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.
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.
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.
Album artwork for Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar
First of all, I would like to extend my best holiday wishes to each and every one of my readers! Your support has been truly inspirational, and I thank you all for it. I hope that all of you had a very Merry Christmas! As a holiday treat, today I would like to present you with one of the most musically unique albums that I have encountered in the past year. Let no one say that Rich Vreeland, also known as Disasterpeace, does not have a distinctive sound. He is the mastermind behind Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar, an album that combines the glitchy wonder of retro video game music with the musical complexity of progressive rock. Well, that’s certainly an interesting twist. If a band like Seventh Wonder or Dream Theater had decided to write electronic-based music for an 80s adventure game, this might have been the result. Let’s take a closer look!
This music represents a bit of an indulgence for me. Those of you that follow this blog regularly have probably realized by now that I am a big fan of progressive rock. It is the genre that I grew up with, and it will definitely always hold a special influence in my musical endeavors. I am also a passionate video game music enthusiast. The world of video games is the perfect theater for compositional experimentation. Different moods can be created for different scenarios in the game, characters can each be assigned their own musical themes, and dramatic interpretation is an omnipresent element. There is so much inspiration that can be drawn from various components of a game, and composers use this inspiration to create a sonic world that helps the game take on a whole new life.