It’s not clear whether it’s finger-snapping or some techier percussive element in the first few bars of Fenix & SM1LO’s “Where We Begin,” which shares its name with the record of remixes and radio edits that the two collaborating partners released last month, but in either case, it sparks chills the moment the song starts to play. This instrumental portion of the track is perhaps the most evocative, as it sets us up for the theatrical lead vocal of Llexa, a singer I just discovered when reviewing this LP. There’s a sense that something big is coming at this juncture, and in roughly twenty-two seconds’ time, we find out exactly what it is.
“Let’s pack up our suitcase, head on out, embrace escape / Destination: unknown / No worries, just car keys, a bottle of vodka in my hand / We’re not looking back” croons Llexa in the opening stanza, her confidence even preceding the silkiness of her own singing. Her words are clear and concise, and there’s no enigmatic poeticism for us to sift through in trying to figure out their narrative. She wants us to carpe diem, and with the help of the super-sleek synths, she’s going to get exactly what she wants in the chorus.
The hook that we find in the middle of the standard “Where We Begin” is punishingly angst-ridden, and clears some room for a verse that asks us an ostensible question applicable to both romance and reckless youth. The beats are brutally inefficient, but I get the idea that they’re supposed to be; this excess is the dark secret to the song’s success, and I don’t like the way that it’s curtailed in some of the remixes that the Where We Begin LP features. Honestly, it’s a key factor in what makes this collaboration so much more engaging than the others that I’ve heard in the last six months.
Fenix’s “Dub” mixes of “Where We Begin” are fine and dandy, but they do lack a certain level of panache that only Llexa can impart with her soft serenading. They’re more for the DJs than they are for the dancers, but when it comes to spreading a Molotov cocktail of a harmony out as far as it can go, no one does it better than this singer does. Even in tracks where her contribution is limited, like the “House Radio Edit,” she still makes the mix more palatable to casual listeners than it would have been otherwise.
Regardless of which version of this song you fancy, Fenix & SM1LO’s Where We Begin is excellent listening for audiences with a taste for EDM. There could have been, at most, two or three tracks eliminated from this LP and it would be a bit more accessible to indie pop buffs, but I don’t think that’s who these two were trying to satisfy with this release. Fenix & SM1LO’s friendship crosses an entire ocean, breaks plenty of rules in western scene politics, and demands respect from those who know the genre better than anyone else. Where We Begin is, as I see it, their statement to a new era of electronica and its adoring admirers.