Tag: Todd Terje

TEC’s 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The 21ST CENTURY

Today, electronic instrumental music is everywhere, but often in the form of tedious dance tracks with no tunes all over Beatport and social media.

Luckily, there are still exponents of the classic synth instrumental, and thanks to the rise of the Synthwave sub-genre, there is currently a sympathetic environment for more esoteric and melodic musical offerings.

The key to a good instrumental is it either has to be very melodic to make up for the lack of vocals or very unobtrusive so that while the music is interesting enough to be listened to, it can also be ignored. Thus a Eurorack modular tutorial cannot credibly count as a valid release… 😉

As a follow-up to TEC’s 25 SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The CLASSIC ERA, with a limit of one track per artist, The Electricity Club presents its 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The 21ST CENTURY in chronological and then alphabetical order…


SYSTEM F Insolation (2000)

While Dutch producer Ferry Corsten hit paydirt with club hits such as ‘Out Of The Blue’ and ‘Cry’ as SYSTEM F, the debut album pointed towards the Trance’s link to electronic pop. As well as a collaboration with Marc Almond entitled ‘Soul On Soul’, the long player included the beautifully majestic classic instrumental ‘Insolation’ which took a breather from the usual four-to-the floor format.

Available on the album ‘Out Of The Blue’ via Premier

http://www.ferrycorsten.com/


PPK ResuRection – Perfecto Edit (2001)

PPK were a Russian trance duo comprising of  Sergei Pimenov and Alexander Polyakov. The original melody of ‘ResuRection’ came from Eduard Artemyev’s synthesized theme from the epic 1979 Soviet movie ‘Siberiade’ which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. Easily mistaken for JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, the thrusting seven minute ‘Perfecto Edit’ in particular was like an exuberant rocket launch set to music.

Originally released by Perfecto Records, currently unavailable

http://promodj.com/ppk


LADYTRON Turn It On (2002)

With a piercing synthphonic riff, scat vocoder, robotic bass and a rigid programmed beat, ‘Turn It On’ saw LADYTRON take a bleep forward with an attempt at a KRAFTWERK track for the 21st Century via Liverpool, Glasgow and Sofia. But as it headed towards its final third, it detoured back to Liverpool and turned into ‘Electricity’ in a cheeky homage to Merseyside’s original electronic trailblazers OMD.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Telstar

http://www.ladytron.com/


FROST Klong (2003)

A Norwegian electronic duo consisting of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST released their second album ‘Melodica’ to a positive response, thanks to some production assistance by RÖYKSOPP on two tracks. The beautiful Arctic serenity of ‘Klong’ featuring local trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær alongside layers of gorgeous crystalline synths was one of the album’s highlights that easily outdid anything by GROOVE ARMADA and didn’t rely on using samples either.

Available on the album ‘Melodica’ via Frost World Recordings

https://frostnorway.com/


MYLO Emotion 96.8 (2004)

‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ was the well-received debut album by Scottish DJ Myles MacInnes that alongside DAFT PUNK and BASEMENT JAXX, summed up the sample laden dance music that was prevalent at the time. Produced on a computer in his own bedroo, the album’s best track however was the more downtempo, MOBY-esque richness of ‘Emotion 96.8’ with its beautiful sweeping synth melodies and unobtrusive rhythm structure. A follow-up to the long player has yet to appear.

Available on the album ‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ via Breastfed

http://www.mylo.tv/


ORBITAL Pants (2004)

With a hypnotic Motorik rhythm, pulsating bleeps and spacey whirs driving a moodier template along the lines of cult German experimentalists EMAK, Phil and Paul Hartnoll continued their primarily instrumental template on their ‘Blue Album’, although SPARKS contributed vocals to a totally unrelated track called ‘Acid Pants’. The brothers split shortly after the long player’s release, but returned in 2009 to play The Big Chill Festival.

Available on the album ‘Blue Album’ via Orbital Music

http://orbitalofficial.com/


MOBY Homeward Angel (2005)

From ‘Hymn’ to ‘First Cool Hive’ to ‘A Seated Night’, the man born Richard Melville Hall is a master of the instrumental. The solemn ‘Homeward Angel’ closed MOBY’s comparatively conventional and sample-less ‘Hotel’ album with a solemn yet uplifting slice of mood music that in retrospect, was incongruous with the main act. However, since leaving Mute in 2008, his more recent self-released albums such as ‘Destroyed’ and ‘Innocents’ have displayed this more esoteric quality.

Available on the album ‘Hotel’ via Mute Records

http://moby.com/


RÖYKSOPP Alpha Male (2005)

A ten minute instrumental epic, ‘Alpha Male’ came from RÖYKSOPP’s under rated second long player, one that moved away from the chill-out climes of ‘Melody AM’ into much darker sonic territory. The track’s lengthy ambient intro was interrupted by a mighty metronomic beat and the sort of progressive synth overtures that would have made JEAN-MICHEL JARRE proud.

Available on the album ‘The Understanding’ via Wall Of Sound Records

http://royksopp.com/


JOHN FOXX Kurfurstdendam (2006)

Since his musical return in 1997 with ‘Shifting City’, JOHN FOXX has practically had albums coming out of his ears in song-based, ambient and soundtrack formats, both solo and in collaboration with other artists. The spacey mechanical Schaffel of ‘Kurfurstdendam’ came from an imaginary soundtrack he called ‘Tiny Colour Movies’, inspired by a friend’s birthday screening of a private film collection comprising of random surveillance clips and offcuts from Hollywood.

Available on the album ‘Tiny Colour Movies’ via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Space-Elevator (2007)

Few acts actually genuinely sound like their name… SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN, which translates as “the last man in space”, is the solo project of Swedish synthpop trailblazer Eddie Bengtsson, he of PAGE and S.P.O.C.K fame. The frantic ‘Space-Elevator’ with its swimmy string synths and Sci-Fi derived melody acted as an effective Moroder-esque interlude on his excellent sixth album ‘Tredje Våningen’.

Available on the album ‘Tredje Våningen’ via Energy Rekords

http://www.moonbasealpha.space/


TENEK Ice Fields (2007)

Borrowing the distinctive bassline from SIMPLE MINDS’ 1981 single ‘Love Song’, the British duo put together this lively danceable instrumental for their debut TENEK EP. With a modern mechanical groove coupled to their trademark synth rock, the almost funky ‘Ice Fields’ became an early live favourite, although the duo have focussed on more song based adventures for their three albums to date, ‘Stateless’, ‘On The Wire’ and ‘Smoke & Mirrors’.

Available on ‘EP1+’ via https://tenek.bandcamp.com/album/ep1

http://www.tenek.co.uk/


KLEERUP Hero (2008)

In 2007, Andreas Kleerup, producer and one-time drummer for THE MEAT BOYS, undertook his first mainstream collaboration with fellow Swede ROBYN. The success of ‘With Every Heartbeat’ led to the recording of his self-titled debut album which featured a number of brilliant instrumentals. ‘Hero’ was its perfect start and with a solid bassline and strong choral timbres, it had the vibe of how OMD might have sounded if they had formed in the 21st Century.

Available on the album ‘Kleerup’ via EMI Music

http://kleerup.net/


DAFT PUNK Tron Legacy – End Titles (2010)

While most of the ‘Tron Legacy’ soundtrack album was arranged and orchestrated by Joseph Trapanese, DAFT PUNK’s spiky electronics and drum machine were kept in alongside the epic strings for the end titles of the sequel to the 1982 movie ‘Tron’. There were nods to Wendy Carlos who composed the score to the original film, with Thomas Bangalter focusing on the heroic themes while Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo was more inclined to generating the darker elements.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘Tron Legacy’ via Walt Disney Records

https://www.daftpunk.com/


047 Kanpai! (2011)

Forming in 2001, Swedish duo 047 began their chiptune experiments thought a mutual appreciation of vintage video games. But after their debut long player, Peter Engström and Sebastian Rutgersson began to incorporate melodic song based elements and vocals into their music. The end results led to the impressive second album ‘Elva’, but they celebrated their chiptune influenced roots with the jolly YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA salute of ‘Kanpai!’

Available on the album ‘Elva’ via Killing Music

http://www.047.se/


MARSHEAUX Now & Never (2012)

‘The E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ was collection of rarities from the MARSHEAUX archives. While Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou have done a fair number of cover versions in their time, they are not really known for doing instrumentals. But the electro-boppy ‘Now & Never’ was a very promising wordless demo that Vince Clarke would have approved of; as one of his former DEPECHE MODE colleagues once sang: “words are very unnecessary…”

Available on the album ‘The E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ via Undo Records

http://marsheaux.com/


SOFT METALS Hourglass (2012)

Fusing Detroit techno with more European experimental forms, Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks’ second SOFT METALS album ‘Lenses’ featured the fabulous instrumental ‘Hourglass’. As Hall put it: “I really wanted to write lyrics for that one, but was never quite satisfied with what I came up with. I decided it would be better to let that one be an instrumental. I think it holds up on its own. It’s nice to give the listener a chance to interpret its meaning on its own rather than direct them with words”.

Available on the album ‘Lenses’ via Captured Tracks

https://www.facebook.com/SOFTMETALS/


VILE ELECTRODES The future through a lens (2013)

Anais Neon and Martin Swan’s tribute to ‘Assault On Precinct 13’, ‘The future through a lens’ was a moody but booming instrumental that began their excellent debut longer player of the same name, which later netted a Schallewelle Award for ‘Best international Album’ in 2014. With their vast array of analogue synthesizers and exquisite taste for sound textures, it won’t be too surprising if VILE ELECTRODES aren’t offered some soundtrack opportunities in the near future.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via
https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/the-future-through-a-lens

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


TODD TERJE Delorean Dynamite (2014)

Although making his name within EDM circles, the Norwegian producer born Todd Olsen paid a musical tribute to ‘Back To The Future’ and its futuristic gull-wing doored Delorean DMC-12 car with this suitably driving Synthwave instrumental. Unlike other so-called dance producers, Terje is conversant with electronic music history and possesses a wry sense of humour, as evidenced by the witty wordplay of track titles like ‘Inspector Norse’ and his own DJ moniker.

Available on the album ‘It’s Album Time’ via Olsen Records

http://toddterje.com/


BLANCMANGE Cistern (2015)

After the first phase of BLANCMANGE, Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe worked within the TV and film industry, scoring soundtracks and incidental music. Although best known for his voice, Neil Arthur’s instrumentals have been a continual form of expression. The brilliant ‘Cistern’ comes over like an imaginary Bond Theme for a retro-futuristic world. The wordless wonder that is the parent album ‘Nil By Mouth’ is an unsung masterpiece.

Available on the album ‘Nil By Mouth’ via Blanc Check

http://www.blancmange.co.uk


RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot (2015)

Adam Cresswell’s sombre vocals and the darker lyrical themes on his debut RODNEY CROMWELL album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ took a breather with the bright and breezy ‘Baby Robot’. With sweet synthesizer melodies, pretty glints of glockenspiel and a bouncy beatbox, the instrumental was inspired by birth of his son. “Yes, ‘Baby Robot’ is the one track on the album that’s 100% upbeat as it is about the experience of being a father” he gleefully told The Electricity Club.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


DARKNESS FALLS Thunder Roads (2015)

While Danish duo DARKNESS FALLS are better known for their melancholic Nordic vocals and neo-gothic overtones on songs like ‘The Void’, the dark synthy instrumental ‘Thunder Roads’ proved to be one of the most striking tracks on their second album ‘Dance & Cry’. With a punchy drum machine mantra and menacing reverberant sequence, it was augmented by guitar screeches and sombre six string basslines reminiscent of JOY DIVISION and THE CURE.

Available on the album ‘Dance & Cry’ via Fake Diamond Records

http://darknessfallsmusic.com/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE & BOYZ NOISE The Time Machine (2015)

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE’s first album for since ‘Teo & Tea’ in 2007 was a two volume opus entitled ‘Electronica’; it features collaborations with a number of synth pioneers and modern day dance artists including BOYZ NOISE aka Berlin DJ Alexander Ridha. This climactic track took on a new life as the set closer on the French synth maestro’s ‘Electronica’ world tour, with a lasered 3D visual feast that required no special glasses! BUT BEWARE OF FLASHING IMAGES! 😉

Available on the album ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ via Columbia Records

http://jeanmicheljarre.com/


JOHN CARPENTER Utopian Façade (2016)

The horror film king recorded his ‘Lost Themes’ series in collaboration with his son Cody and his godson Daniel Davies as standalone pieces, without the pressure of having to put the music to moving images. The second volume was completed on a tighter schedule to accompany a world concert tour and thus replicated some of the challenging moods in his soundtrack work with tracks like ‘Utopian Façade’ recalling his classic movie soundscapes.

Available on the album ‘Lost Themes II’ via Sacred Bones

http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/


KYLE DIXON & MICHAEL STEIN Stranger Things (2016)

Dixon and Stein are members of the Texan group SURVIVE and their accompanying music to ‘Stranger Things’, a cross between ‘ET’, ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Alien’, sent electronic music fans into online meltdown with its use of vintage analogue synths. With a soundtrack influenced by the horror flicks of Dario Argento and of course John Carpenter, the one minute opening title music to the acclaimed drama series said all that was needed to be said in its brooding dissonant tones.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘Stranger Things – Volume 1’ via Invada Records

https://www.facebook.com/survivesurvive/


TINY MAGNETIC PETS Klangfarben (2016)

As would be expected from a title like ‘Klangfarben’, this vibrant instrumental from Dublin trio TINY MAGNETIC PETS is an enjoyable homage to Germanic music forms, with a loose percussive feel that still maintains that vital degree of Motorik. A word meaning “soundcolour”, it refers to a technique whereby a musical line is split between several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument, thereby adding timbre and texture to proceedings.

Available on the EP ‘The NATO Alphabet EP’ via https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Tiny-Magnetic-Pets-69597715797/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th April 2017

HOLOGRAM TEEN Marsangst EP

HOLOGRAM TEEN Marsangst EPHOLOGRAM TEEN is the solo project for Morgane Lhote, probably best known as the long-term keyboard player in respected indie act STEREOLAB; she featured on their seminal ‘Emperor Tomato Ketchup’ album and latterly went on to work with members of SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO.

Los Angeles-based Lhote describes her music as “electronic, motorik disco” and it’s the Kosmische / Krautrock elements in these tracks that help set them aside and stand out from the typical instrumental synth pack.

Opening track ‘Marsangst’ is a quirky mix of choppy DEADMAU5-style synths, blippy sequencers and lo-fi modular electronic percussion. A third of the way through the piece goes on a trippy percussion-based detour with echoed vocals and the sort of pitch-descending Moog sound that TOMITA favoured on his seminal ‘Snowflakes Are Dancing’ album. Cramming a bucketful of ideas into its six minute running time helps the track retain its momentum throughout and the mainly major chord vibe makes the track very hard to dislike.

Hologram Teen 2 - credit Shanna Fisher‘Hex These Rules’ starts off with a ‘Blue Monday’ influenced kick drum pattern and resonant synth bass before evolving into a cheeky Balearic-influenced disco piece, all hand claps, “oohs” and funky octave bass. Evoking the sound of the influential Spanish Suara record label, the coolest features here are the lo-fi piano and early clipped Kosmische sounds which when set to a disco beat, conjure up images of a young Ralf Hütter drinking Sangria and shaking his stuff in a Barcelona nightclub.

‘Scratches en Series’ revolves around an analogue step sequencer part and 808 snare, rimshot and cowbell percussion. Although it was Lhote’s intention with the track to pay homage to acts such as THE SUGARHILL GANG, the piece actually ends up recalling the work of UK duo ULTRAMARINE and their album ‘Every Man & Woman is a Star’. Some light-hearted scratching and vocal sampling keep the playful nature of the track going and again the abundance of ideas mean that ‘Scratches en Series’ never outstays its welcome.

The wonderfully-titled ‘Franmaster Glash’ closes the EP with an electro-influenced drum pattern, filtered hi-pass octave PWM bass and a discordant synth line. Clocking in at just over four minutes, the track effortlessly flies by and the mix of early synthpop and ‘Street Sounds’ electro is a wonderful combo.

Hologram Teen 3 - credit Shanna FisherIn terms of an overall contemporary comparison, the work of Nordic producer TODD TERJE would be a good starting point here.

The mix of early German keyboard work, analogue sequencers and scattershot percussion mean that there is plenty to love and repeated listens reveal new elements each time.

In an age when it is far too easy to produce soul-less and lazy, overly repetitive synth-based music, this HOLOGRAM TEEN EP bucks that trend. It also brings a welcome element of light-heartedness which is a real breath of fresh air and quite possibly ushers in a brand new genre… electro-Krautrock.


‘Marsangst’ is released as an extended four track digital EP by Happy Robots Records

https://www.facebook.com/hologramteen/

https://soundcloud.com/hologramteen

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


Text by Paul Boddy
Photos by Shanna Fisher
19th August 2016

From ODW to EDM…how the US finally fell for Electronic Music

Electronic music has always had its roots in Europe, whether it was TANGERINE DREAM, KLAUS SCHULZE and JEAN MICHEL JARRE handling the instrumental/experimental side, whilst DEPECHE MODE, FAD GADGET, OMD and GARY NUMAN provided shorter, more commercial snapshots of the sounds that KRAFTWERKhad shaped in their Kling Klang studio years earlier…

Deadmaus…but what was happening Stateside? You had the four mainstays of synth production Moog, Sequential Circuits, ARP and Oberheim but where were the homegrown acts using and embracing this equipment and taking influence from Europe? With the exception of DEVO and possibly Suicide, US electronic music never really made it over to this side of the pond.

And despite these acts using keyboards, they were never purely electronic artists, the former evolving from punk roots and the latter using Farfisa organ sounds before embracing synthesizers later.

Despite slight ripples caused by OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING’ with their seminal ‘Lawnchairs’, underground US acts such as THE UNITS, LOS MICROWAVES, SPOONS and INFORMATION SOCIETY were destined to remain that way…underground.

WXDR/WDUV College DJ and underground musician at the time Claude Stanton Willey believes that the “U.S. synth music scene never really took off because it was never really perceived as a worthy competitor in the quest for pop chart success. LA bands like SSQ and BERLIN, and even ODW from San Francisco, were only aping what they heard from Britain and I think listeners understood that”.

He also goes on to observe that “the record-buying public perceived many synth acts as androgynous weirdos or as art school non-musicians more interested in making a statement than acquiring ‘serious’ musical skill”.

Certainly in the UK, we appeared to be a lot more forgiving when it came to taking musicians who had a penchant for make-up, kilts and frilly shirts much more seriously!

It was only when DEPECHE MODE broke the territory with help from Sire Records’ Seymour Stein a few years later (as documented in DA Pennebaker’s tour film ‘101’), that it appeared that a band with synthesizers and without a drummer could be accepted in a live stadium environment alongside acts such as Van Halen and Bruce Springsteen. But even then Claude Stanton Willey still saw the band as being “a kind of experimental pop” and noting that “mainstream radio dared not touch them until ‘Violator’ came out”.

Even once the synthpop floodgates opened over in the UK, electronic single hits from North American acts were few and far between (tracks like ‘The Safety Dance’ by MEN WITHOUT HATS and ‘Obsession’ by ANIMOTION were generally viewed as novelty records). A few years later, there was a second wave of underground US acts including MINISTRY and SKINNY PUPPY, but like their earlier forerunners, even these bands took their influence from the UK experimental acts such as HULA, PoORTION CONTROL and CABARET VOLTAIRE. It took the rise of house music and the birth of Detroit techno to truly start forging some sort of electronic musical identity.

DM vs DerrickThe latter gave rise to the now infamous meeting between DEPECHE MODE and DERRICK MAY in Detroit 1989 – May and fellow techno producer Juan Atkins had cited Mode as a big influence, but Alan Wilder remained staunchly unimpressed and the admiration remained unreciprocated. Upon meeting May, Wilder called him the “most arrogant f*cker I’ve ever met” and his music “f*cking terrible!”

In the mid 90s, America welcomed another influx of UK music, this time it was the Big Beat genre (prematurely labelled as ‘the electronica revolution’) with artists such as THE PRODIGY, CHEMICAL BROTHERS and FATBOY SLIM; but again with the exception of artists such as THE CRYSTAL METHOD and to a certain degree MOBY, widespread homegrown electronic music was thin on the ground.

Fast forward to 2013 and now the US is embracing electronic music with the letters EDM (Electronic Dance Music) being on the lips of many, to the point where former Nu-Metal act KORN turned their last album ‘The Path Of Totality’ over to a group of the latest dubstep producers to give it a radical overhaul and in the process helped rescue their flagging profile. Even hip-hop and R’n’B acts have accepted synths to the point where what were originally seen as genre mash-ups of dance and rap are now entirely commonplace with many commercial tracks featuring cheesy, syncopated Euro-synth stabs.

So what has caused this stellar shift in popularity of the genre and also for it to become so popular over here too? “Crossover” seems to be the key word, with EDM appealing to a huge range of demographics with the harder-edged tracks pleasing both clubbers and metal fans while the straighter electronic tracks are popular with those into dance and electronica. The music has also arguably helped stimulate clubland and attracted punters to club venues which in the past would have been mainstays for underground music fans only.

Down the years, many electronic music fans would keep half an eye on the clubs for certain tracks and sounds that “pushed the right buttons” (sorry, terrible pun); acts such as PAUL VAN DYK’s ‘For An Angel’, HARDFLOOR’s ‘Acperience’, JAM & SPOON’s ‘The Age Of Love’ and Ferry Corsten (and his many alter-egos) would have crossover appeal to those into synth-based music.

However, many club tracks just didn’t work in a home listening environment, only making sense when played out over a big PA system with lighting and, ahem, appropriate narcotic stimulation. EDM seems to have a much broader appeal than this era and as a recent convert to certain aspects of EDM, the aim of this article (having set the historical context) is to try and give a bit of an armchair beginners guide to the genre, but primarily focusing on the acts that use electronic music in a creative, yet listenable way. So if interested, please read on…

Photo by Ryan Tir

Photo by Ryan Tir

Putting acts into an EDM box and even covering the genre in 2000 words is a pretty impossible / pointless task as it would be equivalent to writing a piece on, say rock music…other genres have different subdivisions and offshoots and to be honest, the only thing linking EDM artists and music is the fact that it tends to be played in clubs and features primarily electronic elements, thus rendering it a really lazy genre categorization!

What has also helped fuel the fire of the scene is that it has become apparent to promoters that club-driven EDM if organized properly, can become a big money-generator. Ticket sales to last year’s Electric Daisy dance festival completely outstripped those three fold for the indie-centred Coachella event. Also the Ultra festival has grown in popularity since its inception 14 years ago, hosting a record number of 165,000 people last year. Also take into account that EDM DJs can potentially play longer than most bands, some up to 4 hours in comparison to a typical 45 minute live set and the numbers start to add up.

As a broad generalization, EDM covers a multitude of styles from Dubstep to House to Electro with SKRILLEX becoming the posterboy of the genre; his tracks, although superbly produced, often tend to rely on a predictable shock and awe approach of huge bitcrushed vowel-based bass and drum drops which have had a tendency to become a bit predictable – whereas there are other acts which take a more subtle, varied and (sometimes) listenable approach.

Where EDM gets more interesting is with acts such as DEADMAU5, INFECTED MUSHROOM, KNIFE PARTY and PORTER ROBINSON. With each progressive album, DEADMAU5 (AKA Joel Zimmerman) becomes more accessible and with his latest release ‘> album title goes here < <‘, he puts his envious collection of Doepfer modular synths to good use on the Close Encounters inspired ‘Closer’ and ‘The Veldt’.

‘The Veldt’, whose lyrics were inspired by the sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name – documents a future modern family moving into a fully automated house which has a state of the art nursery for their kids – as time moves on, the parents can’t work out why the thought-activated nursery walls continually project images of an African-style wilderness with prowling lions eating an unknown prey, until it becomes clear that prey (thanks to their children’s thoughts) is in fact them – the lyrics from the song echo many of the features of the story from the “Happylife” home through to the “Is it real or is it a dream, can you believe in machines?”.

The music itself contrasts quite starkly with the foreboding content of the Bradbury story with its euphoric, pulsating, layered sawtooth synths cycling around the chord progression; and whilst a cursory listen to the track would see it as painting an utopian picture of a technology-driven future with it’s “world that the children made” hook – the real story is something a whole lot more darker.

album title goes hereThe pivotal DEADMAU5 track is ‘Strobe’, 10 minutes of electronica with a symphonic three minute intro which builds up layers of electronic pads, alluding to the main hook before the signature riff eases in and gradually speeds up – arguably one of the finest pieces of pure instrumental electronic music released over the last 10 years, it would be a travesty to dismiss tracks such as this as “just a dance track made by a guy in a funny mouse mask”. PORTER ROBINSON, still in his early 20s, bridges the gap between SKRILLEX and DEADMAU5, counterpointing the melodic content of the latter with the introduction of some of the more edgier sounds and glitchiness of the former.

It’s interesting listening to tracks such as his ‘Spitfire’ and playing spot the influence – the track manages to shoehorn in several different reference points from an out and out classical chord progression with slow attack MOBY-esque ‘Porcelain’ string parts through to a hypnotic 8-step TANGERINE DREAM-style echoed sequencer line which appears twice in the track.

What also impresses is the use of dynamics in the second drop where a beautifully sensitive glockenspiel part rides over the top of the strings and sequencer lines before the main bass and drop pattern kick back in again. Other PORTER ROBINSON tracks worth seeking out are ‘Language’ and ‘Unison’ which both showcase glitchy, but melodic synths which would definitely appeal to fans of UK’s REX THE DOG.

Both DEADMAU5 and PORTER ROBINSON are homegrown US acts but there are others making waves that are from other territories. Infected Mushroom have been around for a long time – originating in Israel as a Psy/Goan trance act, but gradually mutating into a fully fledged EDM act.

They openly cite DEPECHE MODE as an influence, especially on the ‘IM The Supervisor’ and ‘Legend Of The Black Shawarma’ albums; the track ‘Special Place’ (from the former) really highlights their eclectic nature, encompassing both dance music with epic breakdowns/drum rolls and 4/4 kick drums but around the 3 minute mark, breaks into a YAZOO-style bassline before the introduction of the main vocal hook in the song. Later tracks such as stand-alone single ‘Pink Nightmares’ and ‘Never Mind’ from their last album ‘Army Of Mushrooms’ showcase an eclectic mix of electronica, trance and EDM which despite being edgy, never stray too far from their melodic roots.

Australia’s KNIFE PARTY rose from the ashes of mainstream arena giants PENDULUM, with founder members Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen eschewing the faster tempo D’n’B leanings of the former to embrace both 4/4 electronics and dubstep elements which, like Porter Robinson, take the SKRILLEX template and re-mould it into a slightly more melodic and varied format.

KNIFE PARTY tracks worth seeking out include ‘Bonfire’ which incorporates Ragga-style vocals a la Leftfield in a melodic, but edgy electronic track, used to great effect in the cult TV series ‘Breaking Bad’. Also worthy of a listen is ‘Internet Friends’ which uses the Apple talking computer voice to simulate a social media stalker who reacts badly to being “blocked on Facebook”. This takes a theme which was initially started with Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer Love’ to a whole new level (warning, this song contains much angry, computerized swearing…). Finally you have ‘Destroy Them With Lasers’ which makes you wonder why nobody else had thought of basing a synth track around electronic laser gun sounds…

Todd TerjeUp-and-coming acts to keep an eye on include Norway’s TODD TERJE whose more laid-back approach to EDM is clear on his EP ‘It’s The Arps’ – it takes its cues from everything including YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with the track ‘Inspector Norse’ and TANGERINE DREAM with ‘Swing Star Part 1’. Also worthy of a listen is young French artist MADEON, integrating more vintage dance synths into his work, with tracks such as ‘Icarus’ and ‘Finale’ being able to sound both retro and modern at the same time.

So what lies in store for the future for EDM? At present, there is plenty of controversy over the genre with articles giving their reasoning for the meteoric rise of EDM and stating that its the lowest common denominator music within the scene that is making it big.

But most of these seem to ignore the fact that much of the music is superbly produced and probably deserves a wider audience which might be put off by the association with clubland and a teen-targetted demographic. One musician who has stepped into the argument is Ed Simons of THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS who recently engaged in a Twitter-fuelled slanging match with EDM DJ Tommie Sunshine over the merits of SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA’s ‘Don’t You Worry Child’ describing it as “appalling”.

The other danger is that what happened to UK clubbing with its whole Superstar DJ culture could eventually happen for EDM – the UK scene eventually imploded, causing the closure of several super clubs because of the greed of big name DJs charging astronomical fees for sets. On Millennium Eve, Pete Tong was rumoured to have made £125,000 for his appearances, whilst Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook pocketed an astonishing £140,000 for his DJ sets. Although club owners and promoters were seemingly happy to pay these exorbitant fees, the venues themselves were often half empty – the knock-on effect of entrance fees often hitting the £100 mark causing the clubbers to vote with their feet.

The final word goes to Tommie Sunshine, who in Mixmag had this to say – “Please consider taking a second look at what you may first dismiss. I bet you’ll be surprised by what you’ve disregarded. Keep an open heart, an open mind and remember that EDM is three letters that mean whatever you want them to. If they anger you, call your house, house, and get on with your life. The world is full of chaos and our time here is too short to warrant such banter.”


Text by Paul Boddy
1st March 2013