I often have a hard time explaining electronic music to friends who don’t know the genre. Part of the reason, I think, is that there are many more differences between artists and songs within the field than there are similarities. One has, for example, techno and house DJs creating a club vibe, ambient and downtempo acts striving for lush and chill sounds, and electropop (or even industrial rock) bands that can induce dancing, moshing and quiet contemplation all in the span of one disc. That’s not even touching subgenres where you get smashup hybrids like the fantastic (in both name and practice) folktronica.
Two beautiful electronica tidbits crossed my path recently, both of which fall into the niche often called glitch. The easiest way to think of glitch is to imagine those things which would normally annoy you when listening to your favorite non-electronica band (fuzz, noise, skipping, repetition, bleeps, bloops, dissonance…) and instead of avoiding them, using them as your base. (That’s glossing over the details, but it’s good enough for now.) Though you may not believe it from that description, there’s a lot of coherent stuff you can do with that and (just like electronica as a whole), artists can create dancey glitch (a la Aphex Twin) or downtempo glitch (a la what I’m going to talk about here).
“Vessel (Four Tet Remix)” – Jon Hopkins
Jon Hopkins makes gorgeous ambient and downtempo music. You may have heard his stuff without realizing it (he produced and contributed to Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and the song which he would later release as “Light through the Veins” formed the introduction to “Life in Technicolor ii,” the opening track from that album. Four Tet, on the other hand, creates a much more danceable sort of music, sampling jazz beats, folk and strings, and even obscure sounds like a rubber duck squeak and his nephew’s heartbeat. Hopkins’ song “Vessel” is a lush and beautiful piece that in Four Tet’s hands takes on a more uptempo (and more glitchy) sound. The result is a great compromise of the style of both that’s equally wonderful heard through headphones or on the dance floor.
But, I point this piece out not just for the music, but for the splendid video commissioned for the remix. (It’s rare for a remix to get a video, so if you doubted my effluence up to this point, consider this a second opinion on the high quality of this tune.) The video is an art piece directed by BISON (a one name dude who I can’t actually find any information on), that is a play on the 3D technique known as anaglyph, the overlapping blue and cyan images that are supposed to pop out when you wear the goofy glasses.
I discovered this video from a blog post over at ISO50, the design and music blog run by Scott Hansen (aka the electronic musician Tycho). As he says in his post, this is a wonderful example of matching the song to the look and in the case of glitch, this means you get the beautiful, somewhat surreal, effect of skips meshed with more fluid images. I think I’m just rambling now, so watch and enjoy.
Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner
Gold Panda has released a few singles and remixes, but just this month dropped his debut album, Lucky Shiner, on Ghostly International. The best summary of the disc that I’ve seen comes from a piece in The Guardian:
By his own account, Gold Panda works quickly, and initially the tracks sound ramshackle and fuzzy. But he’s far from careless. A track like “I’m With You But I’m Lonely” builds a bruised prettiness by piling up miniature events: keyboards twitter at one another, while underneath, a toyshop’s worth of anxious clockwork rhythms clatter around. Gold Panda’s signature trick, though, is messing with samples; leaving them to skip and jam like a stuck CD, then knowing exactly when to stop before the feeling of slight wrongness becomes actual annoyance.
The last sentence, on the skipping CD sound, is especially apt, and I will echo the sentiment that it’s handled perfectly: enough to make it interesting, but kept to short bursts and changed up enough that the music still moves forward despite the repetition.