Dubstep Becomes Electro

It really is shocking how fast the music industry of today evolves, especially when compared to the one the world knew, oh say, 50 years ago. Sometimes I become lost within my own mind, pondering the issue of whether it really is an artist himself that shapes the kind of impression he leaves on the world, or if it actually has more to do with the industry surrounding him. Let me explain:

The Beatles are known to a rather large portion of people as one of, if not the greatest band in history, and this is likely due, in large part, to the near legendary status the band has achieved through the extended amount of time they’ve spent in the limelight, the worldwide, simultaneous acceptance of their music, and to the stories that have thusly been passed down through several generations (although as of this month, the stories will very likely cease to be passed on, and will hereby be replaced by “Rock Band,” and quite naturally, an entire generation of children shouting, “Hey wait! How did those guys know Rock Band songs before the game was even invented?”). But let us, for the sake of this point, pretend that the Beatles had started their revolutionary work in 2009, rather than in the 60’s. If their music had been able to spread across the world in a matter of only a couple minutes, rather than several years, would they have made such a substantial impact? Or would would the constant music stimulation from blogs and instant media sources allow them to fall out of the mainstream just as easily as they came into it?

DUBSTEP

Either way, there’s no denying the fact that today’s music industry moves very fast. I recall a time only a few years back when dj’s who chose to drop an electro track at a party would quickly find themselves either spinning for an empty house, or would be continuously bombarded by the infamous, “Can you play something I can dance to?” request. And yet here we are today, listening to MSTRKRFT‘s Heartbreaker on mainstream radio and watching Will.I.Am morph into Zuper Blahq. That means that it took only three years for electro to go from completely unheard of to full on mainstream, and I’m convinced that this is, whether or not we want to accept it, the way of the future.

udachi

So what, you might ask, got me thinking about all this hypothetical junk? Strangely enough, it wasn’t the Beatles, and it wasn’t electro; It was dubstep. In thinking about this emerging genre, it is impossible to ignore the plethora of ties that it has to the electro world (and no, not it terms of sound, but rather of progression). Electro started out completely underground, and then gathered attention by including hip hop verses and associating itself with the mainstream hiphop world, and in an astonishing parallel, dubstep started out as a peculiar British phenomenon that struggled to fill even the smallest of venues, and has since gathered considerably more attention by associating itself with the electro world.

So what does this mean? Has today’s music industry really changed the way music itself evolves? It it still possible for a single artist to remain at the forefront of the industry for more than a couple years? How far will dubstep go? Will it follow the same evolutionary path that electro did?

Here are a couple of pieces to get your mind thinking electro/dubstep hybrid. And naturally, should they provoke any interesting ideas, feel free to share.

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TC – Where’s My Money (Caspa Remix – Jack Beats Re-Edit)

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Udachi – Jellyroll

The Music Video Strikes Back

 

Neon Outline of People

I was watching the VMA’s the other day and realized something: I absolutely love music videos. I think it has to do with the “visual freedom” of the medium, the way that a music video can capture the feel or energy of music through film. There’s more flexiibilty than with a movie because there isn’t a story to tell; instead, there’s a “feeling” to capture. It also helps that I’m a sucker for interesting animation. And while the old adage is certainly true that “a great video depends on a great song,” there’s something to be said for quality filmmaking. A great video makes a great song better. The best videos in history are something more than just a choreographed dance number set to music (think Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Daft Punk’s “Da Funk“).

 

Paranoid Android Music Video Screenshot

 

I used to think music videos were a dying art form. There were two forces at play. First, several of the most visionary music video directors–Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek and (to a lesser extent) Michel Gondry–had made the transition into directing feature films. Okay, maybe I’m overstating the importance of a handful of famous directors slowing down their output. There were some quality videos made in the last, say, five years or so.

The bigger problem was that great videos that were made didn’t get the exposure they deserved. MTV and VH1 spurned music videos in favor of reality television, so finding new music videos took some effort on the part of the viewer. Sure, you could watch them on the Internet. But broadband connections weren’t as ubiquitous as today, so streaming videos online was unpleasant and annoying, a constant trade-off between quality, frame rate and loading time.

 

Fell In Love With A Girl Music Video Screenshot Capture Gondry

 

Both of those phenomena combined to spell the end of the music video. Of course, it didn’t happen. Streaming video is relatively easy now. Music videos (like music itself) just made the transition onto the Internet. Thanks, YouTube. Music videos aren’t going anywhere.

But it’s easy to make a bad, predictable video. How many rap videos are nothing more than the rapper looking tough and throwing up money in front of expensive cars and bikini-clad women? It’s hard to do something different, something nobody’s ever seen before. That’s why the following two videos are favorites of mine. They challenge the conventions of what a music video can be.

The first video is for Steve Aoki’s new single “I’m in the House” feat [[[Zuper Blahq]]]. Here’s a great example of something that can’t be done in a feature film. It’s a three-minute swirl of color and fun; it captures the energy of the song as well as any video I’ve seen.

 

 

 

This next video is for Miike Snow’s “Burial.” It looks like what would happen if someone found the footage for a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and edited down the most beautiful scenes. The cinematography is abslolutely fantastic. If MTV gave an award for “Video Most Likely to Make You Cry,” this one would win. This music video is, in a word, perfect.

 

 

 

Like I said above, a great video makes a great song better. Here are the MP3s.

 

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Steve Aoki – I’m in the House (feat. [[[zuper blahq]]])

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Miike Snow – Burial

Perhaps Our Compass is Broken?

Over the past four years since the mass popularization (so to speak) of modern dance music took place, we’ve been a part of an extremely dynamic and evolving industry. In fact, I do believe that the major contributor to the success of the genre was the plethora of new ideas and sounds found lurking around every corner, seemingly having something with which to cater to everyone’s own personal taste. Artists like MSTRKRFT and their (now nearly classic) album “The Looks” drew public attention through their ability to build electronic, dance music with strong rock influences, while at the same time Ed Banger, Dim Mak, and even just Daft Punk toured the world to show people that the term “electronic” can simply be about the party, and that it does not always have to be associated with “trance” and “rave.”

ed banger dim mak

Indeed, over several years, this little disco genre grew out of it’s status as an underrepresented and disrespected fad and began to earn itself a name, each day garnering a wealth of newfound believers. And the best part about it was the fact that everyone who chose to participate was able to build off of something someone before him had already done, and to keep us all moving forward. Boys Noize‘s debut album, for example, taught the world that a loss of bit depth is not necessarily a loss of quality; Oi Oi Oi was full of beautifully destroyed, and often times disgusting sounds that, when combined with an appropriate beat, came together seamlessly. And it certainly was not just Alex doing the work. For a while, it seemed like every new album release was a revolution in itself, and that dance music itself had become untamable.

boys noize power

Unfortunately, this “booming prosperity” (if I may) seems to have changed as of late. And while I’ve heard from many different people on many occasions that, “everything has been done, and it’s all just boring now,” this isn’t what I mean in the slightest. Rather, it seems that all the artists that we’ve grown fond of over the years have continued to provide a steady stream of great quality, creative compositions, but that they’ve somehow lost the ability to build off of and be influenced by other artists, and have become stuck making music in the exact same vein as all of their past work. To put it concisely, it’s almost as if the creativity and originality is still working strong, but that we’ve lost our compass, and with it, our sense of musical direction. Thus, for the last several months, we’ve been stuck wandering in circles like a line of ants with a stick strewn across its path. Sure, the music still sounds great, but where is it–and where are we–going as a collective?

Fake Blood Fix Your Accent

If anyone feels compelled to share thoughts, ideas, or even music, I’m confident that the rest of us would welcome your ideas with open arms.

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Fake Blood – Think I Like It

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Felix Da Housecat – Kickdrum

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Boys Noize – Kontact Me (Removed as per request)

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Boys Noize – Gax (Removed as per request)

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Boys Noize – Nerve (Removed as per request)

Some thoughts on Electric Zoo

I was skeptical when I first heard about Electric Zoo. An electronic music festival in New York City? Yeah, right. Then I learned that Made Event was producing it. If anyone was going to make it happen, it was going to be them. After all, they’ve produced and promoted almost every other big electronic music event in NYC, including bringing both DJ Tiësto and Paul van Dyk to Central Park. But this was Made Event’s first attempt at a festival. I wasn’t sure if they could pull it off.

Electric Zoo Flyer

I’ll cut to the chase: Electric Zoo took place this past weekend and went off without a hitch. All the “festival basics” were taken care of: enough bathrooms; six free water fountains. Each stage had it’s own feel and different decorations, including disco balls, fog machines, a pair of school buses and colored lights. The main stage had a giant projection screen with visuals that were synchronized to the music. You could really appreciate the effects during the later sets that took place after the sun went down.

All the speaker systems were nice and loud. There were a couple of places between stages where two sets would clash terribly, butting heads into a cacophonous mess. But I suppose that’s to be expected with two DJ’s performing only a few hundred feet away from each other and both blasting a heavy four count.

The festival was easy enought to get to (no small feat, considering the geography of New York City), and both days had fantastic weather. Randall’s Island had enough open space to let concertgoers enjoy the outdoors and fresh air. My biggest complaint? Nine dollars is simply too expensive for a cup of beer. And six dollars for a Red Bull? But I understand it’s a music festival. Prices for everything are always inflated.

Anyway, what about the music?

 

Electric Zoo Lineup

The line-up was a very solid mix of performers (see above). They ranged from world famous headliners to musicians I’d never even heard of. And their styles were scattered across the spectrum of electronic music. Like any music festival, part of the fun was discovering new artists. So Made Event did the right thing in booking performers from every sub-genre of electronic dance music: disco, drum and bass, house, trance.

Some highlights of mine include discovering the heavy sound of Chris Lake and seeing DJ Medhi, Busy P and Steve Aoki play back-to-back-to-back on the same stage. James Murphy and Pat Mahoney played a fun disco set (using real vinyl, of course); and David Guetta‘s closing performance on Sunday night was the perfect end to a great weekend. My ears are still ringing. What’s the future for Electric Zoo? The promoters say they’re trying to make it an annual event. Let’s hope so.

 

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David Guetta – Memories feat. Kid Cudi

 

Were you at Electric Zoo? What did you think? Who did you see? Let us know in the replies.