Posts Tagged ‘Electronic

05
Dec
11

Transformers Music: The Rise of Skrillex and “Bro-Step” in EDM

The dynamics have severely shifted in electronic dance music as indicated by the popularity of Skrillex a.k.a Sonny Moore in 2011. The bespeckled former frontman of screamo outfit From First to Last, established a house hold name for himself within America’s dance scene this summer after playing numerous headlining sets at festivals across the country. His rise to success undoubtedly coincided with the awakening of America’s new dance music trend among youth: dubstep.

Go to YouTube and type in a top 40 song, in fact any popular song and you will find a plethora of dubstep remixes and most of them are AWFUL. But according to the “dubstep” experts out there, the “dubstep” made in America is an inaccurate interpretation of what it actually represents. The genre became heavily bastardized from its London origins since gaining traction in the states this year, like most electronic music. Now it’s commonly referred to as “brostep,” a subcategory of dubstep described by its frequent use of obscenely loud distorted bass wobbles and glitchy electro sounds that makes fans go buckwild. Many people claim this sub-genre sounds like a cacophony of lazer farts or transformers fornicating. Hilarious, but I kid you not. A lot of folks do not enjoy dance music that feels as though their ears are being raped by harsh frequencies. I was never a huge fan of hardcore, but I can tolerate the loud, fast and angry style of playing so much more than Mr. Moore’s music.

Skrillex has become a figurehead of “brostep” and especially appeals to the rave curious high school and college demographic. While he displays a lot of “Brostep” elements in his productions such as obnoxious formulaic drops and hard metallic bass, his music is also categorized as “Fidget House,” which incorporates a mix of dubstep, electro and house styles.

In “Rock N Roll (Will Take You to the Mountains)” it starts off as said fidget house: a generic electro house beat, repetitive vocals, claps, glitchy laser synths which leads to more choppy samples, a build up and then the anticipated “Rude boy bass” drop: robot burps, video game samples, elephant trumpet calls and other distorted noise. This combination of schizophrenic, stutter noise defines Skrillex’s “signature style,” something that not only grinds my gears but sounds like gears grinding.

Then there’s his breakout hit “Scary Monsters N Nice Sprites,” the song used in a Go Pro action camera commercial and apparently a modern DJ’s wet dream. Sigh. Countless producers have remixed it and I’ve even heard it play at bars. Now it’s nominated for a Grammy (which lose more and more credibility each year). Okay, I get the intro synth is SORT of catchy but again, more elephant bellows and goblin robot bass. I’ll admit his use of the famous speed stacking girl’s “OH MY GOSH” is pretty funny, but is it really necessary to use in multiple other songs? Good grief, Sonny Moore. Mix it up, kid.

Now let’s talk about the happy, uplifting message of “Kill Everybody.” No wonder Korn collaborated with Skrillex on their latest nu-metal-dubstep album. Metal and Dubstep have combined forces to make music exponentially worse than the two separate genres! The introduction begins with ramblings by the malicious Megatron over a standard dance beat. Throw more wobbles, processed engine noise and an annoying chipmunk repeating, “I Want to Kill Everybody.” Ugh. The title explains how this song makes me feel. But again, one somewhat redeeming synth part and that’s it. More noise, Decepticon confessions and predictable use of samples that frequent EVERY Skrillex song. Basically, certain parts sound like Megatron ate a bad taco.

The 3 aforementioned tracks are on Skrillex’s unfathomably popular and recently Grammy nominated Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, an EP produced entirely on his lap-top. It’s no wonder he’s often criticized as a “push play” performer. Yes, I unfortunately caught him very briefly at Camp Bisco this past summer and he does indeed, press play. Sure, he occasionally turns some knobs and adjusts some faders. But his classic “rock star” move? Triumphantly lifting his arms in the air to screaming, sweating frenzied bug eyed teens, all while chain smoking cigs. In fact, I wonder which thing Sonny would give up if he had to choose between cigs or his beloved use of the transformer rape and video game laser sound library.

After witnessing the mania of Skrillex’s set, my ear drums and I felt immediately violated from hearing the abrasive noise and bass overkill, never mind the teenage wasteland unfolding all around me. Hey, I’m all for a good time on the dance floor but when people are collapsing and convulsing around you, irresponsibility can only be tolerated for so long. Poor EMTS at Camp Bisco had their hands full this year. Anyways, I walked away knowing I was immune to the possibility of experiencing an epileptic seizure. The recent bass culture movement has become a new low (pun intended) at festivals; especially this year at Camp Bisco where I had to suffer through Borgore’s bro-tastic electro dubstep during an early evening main stage set that was 300 feet from my campsite. I just don’t…get the hype or gratification people feel from experiencing Skrillex or “brostep” productions, live or recorded. I must be getting old.

Speaking of inspiring performances, I don’t know which is more exciting to watch: Skrillex smoking cigs and raising his arms for every similar, predictable drop or house producer Steve Aoki running around, spitting and pouring champagne at the audience while his “music” magically plays in the background. I mean, I’m all about tomfoolery onstage, but are you actually mixing anything live at all? Obviously the audience doesn’t care because they’re too busy getting their faces melted with bass. Duh.

Worst of all, Skrillex collaborated with remaining members of the Doors for the “Re:Generation” music project which teams up modern producers and DJs with older, reputable musicians. The keyboard and guitar tracks sound synthetic and over-processed and of course, Skrillex adds his transformer effects and lazers. To me, it’s cheesy and brings nothing exciting or innovative to the table. It’s a 21st Century flop.

I don’t care how many people like him. The fact is my ears bleed and skin crawls when listening to Skrillex or “brostep.” Personally, I like music that’s pleasant to my ears and displays a range of high, mid and low end frequencies. One friend of mine summarized, “I listened to Skrillex once. Nearby electronic devices came alive and tried strangling me with their cords.” If the other songs haven’t convinced you of a truth to his experience, then listen to the drop in “First of the Year (Equinox)” and see if your electronics turn to the dark side…then call 911 NOW!

I guess to each his or her own, though it’s a shame we live in a world where most talented musicians and producers don’t get the credit or attention they deserve. I mean, have you seen 2011’s Grammy nominations? Oh wait, the Grammy’s have been a joke for years now. Anyways, as the bass culture wave expands and people continue to get their fix of filthy, grimy, dirty drops, maybe we’ll all be too distracted to notice actual evil robots taking over the airwaves so they can “kill everybody.”

Let’s hope they start by pushing Skrillex off a bridge. It’d be his best drop yet.

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11
Nov
11

A Soundtrack for Sunsets: Tycho–Dive (Ghostly International, 2011)

It’s no surprise Scott Hansen is a native Californian. He’s known by two aliases: Tycho for music and ISO50 for graphic design. The faded warm colors and sixties inspired aesthetics of his visual works undoubtedly correspond to the sun inspired arrangements of his music. Hansen owns a large collection of vintage analog synthesizers including a Minimoog and Korg Mono/Poly, which explains his music’s frequent use of rich timbres and ethereal layers, an integral characteristic established in his debut LP Sunrise Projector (later released as Past is Prologue) and a continued theme in Dive

With shimmery tones floating over celestial pads and down-tempo beats of opening track “A Walk,” my memory immediately revisits a time spent in Santa Monica where I watched the sun slowly sink below the Pacific Ocean’s horizon. Later in the song, an acoustic guitar breaks up the relaxed vibe and switches the tempo, adding claps, more drum fills and swells, almost like going from a calm, pleasant walk to a fast, exhilarating run.

In “Daydream” the title speaks for itself. A simple guitar melody fades in and subtly dwells throughout the majority of the song, underlying the dreamy flowing instrumentation of ambient synth inflections, definitely making it a relaxing, mesmerizing tune. Following the sonic surreality is title track “Dive,” the eight minute atmospheric voyage which in my opinion is the climactic point of the album. Brief, incomprehensible female coos introduce the eighties pop beat and heavily reverberated poly-synths. It sounds like it could be a theme song for an aquatic journey.

Dive is a buoyant, sunny adventure filled with ambient lullabies like “Epigram” and soothing harmonies heard in “Coastal Brake”, a musical interpretation of the experience and need to “brake” when witnessing the beauty while driving on the Pacific Coast Highway. Tycho’s repeated combination of similar synth textures and basic guitar riffs with mellow rhythms is what defines his familiar yet distinct brand of sound.

For me, listening to Tycho is analogous to spending a day at the beach—the tranquil ambience of closing your eyes while basking in sunlight or watching reflections in the waves continuously crashing. It evokes a very meditative and spiritual feeling and is great complementary music for a positive, pensive and peaceful state of mind.

4/5
19
Oct
11

EOTO @ Jillian’s in Albany – Thursday October 13th, 2011

String Cheese Incident’s live improvisational side project EOTO returned to Albany this past Thursday, redeeming themselves after a redundant and unimpressive set back in April when they opened for Bassnectar at the Washington Armory. Instead of catering to the “basshead” crowd like last time, their set at Jillian’s demonstrated the duo’s uncanny ability to create and execute multiple styles of dance music. While both are trained drummers and percussionists, Jason Hann sits behind the drum set as Michael Travis stands surrounded by samplers, keyboards, a guitar, and bass, focused on crafting melodic loops.

I only caught ten minutes of ELECTRONICAnonymous, EOTO’s opener. This DJ project of Jules Jenssen, the drummer of Higher Organix and more recently Indobox, warmed up the dance floor by playing dubstep and electro-house for the eager young crowd. After a short break, Hann and Travis came onstage and the main event of electronic music magic began.

Performing two sets for an approximate total of 3 hours, EOTO continuously explored various genres and thoroughly excited the audience at every turn, much to my delight (considering their previous wobble heavy sets from the Armory and The Big Up). They cohesively concocted one style of electronic music to the next with a nice balance of breakbeat, house, dubstep and techno. At an early point in their first set, EOTO went from an upbeat electro-house tune to a west coast hip-hop instrumental, very reminiscent of a Dr. Dre beat. From there, Travis plugged in an electric guitar and used a sitar setting, creating a very psychedelic, middle-eastern vibe as Hann laid down a mellow, dub beat. Glancing at the six flat screen TV’s displaying kaleidoscopic visuals made it an especially trippy show moment for me.

In addition to bass and guitar loops, EOTO threw in popular vocal samples over fun and quirky dubstep rhythms, including Salt N Peppa’s “Push It” and Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.” Watching Hann switch tempos and drum styles, smoothly transitioning from fast aggressive patterns to slow, syncopated beats was also very entertaining. Basically he is the groove monster and Travis is the loop master.

It was incredibly enjoyable to witness EOTO’s charismatic musical prowess and energy onstage at Jillian’s. For two middle-aged men to appeal to young twenty-somethings nowadays is rare. After Thursday’s experience, it’s apparent Hann and Travis are tuned into what’s new and relevant in today’s electronic music scene, indicated by their diverse palette of styles and unique take on live improvisation. With a demanding fall tour schedule (playing 29 out of 31 dates in October) it’s remarkable how hard this aging yet rambunctious dance factory works, striving to captivate and move audiences from one city to the next. I hope EOTO continues to bring the same raw energy and variety that was present at Thursday’s show because it truly reminded me how talented and multifaceted they are as musicians.

Performing at Electric Forest Music Festival in Michigan

Rating: 4/5

30
Sep
11

Paul Basic “The Mirror”

Producer Paul Basic released his debut EP “The Mirror” on Tuesday off the budding Pretty Lights Music label. Hailing from Colorado, one of today’s popular electronic music scenes (where PLM is headquartered), Basic’s first effort focuses on high energy electro hip-hop instrumentals sprinkled with manipulated samples. Packed with dynamic beats, gritty bass lines, sequenced synths and arpeggios, this 8 song, 27-minute album will keep your head bobbing and foot tapping. The first sample I recognized was in “Daydream.” Basic takes the chorus and violins (title too) from Belgian band Wallace Collection, a track also sampled by Lupe Fiasco. While this tune isn’t necessary dub-step by definition, it utilizes the standard wobbly, metallic bass lines frequented in the genre today.

The song “Cops” seems like an electronic take on Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine.” Hearing the familiar atmospheric pads, strummed guitar chords and harmonizing synth parts highlighted the feeling of drifting away to a faraway place, fueled by heavy bass and hip-hop rhythms.

One of my favorite tracks, “Jaded,” cohesively meshes high and lo-end layers with a nice touch of filter and added build ups. It’s an up-tempo tune suitable for a party or night time driving. Another strong composition from the EP is “Daylit”, showcasing Basic’s classic influences. This bright, mellow track is riddled with piano and guitar snippets sampled over a crunchy synthesizer and simple hip-hop beat.

Overall Basic’s drumming roots, production skills and early rock influences shine through on “The Mirror.” Although it’s an EP, it flows seamlessly like a mix-tape and is free for download off the Pretty Lights Music Label’s website. In addition to Basic’s debut, other talented up and coming producers such as Paper Diamond (Alex B, former bassist of Pnuma Trio) and Break Science (drummer Adam Deitch’s new project) are available for free as well. The PLM label was created by Derek Smith, the mastermind behind national touring sensation Pretty Lights, a festival favorite who gained popularity by giving music lovers his material for free. He continues to follow this free promotion model that worked for him in order to expose the newly signed artists of Pretty Lights Music. Keep on eye out for these guys as they embark on a PLM showcase tour this fall.

Rating: 3/5




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