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?).
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.
Dubstep. Or brostep, if you prefer. It seems like it’s the only thing people are talking about nowadays. At least, that’s the case here in Miami. And of course, there are a million amateur producers that are clogging up the pipes with nothing but cheap emulations of the greats, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still quality music to be found. Joshua Mellody, better known as Zomboy, has been absolutely killingit in dance clubs across the globe. He’s a natural at heavy dubstep production. His sophomore release, The Dead Symphonic EP, came out in September of this year, and never before have I seen so much energy and quality packed into a six-track EDM release. I had the good fortune of seeing this man perform a live set in Tampa a few weeks ago, and I consider it to be one of the best dubstep shows I’ve ever attended, even rivaling such heavyweights (pun intended) as Datsik and Kill the Noise.
Zomboy works within a genre that is defined by fairly universal sound production methods, so the fact that his music is easily distinguishable from the sounds of his peers is certainly commendable. He does pull heavily from the well-known styles of Skrillex and Knife Party – “Vancouver Beatdown” calls to mind the memorable “Devil’s Den” (Skrillex and Wolfgang Gartner), while “Deadweight” bears a striking similarity to Knife Party’s “Centipede” – but rather than casting the ugly shadow of unoriginality over his work, he uses such resemblance to establish himself as a bold player who can hold his own in the big leagues.
Even though I have already been working on my next post for several days now, I felt compelled to put it on hold in light of today’s significance. That’s right, today marks the release of deadmau5‘s sixth studio album, > album title goes here <. As one of the most well-known electronic music producers today, in a way he has become the representation of modern house music for many people. Although it may seem like a lot of pressure, Joel Zimmerman (the man behind the mau5head) has never been one to submit to outside opinions and criticism. With the eruption of countless young EDM producers trying to make a name for themselves, the industry has become somewhat overloaded by unoriginal tracks from DJs who are only looking to party. While partying is certainly one of the best things to do while listening to electronic music, it does not go unnoticed when an artist puts a significant amount of time and effort into their music, sculpting it to meet their exact creative vision. This is the impression that I get from all of deadmau5’s music, and the new album is certainly no exception.
The first time I listened to > album title goes here < in its entirety was this morning at approximately 2 AM. It was easily the best decision I could have made in my somewhat-conscious state (because let’s face it, nothing productive ever happens after two o’clock in the morning). The album was the perfect soundtrack for the quiet serenity of deep night. Not to say it wouldn’t be great at any other time of day, of course. Having listened to all of deadmau5’s previous releases, I would have to say that as a complete package, this newest release could very well be my favorite of them all. His sound remains consistent enough to establish a sense of familiarity, yet at the same time there are many new avenues that he explores musically. This is a release that will appeal to ravers and easy listeners alike.
As the growth of more advanced music technology has increased exponentially in recent years, so has the creation of electronic music. Although there is still a large demographic that criticizes such styles for countless reasons (the most prevalent being lack of creativity, talent, and/or that certain “human” element), this is only to be expected. Historically, every time a new genre of music has thrust its way into the public eye, there have always been just as many naysayers as there have been believers. Look at rock ‘n’ roll, rap, and jazz. Even classical composers faced negativity throughout their careers. The fact of the matter is that people are always initially resistant to change. Music, on the other hand, is constantly transforming, and musicians are always looking for new ways to mold it into new and unique adaptations. Electronica is simply one of these more recent transformations. With such a philosophy established, it is easy to sit back and immerse oneself in the subtle nuances and extraordinary sound design of the digital revolution.
That being said, I am excited to present to you the latest album from Australian drum & bass group Pendulum. Immersion is their third full-length studio album, and in my opinion it is the most cohesive. Although the majority of the songs are consistent with the fast-paced and frenetic mood of drum & bass, they explore a variety of other styles as well. This is exemplified by the catchy, electro house vibe of “The Island – Pt. I (Dawn)” and “The Island – Pt. II (Dusk),” the dubstep tendencies of “Set Me On Fire,” and the electronic/metal fusion “Self vs. Self,” which features Swedish melodic death metal band In Flames.