As we enter the year ahead with fresh optimism and excitement it gives us a chance to reflect on the previous year’s contribution to music.
In 2015 the novelty of EDM began to falter to pave the way for the sub genres of house and techno to reign supreme. We were introduced to an abundance of new artists, instantly engaging in battle with already established names. Some shone, some didn’t.
The fluctuation of EDM is an aspect that is particularly interesting. Electronic music has a trend permanently attached to it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re never quite satisfied.
Genres drift in and out of popularity more often than the SeaCat drifts in and out of Belfast. One minute we’re banging on about how rad Hannah Wants is, the next we’re kicking her to the curb and bigging up Recondite. Sounds are constantly evolving, so it’s inevitable our tastes will evolve too.
Apply Darwin’s theory to the electronic music timeline and you’ll arrive at the point I want to talk about. The yearning for something unique, creative and different can never be satisfied, and there is a handful of producers coming to the forefront of a genre that is so abstract it hasn’t even been labelled.
Producers such as Arca, Bjork, Lotic, Elysia Crampton, Rabit and M.E.S.H have entered a genre of enormous curiosity.
The music is drenched in symbolism and rebellion. It looks to cut establishment, and from the wound bleeds pure experimentation.
This music is not for the impatient. It’s almost completely crazy. There are gun shots, there are psychotic rave synths, there’s tribal chanting.
Every song is different. Venezuelan born Alejandro Ghersi, otherwise known as Arca (contributed to Kanye West’s Yeezus sessions), believes the inconclusiveness of the sound they produce represent “things that are taboo or being repressed within us, which we would never admit to ourselves.” This is intimidating, but when was the last time something new and excited wasn’t met with some form of intimidation?
This is very much outcast music. Most producers within it have felt some sort of discrimination. It’s no coincidence that in a year were we shifted towards a more liberal and open minded society that the works within this genre have come to the forefront.
Elysia Crampton is just one example. Being a Bolivian American Trans-woman is something that is always going to be interesting from a cultural, social and musical point of view. She draws her inspiration from a wide range of genres including Peruvian metal, American psychedelic folk and Southern hip hop.
Her music is a symbolic journey. Journey is a term most often associated with the more ambient sub genres of techno, however, Cramptons production aims to take you on a cultural and historical trip as opposed to one of your own imagination.
She describes her latest work as “a concept study that follows Virginian American history, exploring browness as more than a culture or Othering, as geology. As mud, dirt and mineral, enmeshed in lithic, vast time scales.” The perspective was inspired by theorist Jose E. Munoz and displays a reading of the “narratives that underlie Pan-American history and culture.”
While Crampton relies on historical elements for inspiration, Lotic is a producer who is influenced by personal feeling and experience. Hailing from Texas originally, Lotic explains that his latest piece of work (Agitations) was “born out of the frustrations that come with touring, playing mainly festivals in Europe and feeling increasingly out of touch with club culture and the music industry in general.”
Lotics music has been greeted with more warmth than other producers within this ambiguous genre, however, throughout his work you can quite literally hear his distaste for club culture. The constant, irregular movement makes it uncomfortable for a lot of club goers.
Human sounds are completely stripped down to chants, moans and screams as opposed to familiar and overused phrases. It’s refusal to conform to such quick pleasures is something to be admired, you’re never allowed to switch into an auto pilot state.
Bjork is arguably the most successful of all the artists previously mentioned. The Icelandic singer/songwriter/producer remains impossible to pigeonhole. Her style of sound ranges from experimental electronic to orchestra dominated classical pieces.
Bjork has sampling down to a fine art, and does to shy away from using every day sounds. On the track ‘Cvalda’ she implements machine, factory like sounds alongside Bjork’s very own stange, haunting vocals. Every track is an exploration of diversity.
I must admit, this latest development in electronic music is not for everyone. That’s not to say there’s something wrong with you if you don’t like it, everyone has their own individual tastes, however, what these producers are doing must be respected.
Flick through the history books of any musical genre and there are chapters upon chapters of artists that created music so ahead of their time the present day listeners couldn’t possibly comprehend it.
808’s and Heartbreak is but one example of an album that was criticised massively by the general public, yet when we look at artists today so many have adopted that style of alternative R&B that Kanye created. The same thing may just be happening here.
Electronica is an ecosystem. These pieces of music take a living, breathing form, constantly shifting and evolving. I for one cannot wait to see the next product of this metaphoric movement.