Electronic Music: Get Hip-po
John Darr | Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Grandpa: Music t’day is just bleepities and bloopers! No notes and that hullaballoo.
Dad: Man, back in my day, we listened to real music with real instruments. Real music is made by people using electric guitars, not by people using electric other things.
Lil’ Bro: Electronic music? I don’t listen to that stuff, it’s too weird and has no vocals. I just listen to what’s on the radio. Swag, yolo, peace out.
If I were a hippo, hearing these things would make me a sad hippo. I would wallow around in my large African lake with some sorrowful headphones in my drooping hippo ears. But I’m not a hippo, so I’ll just go ahead and explain why these people are so thankfully, completely wrong.
TO GRANDPA: Electronic music today is much different than it used to be. Programmers and sound technicians have been working with music for over four decades now, so the bleepy-bloopy music of Kraftwerk has been left far behind. Synthesizers have been crafted to create a huge variety of new sounds, including many that model acoustic instruments. So-called electronic music often lives and breathes the life and vibrancy that bleeps and bloops of the past lacked.
If you want to check out some truly rich and lively synthesizers, you need to check out wunderkind-beatmaker Slugabed. Songs like “New Worlds” and “Sex” from his LP “Time Team” are so rich and melodic that it’s truly difficult not to be wrapped in their lush embrace. A similar artist is Bonobo, who shapes synthesizers into worldly soundscapes grounded by groovy hip-hop beats. Kiara and Kong from Bonobo’s “Black Sands” LP grant an awesome glimpse into such a world.
TO DAD: Electronic music today is often focused heavily on sampling, or capturing and manipulating recorded acoustic sound. This means that standard instruments like electric guitars and even brass and woodwinds appear quite often in electronic music. Electronic music can, but certainly doesn’t have to be, simply made up of synthesizers and drum machines.
There are a plethora of amazing producers who sample out the wazoo. The first that comes to mind is Flying Lotus, an experimental hip-hop beatmaker with an ear for jazzy arrangements. Just check out the smexy acoustic bass lines fluttering throughout his “Cosmogramma” LP. If you’re more interested in the electric guitar, you can find a million riffs scattered throughout producer Baths’ “Cerulean” LP. If you’re really interested in the jazzier side of things, you should check out Colin Stetson’s History of Warfare releases, which combine electronic production techniques with single-take saxophone pieces.
TO LIL’ BRO: Everyone loves vocals, even those antisocial electronic producer types. Just look at the host of producer/singer/songwriters there are today. Grimes. How to Dress Well. James Blake. Zola Jesus. Laurel Halo. Many of today’s up-and-coming songwriters are turning to the computer instead of the guitar, given how easy it is to get access to production software these days.
All of the above artists are awesome as far as solo artists go. There are, however, many electronic bands that offer fuller sounds and often more standard, approachable songs. Check out Animal Collective’s classic record “Merriweather Post Pavilion” or Friendly Fire’s lively “Pala” for a great, electronic-style party.
All in all, most of the people who don’t like electronic music simply haven’t been listening to the right kind of electronic music. The electronic genre is huge and expansive; there’s something for everyone. I mean, if you were a hippo and electronic music a foreign place, let’s say North America, you might see a picture of South Bend and be all like, “I’m a hippo. There’s nothing for me in North America for me.” And then you’d never see Disney World or San Francisco or the San Diego Zoo. You’d be a sad hippo indeed.