Okay, so I think it’s about time I ventured over to the heavier side of music. I’m not always in the mood to listen to something aggressive and/or with heavy distortion, but when I am, I’m ready to RAGE. Throughout many of the formative years of my youth, I satisfied this desire by listening to heavy metal music – everything from Dream Theater to Periphery, from Avenged Sevenfold to Sum 41 (my punk rock phase directly preceded the heavy metal phase). Once I started going to college, I was exposed to heavy electronic bass music (Zomboy comes to mind), which fulfilled the same need for chest-pounding, head-banging jams. Having established all of that history, you can imagine my delight when I first discovered The Algorithm, the musical lovechild of metal and dubstep. I can say, without a doubt, that Rémi Gallego (the man behind the moniker) has one of the most unique sounds that I’ve ever been exposed to. Basically, he combines modern djent metal breakdowns with experimental glitch electronica, and throws an ample helping of dubstep wobbles in there for good measure. Okay, now read that sentence again. Intrigued yet? Let’s continue then.
Building a bridge between heavy metal music and electronica is a daring move, no question. Although you certainly have the potential to appeal to two huge audiences instead of one, you also run the risk of polarizing the entire playing field. Mashing together two styles with entirely separate fan bases may lead to both groups rejecting you. I could definitely see such a thing happening, but only if the artist wasn’t very well-versed in both styles. One listen to Polymorphic Code (The Algorithm’s first and only studio album), and it’s obvious that we’re dealing with a highly skilled musician.
Album artwork for The Science of How Things Unfold
When I feature music on this site, I frequently refer to albums as “listening experiences” as opposed to just a collection of tracks. I think this is an important distinction to make – music is created as an art to appreciate, enjoy, and be inspired by, not just a utility to be consumed and discarded. Different artists aim to create different types of these “experiences” with their music. In the case of Ben Lukas Boysen, his new album Gravity was created as a deeply personal, meditative experience. Brian Setzer’s The Dirty Boogie was more of an upbeat swing experience to inspire dancing and grooving. This is a foundational aspect of music, and part of what makes it so beautiful: incredible diversity in both style and intent. So today, we’ll be looking at an artist with a whole new philosophy behind his music. That artist is David Krantz, more commonly known as Futexture.
Futexture is one of those artists who is able to make electronic music sound like a true extension of his mind and body, as if he were playing it in real time like any other instrumentalist. This is a remarkable achievement, considering the challenges that “robot music” has posed to its innovators when compared to traditional live musicianship. With Futexture, however, there is no lack of creativity or authenticity. None of his music sounds like a groove that’s been copied and pasted several times in succession. I have this mental image of artists like this creating and manipulating their music with their mind, willing each individual sound or timbre to move in correlation with the others. Although that may seem like an idealistic notion (or is it?), the point here is that Futexture’s sounds completely natural, enough so to inspire such a lofty vision.
For me, Phutureprimitive was a gateway artist. I first really got into electronic music through the heavy dance scene of Miami, Florida – home of Ultra Music Festival and a thousand of the most exclusive clubs America has to offer. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of who’s dropping the latest electro-dubstep-moombah-house tracks in such an atmosphere. I soon realized, however, that such a fast-paced market was lacking two main characteristics: artistic individuality and longevity. All the songs sound the same, and each week there’s a new hit record to replace the last one. And yes, of course there are exceptions (Savant and GRiZ, to name a few), just as there are in any situation. But the point here is that there’s a big difference between a half-heartedly embellished four-on-the-floor beat, created for the sake of keeping the nightclubs packed, and inspired, musically creative electronic music. It was through this quest for more meaningful artistic vision that I came across Phutureprimitive for the first time.
Here is an artist who has demonstrated an incredible knack for producing high quality, high fidelity electronic music that remains authentic in the face of emotionless banality. “Lush melodies drift across intricate rhythms, groove-heavy beats and warm, fuzzy bass lines. Often exploring a dark and dense palette, his music also manages to convey a sense of tranquility and beauty, engaging the listener into hypnotic movement and often escalating toward a full kinetic experience.”
To be perfectly honest, this is probably one of the craziest albums of music I’ve listened to. And I’ve heard a lot of weird, bizarre music. Don’t let me scare you away with such a description, though. It’s crazy in a good way! Great, now I sound like I’m crazy. I need to stop saying crazy. Okay, moving on.
The point here is that in a world where it seems almost impossible to come up with any sort of new, original music, The Flashbulb has succeeded in bring us Hardscrabble, one of the most unique electronic glitch records to date. I can only imagine how much time and effort must have been put into making this album. And it’s all the work of a single man: Benn Jordan, a.k.a. The Flashbulb. As it says on the website of Alphabasic, the record label he founded himself: “The only common quality that Hardscrabble‘s songs share is unorthodox time signatures, microtonal piano melodies, and the most accomplished synthesis that we’ve seen from Jordan, in both analog and computerized website.”
Are you intrigued yet? Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronica music, I would urge you to check out this guy’s music for the sheer purpose of expanding your mind and hearing something that I can assure you you’ve never heard before. The music on Hardscrabble isn’t just made up of a bunch of random noises (well technically it is, if we wanted to get esoteric here). There is a level of familiarity present that helps us connect. Although everything is digital synthesis, it’s easy to picture a virtual band playing. There are clear distinctions between drums, bass, keyboard pads, and guitar, plus a large helping of other processed effects. One track, entitled “The Basement Trio,” brings to mind a strong mental image of an actual trio playing music in – you guessed it – a basement. In a way, we should actually give The Flashbulb an extra wave of applause. Despite being limited to nothing but digital sounds, he manages to create music in a form that is absolutely recognizable and relatable to the common ear.
“Submotion Orchestra have rapidly built up a reputation as one of the most interesting and original projects emerging from the UK today. Drawing upon dubstep, soul, ambient electronica, jazz and dub, their unique music is at once delicate and heavy, spacious and dense, highly atmospheric but firmly rooted. Earth-shaking bass and drums combine with lush keyboard and trumpet textures to create the perfect bed for the fragile beauty of Ruby Wood’s vocals, and the celestial effects of sound designer Ruckspin.”
The paragraph above is an excerpt pulled from the bio posted on the group’s website. Let’s take a minute to reflect on those words. Dubstep, soul, ambient electronica, jazz and dub. Those of you that keep up with my posts on this site will know by now that I’m always a big fan of cross-genre mixtures. In that regard, Submotion Orchestra have certainly gone above and beyond with their newest album, entitled Fragments. It’s actually the ideal combination of styles – many opponents of the advent of popular electronic music will use the argument that it such genres sound too “robotic” or “repetitive.” If we posit for a moment that such a claim is true, then surely we could turn to jazz as a musical style on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Just about everything about jazz is based around live improvisation and the interaction between players.
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?).