By: Sterling Martin
Do people roll their eyes at you and dismiss your opinion when you tell them about your “electronic music” experiences? Whether you’re an artist, promoter or fan—it’s happened to us all at one point or another.
I put quotes around “electronic music” because music is in a state of constant change. In the EDM world, however, trends seem to be changing and evolving at an increasing rate, especially as the electronic “underground” continues to merge with the “mainstream.”
This is the problem—electronic music is far too often categorized by a single element or stereotype.
A common misconception about EDM is thinking each artist is only playing someone else’s music without any creative control, or thinking that every act is a mash-up DJ. Of course, there’s no shame for those who DJ weddings or proms, however, I’d argue that’s not a reason to spend your life savings on equipment in an attempt to get noticed on SoundCloud.
Using only a laptop, MIDI controllers and a Fender Stratocaster, Jonathan Edwards, better known as Cosmic Coast, breaks these stereotypes with talent and originality.
“I’ve got everything set up in a way that allows me to break the songs up by each individual instrument,” Edwards revealed. “I’ve got control over the drums, the bass, the chord progressions, the lead melody line. I can rebuild the songs in a different way for each live show.”
By incorporating the guitar into his set, he creates a more interactive Cosmic Coast performance, which also allows him to deliver something fresh each night he performs.
“I love jamming and I love to improv, and being able to do that with the guitar live adds another dynamic. When I play live, I can have these loop sections and can have solo sections like I’m up there jamming with a full band,” he continued.
“People want to see that. They want to see the music made in front of them.”
Another giant misconception about a guy with a laptop is that his music will be some sort of old 90’s techno that consists of only repetitive build-ups and break-downs.
An up-and-coming producer by the name of Stone Soul has quickly broken onto the electronic music scene with his funky electro-soul sound. For his upcoming release, the producer has transferred from using samples to creating most of the music with instruments instead, opting for a more sample-free method of creation.
“The album still has a classic electro-funk, ghetto-funk feel, but with live instrumentation driving the sound instead of digitally programmed synths and what not. This is where I have always wanted my sound to head towards, live instrumentation with an electronic feel,” Jordan Stone, mastermind behind Stone Soul, shared.
Not only are his beats full of energy and emotion, but further they have a truly retro vibe.
“I have been saying for a while now that music will be as great as it was in the 60’s/70’s again come 2020. A lot of that as to do with the merging of two separate eras of sound, the rock and disco roots of the 60’s and 70’s with electronic influences of the 21st century,” Stone continued.
“A lot of the better acts taking flight in the up and coming electronic funk/soul movement are all incorporating live instrumentation, drawing fans from both live and electronic audiences, and creating a timeless sound through doing so.”
Another place of disconnect is where money is concerned. Even the Grammy Awards are almost always flooded with one type of “mainstream EDM”—a category that is all too real in the eyes of smaller, talented electronic musicians. While this year’s nominees are an exception to the trend, the gap still exists.
“The only artists on [DJ MAG’s TOP 100] I’ve been somewhat up to date with are Porter Robinson, Skrillex, Deadmau5, and there’s definitely a reason for that. Each of those artists has built a unique sound, to the point where when you hear something for the first time, and you know undeniably it is their production,” Stone noted.
“That’s where there’s longevity in the scene.”
In a wider scope, few artists have been able to bridge EDM with other genres as successfully as rapper ProbCause has.
“A lot of the producers in the electronic scene came up making hip-hop beats to start. A lot of that stuff is just dope beats with no lyrics over it,” the Chicago native said.
His last release, “Drifters,” had various producers and features like GRiZ and GiBBZ. Further, it was released on Gramatik’s label Lowtemp Music, with whom he also shared a feature. By delving in both worlds, ProbCause understands the minor differences in genres whose boundaries are constantly being broken.
“It’s not just dubstep, it’s not just glitch-hop. It’s this all-encompassing thing. Look at rock-n-roll. There’s hard rock, and there’s classic rock, and there’s punk rock, and it’s the same thing with electronic music,” ProbCause explained. To try to pigeonhole electronic music as one thing is being ignorant of all the other amazing musicianship that goes into the music that’s really poppin’ off.”
Not only does the MC break out of traditional genre barriers, he blends the elements in order to create his own lane in the music industry. His high-energy performances are lead by a drummer/producer extraordinaire, COFRESI, which allows him to bring even more life into each performance.
The live and performance setting is also becoming more and more popular due to a growth in events and music festivals. Nearly everyday another festival is popping up, creating a need for artists to pay careful attention to their sets.
“I think that’s also where the music industry has kinda turned, too. People don’t make money off record sales and a lot of the projects are free anyway… it has to be considered for sure when [I’m] making the songs in the studio, ya know: how will this translate live?”
According to ProbCause, a higher tier rapper will create less of a buzz than a lower tier electronic artist, thus even higher tier rappers are expected to draw less of a crowd and are slotted lower on line-ups.
“It’s an interesting thing that I’ve been trying to figure out, and because I teeter in both worlds, I have this crossover fan-base.”
The diversity in this fan-base, similar to diversity in his catalog, are reasons the rap act and his music have been so widely-accepted in both the hip-hop and the EDM scenes.
There are countless other artists breaking genre conventions and stretching electronic concepts, most of which will go unnoticed outside of their small SoundCloud following—however it is these artists who have the potential to change the misconceptions and stereotypes about the world of EDM.
We have a vested interest in that hope, because we've stacked The Untz Festival (hitting Mariposa County Fairgrounds in Mariposa, CA from June 2-4, 2016) with artists who defy the laptop concept, playing electronic music with live instruments and bringing those sounds to life on stage.
Those acts include bands re-interpreting the sounds and styles of contemporary dance music, like DYNOHUNTER and Evanoff, or electronic producers like Crywolf and Ryan Farish who seek to bring their computerized compositions to the stage in new and inventive ways by using instruments.
There are also acts who blur those lines like Bass Physics, Turbo Suit, and Kinetik Force, where you can't really tell whether a song started on the computer or on stage. A movement is starting to subvert the popular understanding of "electronic dance music," and people outside the scene were just starting to get used to the idea of the laptop DJ!
Heed ProbCause’s subtle warning: “If you paint anything with too broad of a stroke, you get into dangerous territory.”
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