Vocals in dance music are the kind of thing that either make or break a track. In the case of Tom Trago's recent release on Rush Hour, the case is unfortunately the latter. This is something of an unexpected turn, as Trago's discography includes "Use Me Again," one of the better vocal cuts to surface in the past few years. Yet, while that song was anthemic and unique in its appropriation of disco house, his latest feels weirdly generic within the broader spectrum of the Dutch producer's discography.
Introduced with a crack of lightning, "Rise Up (feat. Cinnaman)" opens in a way that seems familiar enough. Flanged hi-hats squeak across a house rhythm mixed up and made anxious by its unusual kick-drum placement. Stripped and spare, this 40-second intro might be the best section of the record—at the very least, it's the most playable. "Now I wanna tell ya about a great love," croons the entirely upfront and present voice of Cinnaman while the track's tech-house bassline bounces around beneath occasional samples of erotic gasps. It quickly establishes an odd vibe that feels like something intended for Crosstown Rebels, only it's been stripped of all moodiness; instead, it comes across as flat, happy, and ultimately bland. A battery of neon-hued stabs, seemingly cribbed from Massive's preset library, does little to give the track definition. It's not terrible, but it's not particularly compelling or memorable either.
In contrast, the b-sides are unfortunately both all too memorable, thanks to a baffling vocal performance by San Proper. "Sky High (Vocal Dub)" and "Sky High (Original Demo Mix)" are very similar tracks, the only point of distinction being the looseness with which they tie San Proper's vocal to another uninspired instrumental. A subdued rhythm, standard Moog bass, and wiggling pieces of melody create a basic structure for Proper to deliver off-key, ad-hoc lines like, "Am I high?/Your high/Ain't nothing compared to my high" and "My high flies over your head/I'm blue and red." On paper, it doesn't read so bad—and this tune just might end up being an anthem for the Monday-morning crowd—but the song is stuck in an awkward place; it's too slick to be outsider and too goofy to be serious.