From the Outside: Artists I’ve Heard Of, But Never Heard
Okay, fellow EDM explorers. (Adventurers? Lovers? I feel like there should be a term for all of us). As promised in a former post, I went to another show a few weekends ago. And I was on time! And I looked good! The only thing was, when I walked in, it wasn’t fresh beats emanating from the stage, but an act that sounded kind of like Pearl Jam. Which is great, because I love Seattle and the 90’s, but it didn’t do much good for my quest to learn what EDM’s all about. You never know exactly what you’re going to get with a small, local, multi-artist show—but that’s also part of the fun.
Fortunately, a couple of DJs came on later in the night, at just the point when I was ready to hit the dance floor. I’m not sure exactly which artists out of the show’s line-up they were (another hazard of small underground shows), but I’m pretty sure their sound would be classified as good ol’ techno—and maybe a bit of tech house too? Very danceable, although I found that I kept waiting for a beat that just…never…dropped. As far as I can tell this is indicative of techno, as opposed to other genres that have more of a build-drop pattern. Anyway, I was still thinking about how much I have to learn about the various sounds of EDM, so I made that my project for this week.
A call for suggestions from my knowledgeable and supportive Facebook friends (thanks, guys!) elicited so many responses that it will take me weeks to listen to them all—but I’ll try. For now, though, I’m starting with a few artists I’ve heard about for years, but never actually took the time to listen to. Those of you experienced in the scene will probably be totally familiar with these artists already. For the new people like me, though, I hope this will give you a good starting point: solid artists that are well-known, so you can commiserate with lots of people about your newfound love (and maybe have a good chance of catching them in concert someday).
First things first: Bassnectar. I’ve been hearing that name since high school! And if you asked me, I’d probably tell you I liked Bassnectar, even though I can’t name a single song, because the DJ has been recommended to me so many times by people whose judgment I trust. So it’s about time I sit down and give it a listen, right? Plus, he uses his influence to support causes like free press, net neutrality, and ending corporate personhood, and has sampled the voices of people like MLK Jr. and Mumia Abu-Jamal in his tracks, which is completely rad.
I hit up SoundCloud for a sample of his sound and was not disappointed. One friend told me it’s “best experienced live,” so there you go—I’ve added a Bassnectar show to my lengthy “must do before I die” list. His tracks are fun, but also grown-up and sexy, like a chocolate-covered strawberry (I like metaphors, okay?). There’s always a surprising element to his tracks—they’re never the same all the way through—and the artist certainly knows how to use different sounds and styles to complement each other. The whole is greater than its parts. And it’s fun. Just like a chocolate-covered strawberry, am I right?
It was hard to tear myself away from Bassnectar, but I couldn’t miss the next artist I wanted to check out: Crystal Castles. This experimental electronic duo has also been recommended to me for years, and I’ve also never really taken the time to listen. First thoughts: I hear less sexy bass but more raw emotion in these tracks. You can dance to them, but a little slower. These are songs to fall in and out of love to. (And I recognize the song Crimewave from somewhere! You’ve probably heard it somewhere too; go check it out). Crystal Castles is like a good gin and tonic: light, fresh, crisp, and you used to drink them with your college lover.
For the last always-recommended, never-listened-to artist of mine, I chose Pretty Lights, a DJ with a hip-hop background that comes through in his tracks. There’s a lot going on here—samples, genre mixing, a touch of funk and soul. You can’t dance to these songs without using your hips. It gives you nostalgia for places you’ve never been. The sound is actually kind of dark and gritty: Pretty Lights is made for city streets and nights that might get weird. It’s intense, soulful, relentless, and makes your head spin in a good way—like a bite of a hot pepper, or a shot of whiskey (Fireball, maybe? No, Fireball’s gross). The funky beats and darkly ethereal sound make for a unique mix indeed.
What do you think? Have you heard these artists a million times before, or are you as new to them as I am? Admittedly, I’m exploring fairly “mainstream” artists this week, but it seems like a good place to start. And you should never discredit an artist for their popularity! Hopefully, I’ll be writing about one of their live performances here someday. Until then, I’ve got plenty of listening and exploring (and dancing) to do. Which other artists are must-listen? Let me know in the comments!
It’s been real, guys. Until next time…