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.
Now enough backstory; the spotlight of this post is on his album ISM, released on September 9, 2012. ISM is composed of thirteen tracks, each with their own unique flair. Tracks like “Syko” and “Outfox” have a clear dubstep influence, while “Nightmare Adventures” and “Mystery” lean more towards the drum & bass side of the spectrum. “Starfish” is a definitively glitch hop endeavor (although all of Savant’s music tends to have such qualities), yet “Cry for Love” showcases his lighter side with a nu-disco groove. As has become quickly obvious, Savant is a master of incorporating a whole array of styles into his music. On top of that, he also throws in several Easter eggs that only he might think of. For example, “Ghetto Blastah,” one of the heavier tracks on the album, arranges heavy bass wobbles side by side with a banjo, of all things. And don’t worry, it works tremendously well. In “Outfox,” he uses the jump sound from all the classic Mario video games as an integral part of the drop. These little Easter eggs inserted throughout the album are what make Savant’s sound unique.
The other main factor that I find tremendously impressive about Savant is his compositional ability. Although I cannot say for sure whether or not he has a background in music theory, it certainly seems that he does. Either that or he’s just been blessed with an incredible gift (which we already know to be true). As a formally trained musician myself, I can easily recognize when a song is well thought out theory-wise, and this is definitely the case for all of the tracks on ISM. Since the large majority of electronic dance music remains fairly unoriginal in terms of the compositions themselves (which is not necessarily a problem; they make up for it with their highly innovative sounds), Savant’s music, by contrast, is a breath of fresh air. The chords that he chooses, and the transitions between them, are much more advanced than what the average DJ might use.
For anyone who has written off electronic dance music (EDM) as a hopeless cause, I would beg you to reconsider. Artists like Savant are dramatically different from what you expect to hear out of the genre. His music packs all the punch of EDM, yet retains its musical integrity. After listening to ISM, be sure to check out his previous release, Overworld, a concept album of sorts that focuses on his own unique brand of video game-inspired music, and Alchemist, his most recent album, released only three months after ISM. I, for one, am absolutely looking forward to what Aleksander Vinter has to offer in the future, for he is certainly going to be one of the major proponents of innovative music in the future.