When people are faced with terms such as ‘electronica’ and ‘IDM’, the general response will most likely be anything from a raised eyebrow to a look of complete bemusement.
Despite the adoption of synthesisers in pop music since the 1980s, purely electronic music has never been known for its accessibility. There’s something about programming drum loops that lacks the instant appeal of, say, a guitar solo or an uplifting chorus.
While Low by David Bowie and Radiohead’s output since Kid A have been both critical and commercial successes in spite of their experimental nature, they are often criticised for lacking the “anthemic” work these artists are capable of producing. The sad truth is that a lot of music fans find electronic sounds difficult to relate to.
Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood astutely points out that ‘a voice into a microphone onto a tape, onto your CD, through your speakers is all as illusory and fake as any synthesizer’. While for many people it is the voice (and its lyrics) that affects them, electronic music often has plenty of emotion to offer if the listener is willing to engage with it.
Instruments such as synthesisers and samplers give artists complete freedom when it comes to sound. Existing sounds can be manipulated and distorted or completely new sounds can be created, freeing musicians from the constraints of traditional instruments.
Boards of Canada perfectly demonstrate just what can be achieved with synthesisers and drum machines, somehow capturing a sense of nostalgia and futurism in one sound. Songs like ‘In a Beautiful Place…’ seem to recall distant childhood memories, while ‘Sixtyten’ reveals the duo’s darker and more sinister tendencies.
Their music is a sublime blend of eerily beautiful melodies and crackly hip hop beats, all topped off with some obscure samples and a hazy psychedelic sheen. Music Has the Right to Children is a record to get completely lost in, an hour long respite from reality that might even change the way you listen to music.
Aphex Twin’s videos have been scaring MTV viewers for a while now, but hidden in amongst the glitchy beats are beautifully desolate melodies reminiscent of 20th century composers such as Arvo Part or Satie.
The ever experimental Kieran Hebden has a more organic approach to his music, combining the organic sounds of harps and pianos with his trademark clattering beats. Through various projects, Hebden brings genres as varied as house and jazz together with creative vision to match the likes of Miles Davis.
With genres such as techno and dubstep taking more and more influences from their less dancefloor focused cousins, greater numbers of people are getting interested in dance music. With the likes of Burial, Moderat and Boxcutter, dance music is expanding its creative boundaries as tracks become more tailored to the needs of the listener rather than the DJ.
Spotify playlist coming soon…