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Music Under the Radar: Electronica

Stephanie DePrez | Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Under the Radar.” Last week I laid out the goal of letting the music hunters do great service to the gatherers by letting them know about any band, old or new, that enjoys pleasant success without having, say, “The Fame.”

To recap: hunters seek, read, blog and cull music from radio, print and, most often, the interwebs. Gatherers collect mix CD’s, free digital downloads and whatever their friends happen to be listening to. As a self-aggrandizing hunter, I instinctively take the label of gatherer to be an insult. Interestingly, I’ve heard most from those with an emphatically professed gatherer status. It seems that those who let music come to them are quite content to let it be so.

This week’s foray into the hunter’s territory features the emerging genre of mashing sounds into a dance-pop mentality. This has been done before, in a million venues, but it seems that a recent growth out of the “indie” mentality has been an Owl City-like affinity for pops and electronic riffs. These three bands come a bit rawer, compound electronic pop and conventional instruments into an easily consumable sampling of what, a decade earlier, would have been considered trés avant-garde.

Goldfish

Goldfish is a two-man electronica-dance group from South Africa. Their signature seems to be setting a basic riff and lyric structure, and then overlaying as many African/jazz/computerized accents as possible. The song “Fort Knox” is a great example of this. The song “Soundtracks and Comebacks” begins with a lone bass line that will get your feet tapping. Then comes the frenetic clapping. Then comes the radio-static-covered voice, followed by an electronic bleep riff that turns into a flute line. The song is featured on an album titled “South African Pop & Rock,” which pretty aptly sums them up.

Tracks to Tap: “Fort Knox,” “Soundtracks and Comebacks,” “Hold Tight”

Passion Pit

Passion Pit is an electronic band from Cambridge after MGMT’s heart, complete with high male vocals that are vaguely reminiscent of a fourteen-year-old girl (but not in the genre of Mr. Bieber). They fall into “Second Wave Synthpop.” It’s a gathering of urban and electronic awareness, along the lines of Hellogoodbye, La Roux, The Ting Tings and Ellie Goulding. Their song “Little Secrets” is basically a reworking of MGMT’s “Kids,” but I would argue a more danceable one. “Moth’s Wings” begins with what sounds like a harpsichord, but then opens into a Coldplay-esque anthem of lush electronics.

Tracks to Tap: “Little Secrets,” “Moth’s Wings”

Teddybears

Teddybears is a Swedish outfit that formed in 1993 as hardcore punk, but has since drifted to the top of the synth-soundscape scene. Their first state-side release was the album “Soft Machine” in 2006, which, though bearing the fingerprints of punk (three chord structure, repetitive chorus), is decidedly electronica, and almost begs to be featured in an iPhone commercial. The most delicious track is “Punkrocker,” featuring Iggy Pop. It is a touch Bowie, a touch Metric, and a whole lot of irony. The lyrics detailing the iconic “punk rocker” are laid against music that is so full and computer-tooled that it flies in the face of the very idea of punk. But it is that kind of blatant irony that Teddybears seems to thrive on.

Tracks to Tap: “Punkrocker,” “Different Sound,” “Yours To Keep,” “Are You Feelin’ It?”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Stephanie DePrez at sdeprez@nd.edu.