Here’s my Top 15 list of musicians I think utilize technology in unique and innovative ways. Whether it’s using samples as lead vocals, live looping, busting out phat remixes, or finding new ways of using the computer as a compositional tool, it is undeniable that technology is where music (as well as everything) is heading. I am of the opinion that it should be embraced, and I think these artists are crashing into the future with utmost grace and style. Check it out…
(Of course there is so much awesome electronic music out there, and this is not the be-all and end-all. This is just what I came up with on a whim…)
1.) “Lead Breakfast” – Pogo
Pogo is the man. If you don’t know about him you should really check him out (see ‘Links’ page). He’s this Australian guy that does movie and TV remixes & mash-ups. He’s really been a huge influence on me in the past year. I just love all of his stuff. Especially his use of vocal samples. He recently did a video about how he makes his music and I found out that he actually doesn’t tune that many vocal samples, but rather looks for samples that already have a certain note to them to avoid the choking effect that auto-tuning often has on vocals. Really cool stuff. This is a Pulp Fiction remix he put out about a week ago. One of my favorites of his. But yeah… definitely get into it. It’s very cool… Here’s a link to the only song he’s done using actual sounds he recorded from his mother’s garden (it’s also the video that introduced me to his work): Gardyn
2.) “Help Me Somebody” – Brian Eno & David Byrne
So, the above video is the most recent music in this list, and the video below is certainly the oldest. It’s from David Byrne and Brian Eno’s collaborative album ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ from 1979 and showcases the first time vocal samples were used exclusively as the lead vocal track. This album even pre-dates most of the vocal sample work that became prevalent in hip-hop in the 80′s and has lasted up until today. It was incredibly innovative and before it’s time, the production techniques throughout are super heady and dense. If you appreciate sample work whatsoever, this album is an absolute necessity.
3.) “Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again” – The Books
The Books. A genre unto themselves. Undefinable by most anyone and beyond any convention previously established by the entire history of music before them. Masters of sample work and instrumental madmen, the Books spent the last decade composing soundscapes and orchestrations out of found sounds, live instruments, and unrivaled creativity. Sadly, this last year saw the duo parting ways… but never fear! Singer Nick Zammuto has started a new, self-named group, Zammuto, and will be touring the U.S. for the remainder of the year. But, if you’re like me, and you just can’t get over the departure of you’re beloved Books, then check out Nick Zammuto’s new BLOG, wherein he discusses the life of the books, the meanings and inspirations behind the songs, and how his life unfolded around the music he made. He even reveals that this was actually the first song that the two of them wrote together. REALLY great stuff, especially if you’re a Books nut like me.
4.) “Angel Echoes” – Four Tet
Four Tet, the one man electronic virtuoso, a.k.a. Kieran Hebden, firmly straddles the line between electronic composer and DJ. His works have been many and varied over his almost 15 years of production and he shows no indication of slowing. This track is probably my favorite of his, primarily because of the gorgeous vocal line that guides the song. It’s just perfect. Four Tet’s drum work and sample stitching is formidable to say the least and his entire discography is worth your ears’ time.
5.) “Busy Signal (Prefuse 73 Remix)” – Daedelus
This track is actually a remix of a Daedelus song realized by fellow electronic mastermind Prefuse 73. Both artists have styles that sit outside typical genre boundaries and their talents collide in an amazing and groovy way in this song. Just try not to bob your head to his beat… I dare you.
6.) “aNYway” – Duck Sauce
Alright. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about who Duck Sauce is or what he does. I’ve read on the interwebs that he’s kind of blowing up right now on the DJ scene… and I suppose that’s all good and well. But I just love this song. In my opinion, it is the perfectly executed DJ banger. The beat drops, the build-ups, the drums, the vocals, everything is just perfectly slamming and put together. Definitely drop this one at your next house party, the dance floor will collapse… I’d be willing to bet…
7.) “Insomniac Olympics” – Blockhead
Blockhead, a New York native and hip hop producer, probably best known for his work with Aesop Rock, always delivers. His beats are crafted from samples, samples and more samples, all coalescing to achieve something greater than the sum of its parts. I actually remember the first time somebody played Blockhead and I was thinking “What band is this? How many different people are doing how many different things in this group? This is amazing!” Shortly thereafter I discovered it was just some dude cranking out marvelously fat beats. I really love this song. The higher pitched vocal line towards the middle… it’s just spectacular. (I hope you’re starting to sense a pattern in my affinity for well utilized vocal samples…)
8.) “Bombay” – El Guincho
El Guincho (some consider him ‘the Spanish Panda Bear’) hails from Espana and makes excellent modern pop music. He uses samplers, keys, drum machines, and his voice in a magnificently concocted blend that both makes you want to dance as well as soar off into space. So catchy, so sonically pleasing, so intricate and lovely. Get down with this stuff. The video is also awesome.
9.) “Poison Pit (WHY? Remix)” – Themselves
So much to say along with this song… Wow. This song (though it is amazing) is really meant to highlight a lot of my favorite artists in one fell swoop. It is a remix of a Themselves (Jel & Doseone) song done by the band WHY? (Yoni Wolf, who along with Doseone was 2/3 of post-hop group cLOUDDEAD). If you don’t know about any of these artists or about the label they founded, Anticon., then you’ve been sleeping HARD and you need to wake your ass up.
10.) “CMYK” – James Blake
James Blake kind of blew up a couple of years ago, and for good reason. He came out on the internet as being actively against the machismo and emotionlessness of the gargantuan wave of dubstep hype that came along with Skrillex and his imitators. James Blake, in that sense, is in many ways, classifiable as Post-Dubstep, actively moving forward and leaving behind what was unnecessary in a movement that has many people (myself included) befuddled. But whatever your stance on dubstep, it can’t be denied that James Blake has some tricks up his sleeves. This track is off his CMYK E.P., which came out before his self-titled debut album, and features a lot more of his computer chops than his song craftsmanship, both of which are brilliant.
11.) “Voy Cell Ohs” – Olsen Twinns
My friend Mickey Davis is a beautiful human being. He’s been blowing up around here in the Twin Cities as well as back home in Iowa. He’s inspired me in so many ways this past year and his music has directly influenced the direction my music has been heading. This is a video of him playing at our house in West Saint Paul, he does a great job when he plays live. Thumping beats and heart sweat. He’s got a new album coming out soon and you should go check it out and buy it along with his EP (see ‘Links’ page). Great stuff from a great dude.
12.) “Seaside Town” – Baths
Baths is the best. Seriously, this dude is the greatest. Probably my single biggest influence from the past year. I even got a chance to see him perform at Pitchfork last summer and I was absolutely blown away with the amount of energy that one person could produce and the amount of control he had over the crowd. The only thing I saw that outdid it was Animal Collective, which is just like… DUH. No, but seriously, Baths has raised the bar for electronic producers and composers hands down with his off-kilter beat work and multi-instrumental capabilities. Get DEEP into this music. It’s amazing.
13.) “Capture the Flag” (Live At Home) – Dosh
Martin Dosh is way cooler than you. For real. Dude puts on one of the best one-man shows I’ve ever seen. I got to see him twice this past year and each time was just wow wow wow. He single-handedly controls multiple looping mechanisms, drum machines, live keys and drums, along with a whole other slew of noise flavors. This is a video of him and Mike Lewis (local Twin Cities sax legend) in Dosh’s basement just absolutely killing this song dead. Loop MASTERS. This is how it’s done, folks. This is how it’s done.
14.) “Tonto” – Battles
Battles have been tied for my absolute favorite band for about five years now. They were the first band to trigger my interest in looping and just generally being amazing and awesome. This is a group of insanely talented musicians with their minds on multiple planets and planes all at once. Though they tragically lost their singer/second guitar player Tyondai Braxton last year (he’s just doing solo stuff now… BORING), they still put on a great show and make wonderfull, technologically-driven jams that make you question where the human element ends and the computer takes over. Future: Here we come!
15.) “Bros” – Panda Bear
Panda Bear, one fourth of the indomitable Animal Collective (my other favorite band), released in 2007 an album that blew absolutely everyone’s mind. Person Pitch is an album constructed from samples and Panda’s iconic voice that takes you through spaces you may not have known existed before listening. It’s essential. This track is the embodiment of the mindful chug of the album and the head space and patience it takes to become one with the music. I’ll leave you with this twelve minutes and see if you can make your way through unchanged. Enjoy and thanks for being here!