar cities,” exclaims Jim. “They’re based on a lot of creativity and diversity regarding genres, people, and work ethic. LOS AMSTERDAM represents that spirit. At the same time, there’s this big music industry in L.A. with all of these writers making all types of songs. In Europe, there’s a dance industry with artists making beats and drops. Combining those two things was our goal from the start as we’ve been trying to mix pop and dance music for years. We like to bring stuff together. On a personal level, the balance on this album is everything we’ve been working towards.”
Since 2010, YELLOW CLAW has been quietly inching towards electronic dance music supremacy. Their November 2015 debut, Blood For Mercy, bowed at #1 on Billboard’s Heat Seekers Chart and Top/Dance Electronic Albums Chart and scored an Edison Award—the Dutch equivalent of a GRAMMY. It spawned the mega-smash “In My Room” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign, Tyga, & DJ Mustard), which notched over 104 million Spotify streams. The album illuminated their penchant for studio synergy as they welcomed the likes of Pusha T, Ty Dolla $ign, Tiesto, Flux Pavilion, DJ Mustard, and more into their creative ecosystem.
Along the way, Rolling Stone named them among “10 Artists You Need To Know” as they received further acclaim from SPIN, Dancing Astronaut and many more. They’ve enamored audiences everywhere from Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival to Coachella, Bonnaroo, EDC Las Vegas and Jack Ü’s New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden.
By the time the boys headed to Los Angeles early 2016 to begin work on LOS AMSTERDAM, the vision for their next evolution had come into focus.
“The process of making Blood For Mercy was sort of a chaos,” admits Nils. “We were working with people all over the place, and it was very unstructured in a way. We just started making songs, and then we placed them together on a tracklisting. We didn’t want to do that again. We really wanted to take our time and construct a record from top-to-bottom as opposed to fifteen or eighteen songs we just so happened to finish.”
In late 2016, YELLOW CLAW teased out the impending full-length with two Yade Lauren collaborations: “Invitation” and “Love & War.” Propelled by the group’s propulsive production and the singer’s heavenly delivery, “Invitation” clocked 19 million Spotify streams, while “Love & War” amassed 14.6 million in less than a month and landed on the Huffington Post’s “Top 10 Workout Songs for January 2017.” With robust hooks and palpable energy, the new music reflects a conscious progression.
“We really believed ‘Less is more,’” Jim continues. “In the past, if something didn’t work, we would throw a lot of production on top of it. We stripped everything back and focused on the core instead of adding or changing stuff that didn’t work.”
As a result, each moment stands out. The airtight “City On Lockdown” (feat. Juicy J & Lil Debbie) begins with the echo of chiming industrial pipes before snapping into Lil Debbie’s incendiary declaration, “Bitch, I’m on fire. We ‘bout to burn the fucking club down.” Following a mind-bending drop, Academy® Award-winning Memphis hip-hop legend Juicy J struts along with a signature, swaggering verse, “Damn right I’m trippy, ain’t no better way to be.”
“Lil Debbie really killed it, and I’m a big Juicy J fan,” smiles Nils. “’Stay Trippy’ is one of my favorite albums of all-time. The song has a dance thing. It has a hip-hop edge. It’s exciting for us.”
“Good Day” (feat. DJ Snake & Elliphant) echoes eighties new wave before slipping into a snappy and warbling vocal transmission from Swedish songstress Elliphant, “It was a good day.” It marks YELLOW CLAW’s third collaboration with French titan DJ Snake, continuing what’s become a tradition.
“Snake is a genius,” Jim goes on. “He has the perfect ear, and he put his Snake magic on it. I was really interested in doing a pop song with Elliphant. We did two songs with her. The first one was hardcore techno punk song but after that we wanted to make something beautiful. That ended up being ‘Good Day’ on the album.”
Elsewhere, “Open” (feat. Moski & Jonna Fraser) volleys between dream synths and an ethereal chant, while the shimmering “Light Years” (feat. Rochelle) beams an iridescent energy all its own.
Then, there’s the powerhouse “Stacks” (feat. Quavo, Tinie Tempah & Cesqaux). The bombastic soundscape provides the perfect landscape for Quavo of Migos and Tinie Tempah to turn up with inimitable bars and an ear-catching refrain.
“You’ve got arguably the hottest rapper in the U.S. Quavo and the biggest rapper in the UK Tinie Tempah,” says Nils. “It’s everything we hoped it would be.”
Ultimately, Los Amsterdam is the destination for electronic music in 2017.
“When everyone hears this, we want to let them know that we’re not taking a break or going down the easy road,” he leaves off. “We do this for the fans and hope this is music they can listen to in heartache, in the gym, in pre-game mode, or at work if your boss isn’t looking. We’ve been pioneering this sound for the last seven years, and we’re going to continue it for a long time.”