I’d have to say that some of my favorite musical experiences are when I get to connect with a brand new artist for the first time. There’s always something indescribable about the feeling – you have the opportunity to glimpse inside the creative soul of a wholly unique human being whom you’ve never previously met. I believe that when approaching any artistic work, it is essential to understand that there is an irrefutable truth behind it. Put in other words, music is an undiluted form of communication between humans, conveying the accumulation of an artist’s entire life’s journey. Every influence and moment of inspiration – whether it be musical, philosophical, existential – is a molecule in the genetic code that makes up their art. Music is not just a product of one’s consciousness; it is equally representative of the darker mysteries of the subconscious mind. We, as artists, are channeling the terrifyingly enigmatic power of nature through our music. We are the filters through which the energy of the universe is manifested into artistic creation.
Alright, time to tone down the existentialism. The inspiration for such philosophical musings is my recent discovery of a wonderfully exceptional band known as Intervals. I’m going to tell you my favorite thing about them right here in the first paragraph: they have a remarkable talent for fusing heavy, high octane instrumentation with colorful, jazz-inspired harmony. With the release of their latest EP, In Time, the group builds off of their established djent metal sound by incorporating elements of jazz, melodic progressive rock, and electronica. The result is an intensely focused and highly refined musical product that captivates the listener from beginning to end.
Today’s post focuses on a style of music that is drastically different from anything else featured here on Audio Intimacy. Today, we’re talking about Brian Eno. There’s a good chance you may have heard the name before. After all, he does happen to be one of the main proponents and principal innovators of experimental electronic music production. There is, quite literally, too much to say about the man to cover it all in a post here. When Eno first came onto the scene in the early ’70s, the music industry was undergoing an intense period of transition (isn’t it always, though?). More specifically, it was going through something of a technological Renaissance as multitrack recording became more and more expansive. Music recordings became subject to a continuously increasing amount of manipulation and editing. This set the stage for Eno to find inspiration in his innovative philosophy of “The Studio As a Compositional Tool.”
The main premise behind this philosophy is that the art of recording music is just that – an art. It is no longer simply a means of transmitting a single performance as accurately as possible. With the development of multitrack recording, producers to have the incredible ability to manipulate everything from the arrangement of the song to the individual timbres of the instruments. They can put an echo effect on the entire song, or just on the guitar track for two seconds on the bridge. This affects composition on both the macro level and the micro level. The infinite amount of unique combinations of sound that were made possible by this new approach is too awe-inspiring for words, yet it is something that we take for granted in the 21st century.
Album artwork for Introducing Thrills (And The Chase)
Let it not be said that rock & roll is dead. The current generation of youth may have transferred much of their rebellious energy to be channeled through electronic dance music instead, but by no means does that warrant the abandonment of such an integral part of modern culture. After all, rock & roll was the first genre that rocketed the electric guitar into the mainstream world. It was the genre that gave us our first taste of the true power of modern musical instrument technology. The second half of the 20th century in popular music was without a doubt a golden age in music history. That being said, there has been an unfortunate decline in the amount of classic rock music that continues to be produced today. It’s understandable – the music industry is in a constant state of transition – but the truth will always remain: there is simply no substitute for some good ol’ rock & roll.
It’s in times like these, however, that the true believers in the genre shine through. Today, I have the pleasure of presenting to you Thrills & The Chase, a four-piece band from São Paulo, Brazil. Back in March of 2012, they released their debut EP, entitled Introducing Thrills (And The Chase). Having gained a following in their home nation, they have begun expanding their musical mission across the globe. Now, as a self-appointed representative of the aforementioned globe, I would like to personally thank Thrills & The Chase for doing so. To put it bluntly, this is music that deserves to be heard. This is rock & roll at its finest; music that is unique and draws inspiration from many different influences, yet somehow still presents itself with an air of nostalgia and familiarity.
Electronic music has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings in the early 20th century. It began with a desire to use the evolving technology of the time period to create increasingly innovative sounds. This new kind of music, known as musique concrète, was approached mostly as a sandbox for experimentation, rather than as a tool for augmenting popular music. It wasn’t until the late ’60s and early ’70s that electronic music itself began to be popularized. The Moog synthesizer was featured prominently in bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, and Genesis. New Wave and synthpop music began to rise in the commercial market. In the club scene, disco music became hugely popular, followed by techno and house music.
Why is any of this important? Because by understanding the history, we can see the remarkable journey that electronic music has undertaken since its genesis almost a century ago. In the past few years, modern rave culture has exploded and the scene is stronger than ever. As a result, its influence has begun to permeate throughout many other musical genres. Not only is there house, trance, and dubstep, but also styles like electro swing, chiptunes, and even folktronica (what?).
I’ve always thought of the term “music blogger” as being somewhat restrictive. It seems like such an unimaginative term for an overlooked cornucopia of enlightenment. It is, unfortunately, far too easy to become numb to the everyday processes of searching for new music, weighed down by the sheer banality of it all. On the other hand, I have witnessed an uncomfortable number of music bloggers fall victim to the competitive, quasi-political nature of the cutthroat world they live in. I believe it is essential to leave both of these attitudes behind. Rather than a “music blogger,” I think the term “aural adventurer” might be more appropriate, or perhaps even “sonic expeditioner.” Why do I remain passionate about finding new music? It’s not about the journey, but the destination. This is a core philosophy that applies to the world of music as much as it applies to life itself. The other night, I walked out the door with nothing but my iPod and a pair of Sennheiser headphones, eager to embark on such a journey. As my legs took me across the beautiful campus of the University of Miami, I retreated into my mental space – my inner theater – and embraced the sonic landscape that was beginning to form.
The album of choice for tonight was Square Pegs Round Holes by Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, a band which I had never heard of before. I stumbled upon them quite by happenstance, thanks to the wonders of the Internet. The first words used to describe the group that I read were “improvisational progressive rock band.” Boy, did that get me excited. I knew from that moment on that I owed it to myself to at least check out some of their music. Approximately 67 minutes later, I found myself in a state of amazement as the full splendor of Square Pegs Round Holes sank in.
The recent wave of modern dubstep artists has become one of the most polarizing movements in today’s music industry. Love it or hate it, it has had a profound effect on the development of electronic music, and has influenced a variety of derivative styles. One such pioneer goes by the name of Blackmill, and has been producing music that he christens “melodic dubstep.” In a genre that is known for its heavy bass lines and fast-paced sampling, Blackmill’s sound is refreshingly calm. For those of you who find the average dubstep track to be too abrasive (i.e. my last post), I would urge you to continue reading, despite any hesitations you might have, and hopefully be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
His approach to music production is really quite ingenious. Although you might expect to hear an excess of white noise and heavy, distorted bass content, it is refreshing to feel the much gentler touch of Miracle upon your ears. The harsh wobble sounds have been crafted into a much warmer and muted tone. Sharp chord stabs have been replaced with echoing bells and slow-moving synth pads. The music opens up into a much less cluttered arrangement, allowing for a greater emphasis on chordal harmony and ambient sound textures.
Anyone who has ever attempted to produce electronic music knows that it’s a lot harder than it sounds. To be frank, it’s damn difficult. With the dramatic rise in popularity of electronic dance music in recent years, producers have been expanding their horizons sonically, leading to the development of several new subgenres. The new wave of dubstep, brought to the public eye by the (in)famous Skrillex, often referred to as “brostep,” is a perfect example. Love it or hate it, no one can argue against the fact that the compositional attitude of such artists has taken a dramatic turn towards a much more complex mindset. In my mind, this movement is simply a reflection on how we, as a species, have a continuous desire for innovation in our creative pursuits – one of the most remarkable traits of our intelligence.
Let’s dial our focus in a bit. Aleksander Vinter, more commonly known by his artist moniker, Savant, is a producer from Norway who has been making increasingly large waves in the electronic music community. His first album, Outbreak, which was released back in 2009, was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy Award, and two of his most recent albums, Vario and Overworld, reached #1 on Beatport’s list of Top 100 Releases. Here’s the really interesting part: according to his official Facebook page, Vinter is an actual savant with Asperger’s syndrome, and he has been blessed with the gift of extraordinary creative genius. To quote directly from his biography, “He thinks out songs in seconds and produces them within few hours. To this date Aleksander has composed / produced over 10.000 songs in various genres. Most notably metal, orchestral / classical, hip-hop and electronic music.” Not only that, but Savant released four full-length studio albums just in 2012. In other words, his past four albums were all composed, produced, and released in 2012, with the fourth one being released in December. If that’s not enough intrigue to get you to check out his music, then you may as well stop reading now.