As you would expect from a genre built around manipulating sound and experimenting with rhythm, electronic music is impressively flexible. Without the need to learn a traditional instrument or how to read sheet music, and with the existence of software as accessible as GarageBand or FruityLoops (or as sophisticated as Logic, Ableton or Cubase), it is possible to create a revolutionary, spectacularly produced song or album without expensive and often protracted studio time. The ability to sound groundbreaking and refined combines with the common practice among electronic musicians to release only singles or short EPs, often on various labels, to largely remove the logistical and artistic constraints of a major label record deal. In short, the genre is absurdly prolific. (That was the long version of why this week’s list is so heavily loaded with electronic music!)
Independent Ghostly International is among the very best of American electronic music, but the sounds of the eccentric label’s signees are such that it is proudly at the forefront of an “underground” sound, and largely off the radar of most who aren’t aficionados. Unlike the often experimental Gold Panda or Shigeto, Lusine doesn’t obscure his catchy, melodic and percussion driven sounds behind filters or phasers. Brilliantly structured productions keep your focus on the song’s trajectory, but despite the aural and structural focus on the songs development, the sound never overwhelms the listener.
Also check out: Lusine – “Panoramic”
Atlas Genius’ “Trojans” stood out for not only for infectious and undeniably enjoyable qualities, but also for being so much better than anything else they had to offer. Perhaps it’s the similarity between the two song’s chord progressions and the lead melodies, but “If So” is a pop-rock gem that stands heads above the heartfelt but often unremarkable When It Was Now.
From The Burgundy EP (Produced by the legendary Madlib), Burgundy Whip is a nod to the soul and funk breaks that were fundamental influences in the development of hip-hop. I could listen to the instrumental for hours, but luckily Blu and MED deliver absolutely poetic verses in between a gorgeous hook.
Jamie Lidell's flamboyant exuberance comes from and belongs in the late 70’s (disco) and 80’s (glam and pop), but it is not merely borrowing or derivative. His uniquely revealing voice is at the heart center of every song, and it cements the sincerity of the lyrics and the rest of the song. This isn’t a collection of 25-year-old sounds for the sake of sounding retro, but the expression of Lidell’s fascinating perspective on music and his extraordinarily democratic, but impeccable and refined taste.
Before he was working as RL Grime, trap producer extraordinaire, the Los Angeles based producer was known as Clockwork, his main musical project. Influenced by the sounds of Dutch house, gabber/hardstyle, and the heavy, dotted quarter and eighth note syncopated synths of the Italian electro style (think Congorock and Benny Benassi), Clockwork has long stood out as an inventive producer in an increasingly formulaic electro scene.
Despite Zedd’s characteristic wistful and pop leaning harmonies, on “Clarity” he trades in his famously crunchy synth and flawless arpeggios for a progressive house breakdown, like tour mate Porter Robinson on “Language.” It’s perfect chance for Torro Torro to showcase what makes them one of the most played producers, especially on remixes. Taking the best elements from a song – here it’s Foxes’ vocal – and surrounding it with production you would think was Zedd himsel until the “drop,” where their inimitable electro house stomp elevates this remix to the top of Torro Torro’s best work.
The big room meets progressive house sound, championed by acts like Swedish House Mafia, has achieved immense popularity because of its anthemic choruses presented in a simple but proven intro-theme-build-drop structure. Though effective, this formula often results in largely homogenous, uninspired productions. As the cavernous, staccato with reverb melody in the verse gives way to a quintessential big room lead melody, “Avon” stands out for impeccably managing the tension that is then expertly defused in an unforgettable melody.
Leave it to Diplo and Mad Decent to find an artist that begins a song called “Together” as if it’s kicking off a hardstyle music festival (see the Thunderdome parties on YouTube), only to drop the bottom out from under you in some of the best trap production I’ve come across. The bass drum isn’t just a distended sound patch, but a testament to sound design and production so detailed it turns anything with moderate sonic ability into an IMAX listening experience. Stop watching those “Harlem Shake” videos and get down to some top-level trap.
UK Bass label Chestplate has been putting out “traditional” dubstep tunes of a darker variety for years now, but “Titan” lives up to its name and occupies that place in the label’s considerable reputation. The sub bass is expertly tuned and anchors the entire song, and forms subtle but effective counterpoint with the more obvious wobbles. For purists of the genre and Skrillex fans who think he invented the genre, Titan captures the moment in dubstep where meditative and dark power gave way to aggressive production that in its extremes, resulted in what’s referred to as “brostep,“ a ridiculous term that misses the thread uniting all bass music.
From the moment you press play, every song’s on Tourist’s Tonight EP catches your attention. Subtle elements draw you nearer to the sound as they transform into bass soaked melodies and lush harmonies peppered with impressive sampling and noisy elements that demand you listen to them. “Never Stop” keeps one musical idea at the heart of the song, but in the way that the stem of a budding rose supports it, allowing it to bloom and unfold into detail you’d be sad to miss for lack of a better look or, in this case, a listen.
The few Australians I know, as well as friends with great taste who happen to be down under, have raved about their love of Flume and about his impressive popularity in his home country. Though he doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel in his heavily UK bass influenced productions, the personal touches that allow his music to stand out from the pack reveal a considerable musical palette. Sampling like a hip-hop DJ, and producing two-step infused tunes like I only thought a Londoner could, Flume’s popularity in the United States and North America (where he will be on tour this spring in support of an impressive self titled debut), is likely to take the same path it did in Australia.
Thanks to You, Reader Pick:
Although I had come across this and really enjoyed the song, somehow it didn’t make it onto the list last week. A reader mentioned it, which prompted me to listen once again, and discover the disservice I’d done everyone in not featuring it. This nearly 10 minute epic one needs no explanation, but I hope you’ll listen through at least once. It’s an experience I’d recommend having.
Disclaimer: There’s a lot that is “out” on the internet, but since it’s not officially released you won’t see it here yet unless you’ve got to wear out the replay button on SoundCloud or YouTube until it’s released.