Tag Archives: Electronic

My electronic evolution..and some actual music

My opinion about electronic music prior to my 20’s was one of distinct derision. The line of logic that I (and plenty of other people into alternative music) followed was that electronic music did not warrant attention because the ‘artist’ didn’t need to master or even learn how to play an instrument in order to create the music. Additionally, my exposure to electronic music was limited at that time to the painfully chipper and cliched Eurotrash that would occasionally spew out of nightclub (like that fucking ‘blue’ song!) stereo systems in Delhi nightclubs, severely testing my patience and always forcing me to question why the hell I spent half my week’s pocket money on the entry fee when I could be listening to The Wall…spliff in hand.
Thankfully, experience and exposure forced me to reconsider the logic behind this prejudice. First and foremost, I came to realize that most modern artists are respected for their ability to compose music rather than their ability to physically play the songs. That’s why we all enjoy watching a good cover band but we never remember who they are, for they are merely a conduit to enjoy someone else’s music. It’s also why John Lennon will always be considered to be a better artist than (death metal guitar player name), because although the latter is probably more technically proficient, his music just isn’t timeless.
Secondly, I was surprised to find out that a lot of electronic artists ARE actually classically trained, and they gravitated towards electronic music because it offered them a limitless canvas on which to express their vision and creativity. Fundamentally, I came to accept that although it probably is easier to create music with machines, it isn’t the difficulty factor that drives enjoyment or satisfaction (at least for me).
Now that I’ve bored you with all that, check out some really interesting new (and not so new) electronic music. This collection is much more the introverted headphone-late night chillout-wow that just sounds really cool! kind of electronic music rather than the hands in the air-go mental kind. Pure coincidence I suppose…
Artist: Seefeel
Track: Faults
Album: Faults
Artist: Health
Track: USA BOYS
Album: ::DISCO2
Artist: Mount Kimbie
Track: Carbonated
Album: Crooks & Lovers
Artist: Shpongle
Track: Invisible Man in a Fluorescent Suit
Album: Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland
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Q: Who are These New Puritans?

A: A decidedly strange indie outfit out of the UK. It is difficult to classify a particular genre for their music, as it incorporates and amalgamates so many diverse and discordant influences. Post Rock, Industrial, Minimal Electro, Shoegaze, Post Punk and Brian Eno/Thom Yorke-esque avant-gardism are just a few influences that come to mind. If nothing else, These New Puritans are an ambitious lot. The recently released Hidden LP involves the band moving far beyond the 3-4 piece standard instruments that characterise traditional rock. Perhaps the most prominent examples of this are the thunderous Japanese Taiko drums and the long forgotten Bassoon (yeah, they actually play a bassoon!). The result is a really interesting and surprisingly addictive album. Be prepared to spend a little time with this one…it isn’t designed or instant gratification, and you won’t hear any of their songs in a car commercial.

Not that there is anything wrong with bands who have songs that appear in car commercials. Phoenix’s massively successful Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix LP included a number of tracks that became ubiquitous in large part due to their use in ads. It can be somewhat annoying, but who can blame them in an era when nobody actually purchases music? Anyhow, I always felt that Love Like a Sunset was a song that had massive potential, but ended prematurely and was thus somewhat unsatisfying. In a blatant attempt to appease me, Phoenix have gone ahead and released Love Like A Sunset (Part III), which is essentially an electro remix of the song. It sounds pretty cool, but once again I feel like they could have used the song’s climax so much more creatively and effectively than they did…sigh. Fun track though!

Of course, all good music doesn’t need to be ground breaking and innovative (and in fact a lot of ‘innovative’ music is just pretentious garbage). I (and I would imagine many other people) sometimes crave the comforting simplicity of a well crafted rock song that evokes emotion and just makes me want to sing along. This is the kind of music you will get from the Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit. 2008’s A Midnight Organ Fight was a fantastically earnest and melancholy album that incorporated elements of Scottish & Irish folk music. Their most recent release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (March 2010), is a decidedly more upbeat and ambitious record, incorporating a wider use of instruments and texture. I’m impressed with their ability to progress as a band, and this is a good album, but somehow it lacks that emotional punch that made A Midnight Organ Fight such a great album.

Finally, a parting gift of pure electropop sweetness from that loveable sheep shaggin land of New Zealand (thanks SP) by The Naked And Famous. Very Passion Pit/MGMT…and that’s a good thing.

Maximum Balloon is a cool name

It is, isn’t it? Maximum Balloon is the solo project of TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, He really seems to be enjoying the freedom to produce music while collaborating with an impressive and eclectic range of singers and musicians, including the likes of former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and upcoming vocalist Holly Miranda. At it’s core, Maximum Balloon is a very solid New Wave inspired Electropop record with a few twists here and there. Although it has billed as a dance record because of the ample funky bass guitar and synthy hi hats, I see the record as more of a groovy head nodder because it all seems a little too esoteric and indie to really make people get out of their seats (unless you really are an 80’s new waver at heart!). That said, I would certainly dance to Communion. All in all, this is a very listenable record from start to finish (except when he gets a little too Prince on us on Shakedown) without being particularly innovative or ground breaking.

Maximum Balloon: Communion (Listen Here)

While Electropop is clearly reaching mainstream popularity, Minimal Electronic/Techno still remains a firmly niche and underground phenomenon (unless you live in Berlin or something…). This isn’t particularly difficult to fathom, as the genre is introverted by nature and thus overshadowed by it’s electronic siblings that are more conducive to radio airplay and club rotations. Nevertheless, Minimal has a lot to offer music lovers. The inherent sparsity of the music allows for greater complexity and experimentation, and the results are often beautifully rich and rewarding. The following two songs are examples of the diversity that exists within this genre (although this genre really isn’t conducive to single track sampling).

Dominik Eulberg: Polar Shift (Listen Here)

Matias Aguayo: Radio Taxi (Listen Here)

Finally, to end this post on a beautifully dramatic post rock note, check out the epic “They Move on Tracks of Never-ending Light” by Texas based This Will Destroy You.

now check out how the Not For Profit group Charity:Water used this track to produce one of the most powerful and creatively effective video messages I have seen….

Bye!

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New Music (Part II)

So, on to part II of new music that doesn’t make you want to cry in agony, in contrast to the persistent and deafening drone of those South African vuvuzelas in the World Cup.  If you don’t know what i’m talking about, check out the video below!

Imagine trying to play football with tens of thousands of those things….and we wonder why the standard of play has been so poor so far! But I digress…..

1) Artist: The Black Keys Album: Brothers

This blues-rock duo has really developed their sound over the last five years. Somewhat unfairly dubbed as White Stripes wannabe’s, these Akron boys are finally receiving the respect and recognition they deserve. 2008’s Attack & Release ushered in a new era for the group in which they tested the boundaries of traditional blues rock confines of thier previous albums with creative usage of stuidio techniques, distortion, and harmonies to add a level of texture and depth to their sound. Indeed, the most striking thing when listening to recent Black Key’s music is the fact that they really are only a two piece band. Their desire to experiment and expand their sound was further underscored by the recent Blakroc project (see my previous post for details, in which they collaborated with a host of hip hop artists. Brothers is clearly an attempt to continue their musical evolution while remaining faithful to their blues rock roots. It is perhaps their most accessible album, but somehow also manages to maintain the grit and rawness that sets these guys apart from a lot of more slickly produced acts. Highly recommended.

Top Songs: (the whole album is worth a listen, but if you insist…): Everlasting Light, Sinister Kid

2) Artist: Santogold (now known as Santigold) Album: Santogold

This is not a new album by any stretch of the imagination. Santogold broke into the burgeoning indiepop scene back in 2008, and her single L.E.S Artiste’s received considerable attention from both indie and mainstream media. Dubbed as the next M.I.A due to similar influences, musical choices, and fashion tastes, Santogold can definitely be seen as part of the same wider genre that blends hip hop, r&b, reggae/dancehall, as well as more eclectic world music into a more contemporary and youthful sound. In many ways, Santogold is a more maintstream artist who takes fewer risks and clearly wants to develop a radio friendly hook in her music. Hey, there ain’t nothin wrong with that if she manages to keep it interesting! I never gave her whole album a chance until recently, and I was pleasantly surprised by the consistent quality from start to finish.

Top Songs: L.E.S Artistes, Shove it

3) Arist: Foals Album: Total Life Forever

Although I enjoyed Foals’ previous album Antidotes, I found it to be a little too inconsistent and rather tinny in its production. It felt like the guys had an interesting sound (kind of a geeky, dance rock sound that combines elements of math rock, post rock, electro pop and 80’s new wave) but their songwriting hadn’t fully caught up with their ambition. Total Life Forever represents their true coming of age as a truly credible and unique band that can cut it. I have only just heard most of the album’s songs, and it is definitely among the best albums I have heard this year. Each track has offers a new twist without diverging so far that the transition is jarring, and all the songs are both instantly enjoyable but have enough depth and texture to reward deeper listening. Nice one Foals!

Top Songs: Blue Blood, Spanish Sahara

Also, check out Nucleya, an Indian electronic artist who has made a banging album that mixes bollywood tracks with a lot of cool stuff. Check it out through fairterlizer

Classify This!

hello wordpress…..

I’ve realized that while my music collection is burgeoning and diverse, it is awfully disorganized. This has resulted in lots of stuff being ignored, and a general lack of appropriate playlists for appropriate times. So, on the recommendation of my friend Mike, I’ve started to categorize my entire music catalogue in iTunes in order to create smart playlists (check it out, its pretty useful). This is a monumental task, and I’m not even halfway through. One benefit of this excercise, however, is the fact that I have the chance to rediscover superb music that hasn’t been on rotation for a long time. Thus I will mix it up today. Some old, some new….

1) Artist: Mt Eden Dubstep:

It’s great to be able to highlight a (relatively) local artist. Hailing from New Zealand, Mt Eden Dubstep is making waves in the scene. I cam across a couple of his tracks and was impressed by his ability to combine pop melodies to the dark and bass/reverb heavy sound that charatacterizes the genre. Dubstep has gotten a little stale recently, so its great to see an artist who is mixing things up.  He’s created some original tracks as well as remixes. I’ve included examples of each below.

2) Artist: Vampire Weekend Album: Contra

Contra was released earlier this year, and its a commendable sophmore album from this now crossover indie outfit. I love that these guys unabashedly embrace a pop sensibility and make music that is both fun and smart. It took a little longer for me to warm to Contra, for its charm is less immediate than their eponymous debut, but needless to say I am now a convert. I am certain that a lot of people will balk at the peter gabriel-esque afro beat sound that these guys engender, but hey, it’s impossible to please everyone. My only criticism of Contra is that it isn’t an album that maintains a consistently high quality from beginning to end, but there is more than enough to like about it nonetheless.

Top Songs: White Sky, Taxi Cab

3) Album: Dire Straits Artist: Dire Straits

Is it possible to overstate how bloody good this album is? Seriously, can you fathom that this album was made for GBP 12,500 back in ’78? There is still something truly unique about Mark Knopfler’s clean, bluesy and melodic guitar playing. Metal bands may be more acrobatic in their solo’s, but they are no match for the combination of complexity and melody that Knopfler mastered. This debut album may not be their most sophisticated release, but it’s amazing that they put out such a strong first album that remains instantly recogizable to an entire generation. I was of course too young to be a part of that generation, but luckily I had siblings who have had a significant influence on my musical upbringing (even if they don’t know it). Perhaps there is something to be said about the rapidly dying tangible music product. I’m not sure if I would have been exposed to Dire Straits, Eurythmics, The Police, Creedence, and many other great bands if I didn’t…errr….’borrow’ my brother’s and sister’s tapes and CD’s when I was a kid. Sigh….nostalgia.  By the way, anyone who likes Dire Straits needs to get their hands on the alchemy live album….superb.

Top Songs: Sooo many- Sultans of Swing, Down to The Waterline, Six Blade Knife, In The Gallery….

Artist: Booka Shade  Album: Move!

Booka Shade is a German electronic duo that straddles the techno/minimal/house line in terms of genre’s. More! is a superb little album, containing both the esoteric soundscapes that make minimal so interesting while also having enough rhythm, funk, and beat to make it fun to dance to. There’s something refreshingly 90’s about this release, in that it lacks the sardonic and self aware tinge that besets a lot of electronic music these days, harking back to a time when people just wanted to party and didn’t care about looking sufficiently aloof and detached while they were having fun. These guys just seem to want to make nice tunes.  I found this album to be consistently listenable from start to end, and its hard to argue with that level of consistency. These guys started the Get Physical label in Germany….i’ll have to check it out!

Top Tracks: Scaramanga, Regenerate

And finally, I came across this track yesterday and just loved it. I’m going to have to find out more about Local Natives and Suckers. You can check it out here

enjoy