Who Shapes the Artist?


[It brings me great grief to have to mention this, but this article was written prior to the death of Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM. We at UhOhDisco were all greatly affected by the loss of our good friend. May he rest in peace.]

Bibio

There are thousands of reasons for which a modern musical artist might be praised. These reasons span an enormous range of natures, reaching from those having been derived simply from lifestyle admiration (DJ AM owns clubs and drives Maseratis) to others, for flat out musical genius (artists like DJ Shadow and Royksopp are said to have created unparalleled works of art), and for the better part of my life, I (and likely a rather large number of the rest of us), have allowed myself to believe that these artists were all receiving this praise, or to take it a step further, receiving these labels (DJ AM: Celebrity DJ, etc…), due to the annoying tendency of today’s music industry to need to qualify and quantify everything into a mess of titles and genres. However, if the recent explosion in popularity of the electronic music has taught me anything, it is that I have been grossly misguided, and that from start to finish, an artist has complete control over the labels which he will later bear. And this is not to say I was previously unaware that an artist was free to pick his genre, but rather, that the niche he eventually ends up in is entirely determined by the artist himself.

Luke Vibert
Luke Vibert

I suppose this might prove a rather difficult riddle to decipher at first, but I assure you, there is [usually] a reasonable amount of sense in my speculations. You see, I’d always imagined the most successful musical artists to be the most musically wise. More specifically, I had assumed that a determined musician’s long term goal would generally be to fully comprehend music in and of itself, and not merely the music of the nooks and cranny’s he’d been placed in. Thus, the acquisition of such a “celebrity dj” or “synth master” etc. type title would seem to prove both offensive and counterproductive. I have, however, realized my mistake:

People don’t find their niches by sacrificing all other genres and styles for one that they like best. No sir. Instead (at least in the case of the more respectable musicians I know), the artists is bombarded with a nearly infinite amount of music throughout his life, all of which eventually serves as fuel in the creation of one final product; That is, the music an artist releases, and thus his genre, style, and labels, are all a product that that particular artist considers to be the absolute best combination of everything he or she has ever heard or been influenced by.

At this point, I’m wondering whether I’ve made a point, or if I’ve merely succeeded in uselessly rambling for far too long, but either way, it seems only fair to share with you the reason for my ineffectual pondering:

You see, I’ve fallen in love with happiness.

This morning I discovered a layer to my music collection that I was previously oblivious to, said layer being the one holding the key to the emotional state of the composing author. My eyes were closed, my headphones were on, and I sought to fill my mind with the music that would carry me through the day. My music was playing in no particular order, so each new track was a surprise, however, one of these songs proved to be especially surprising: It was a song I’d heard many times before, and yet this time through, it brought to me a warmth I had not felt before, almost as if I were seeing the world anew through the eyes of its author. And the best part about it was that the author was happy. And not the fleeting, feigned kind. This artist was truly satisfied with the way of the world, and with his or her place amidst it all, and hence, so was I.

I shall forever love the multitude of themes, styles, and emotions expressed in music. The horrifying giddiness of the Bloody Beetroots will always be a brilliantly engineered thrill, Felix Cartal‘s angry build ups and abrasive basslines will always fulfill the need to be an untamable creature of the night. And people like AM and Aoki will always offer a habitual dose of Los Angeles, live-in-the-moment, careless partying. But in the end, it’s happiness that’s rooted itself in my soul.

I hope I don’t need an excuse to let these tracks wander a bit from the usual genre.

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Broken Social Scene – Major Label Debut

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Luke Vibert – We Hear You

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Bibio – Fire Ant

Felix Cartal – Skeleton EP

Felix Cartal

At the risk of forever being labeled as a complete fool, I’m going to be 100% honest and say that prior to the release of Felix Cartal‘s Skeleton EP, my expectations for the Canadian boy could barely be lifted off the ground. I’m not quite sure why, however, I feel it’s safe to say that my insensitive assumption could not have been entirely my fault; Up until quite recently, his tour fliers have depicted him as “opener material” by consistently placing him second to artists like MSTRKFT, Steve Aoki, and LA Riots, a spot that would likely have otherwise been filled by Them Jeans or Dan Oh and the like. Not that I have anything against the guys; It’s just that they’ve all been supporting each other as remix artists for such an extensive amount of time, that it has become unusual to regard any of them as an actual recording artist, capable of releasing a fully fledged and independent album.

Felix Cartal

Needless to say, every one of my assumptions was shattered and surpassed on levels that I didn’t even have a clue existed. Not only has the young wrecka created an EP that embraces and fully displays the sounds of modern dance music, but he’s also made the art of innovation stylish once again. That is, where I expected to hear a collection of four songs that all resembled his (and everyone else’s) past work, I was startled to experience the charitable use of complex rhythms, character of sound ranging from his trademarked banger synth to lighter, poppier noises not dissimilar to that of Simian Mobile Disco, and elegant eight bar chord progressions that work hard to draw every last piece of energy possible out of those 24 bits. Long story short, it took Felix less than a minute to establish himself in my mind as far more than just a Reason remixer. Skeleton EP is wonderful. Felix is wonderful. Dancing is wonderful. Group hug.

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Felix Cartal – Redheads

Considering the poor boy put so much time and energy into this EP, I can’t bring myself to post more than a single song. If you’ve fallen as deeply in love as I have, spend the four dollars to grab a copy, and of course, don’t forget to make your way out to Cinespace tonight for the Dim Mak Tuesdays “Skeleton” Release Party!

Record! Record! Record! Record!

So I can usually restrain myself from spewing burning hot electro all over the internet when I’ve only got one or two tracks to hold back, but somehow over the last couple of hours, I’ve been put in touch with more fire than any one non-Jesus person can handle. If you’ve ever experienced any kind of allergic reaction from saw-toothed synths, please keep in mind that these tracks may serve to exacerbate your symptoms.

Don Rimini

As if his ridiculously infamous single “Let Me Back Up” wasn’t insane enough, Don Rimini (who’s name I still can’t quite figure out; It sounds Italian, but the guy’s French. Sometimes I wonder if electro names are designed to provoke confusion), has kicked the more melodic and smoother sounds, and locked the “I can’t figure out what the hell is going on”, loopy saw tooth synths into gear. Needless to say, this isn’t one to miss out on. Lets get ready to rummblllleee!

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Don Rimini – Intro + Ohow ?

Lazaro Casanova and Felix Cartal

While this next piece of madness isn’t as fresh out of the studio as Don Rimini’s track, it certainly packs more than enough punch to preserve it’s longevity and ensure that its going to be responsible for many a sweaty night to come. Felix Cartal has added his signature, sharp and dirty touch to an already amusing collection of sounds, which should be good news for those of you that can never seem to get enough smash and thrash out of your night. Major props to you if you aren’t promptly reduced to your knees.

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Lasaro Casanova – Venganza (Felix Cartal Remix)

Jakk Mode

Here’s an interesting little twist in the business. I don’t know what the general feeling is on the pushing of dominant labels in the disco scene, but personally (despite the fact that they do support some of the best music in the industry), I feel that hearing from the same companies (Ekleroshock, Dim Mak, I Heart Comix) over and over again tends to bring a bit more uniformity to the industry than I’m comfortable with. As such, it goes without saying that I was entirely thrilled to be presented with the opportunity to sit down and talk with DJ Marlon Fuentes, founder and owner of the Los Angeles label, Jakk Mode. Hoping to create a stronger and more united party scene, Jakk Mode has its goals set to form a sort of bridge between the divided hip hop and electro scenes in Los Angeles. In support of the cause, Fuentes was even kind enough to hook me up with a couple promo boots, both of which have some serious dance floor potential. Do I sense an LA revolution?

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Lil Wayne – Got Money (Jakk Mode Boot)

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The Pussycat Dolls – When I Grow Up (Jakk Mode Boot)