Dance music has has exploded in the years since this blog began, but for fans size is not all that counts. The interest of the majors in EDM is here to stay and it represents the mainstream arm of a global dance sound still driven by boutique, vanity, and independent labels. After all, no matter how big the festival or bright the headliner, tunes from new and established independent labels dominate the sets. These labels are the primary incubators of dance music talent.
This series of posts recognizes that fact that interest in EDM comes from the ceaseless drive of individual tastemakers and tunemakers to make dance music available to people who want to listen to it. I will point out five more or less new labels that are worth listening to—the only thing they all have in common is releasing amazing music. None of them have been around for more than 5 years but all of them release some of the best dance music out there!
North Carolina is rapidly becoming a center of talent in electronic music. One of the biggest names to emerge from the state is also one of the youngest talents to make serious waves. Anyone who keeps up with electronic music knows that Porter Robinson exploded onto the festival and touring circuit by making music that’s good. “Say My Name” the song that made him famous managed to use the word “honor” in way that was not out of date and actually seemed kind of cool. . .all that, and face it the theme of the song was unexpected given the title. Not yet out of high school, Robinson is one of the wunderkinds emerging in global dance along with other producers such as Madeon from France and Temabes from Russia. These kids continue in the tradition of The Belleville Three, Felix Stallings, Jr (now Felix da Housecat), Tevo Howard, and Steve Porter all of whom were in high school or, even, middle school when they began making club hits.
Being in North Carolina right now, it’s only fitting to take a moment to point out Porter Robinson’s new remix of Lady Gaga. Undoubtedly it’ll be a huge track a huge track. As I write this it’s been up for a less than three hours, and is approaching 600 plays…that’s about three plays a minute. Wow. This remix shows that Robinson is an artist who looks to challenge himself in production. Hardest part of being a wunderkind is, well, being a wunderkind, rather than say just another little Johnny one note. Porter Robinson is working hard, and his remix shows it. For that reason it pairs well with Gaga’s latest hit, the result of her own tireless grind.
You may trace techno to whatever deep historical origins in electronic music that you would like. Personally, I think the deepest roots of electronic music are in the principles of musique concret that Karlheinz Stockhausen adapted from Pierre Shaffer, and which in turn influenced Miles Davis’s landmark recordings Bitches Brew and On the Corner. Other’s may go to the first electric instruments Telharmonium and Theremin, which no doubt inspired jazz musician Raymond Scott to experiment with electronic jazz composition. A third route may be Kraftwerk, the seminal German pop group who combined the drum rhythms of Clyde Stubblefield with a brand of robotic stage presence. I’m sure there are other ways to map just where techno came from, but one place ties these strands together: Detroit.
Without Detroit no techno—whatever its deepest origins before the 1988 compilation “TECHNO!: The New Dance Sound of Detroit” there was no electronic music called techno. That seminal release christened a musical form as surely as champagne christens a boat. The boat was built before the christening, but an unchristened boat has no purpose since no one will sail in it.
Track Masta Lou has been a fixture of Detroit techno. A legend of the music, his collective of artists, Scan 7, are often called mysterious due to their deliberate practice of anonymity. Masked, known for live analogue performance, and invoking esoteric symbolism Scan 7 may be mysterious, yet they are whimsical enough to have bobble head dolls and trading cards. The true affect of being so hidden, so unknown is that their music is put in the foreground. They are unknown but their music is very knowable. Moreover it is danceable, driving, hard as nails. At the same time, this combination means that Scan 7’s very presence evokes the introspection and subtlety of the serious artist. The seriousness of an artist is often measured by longevity, and by this standard so there’s no doubting Track Masta Lou and Scan 7 collective.
Most artists will sell you merchandise and recordings, but few will ask you to write what you think about vinyl as something in return. That point should sound like an anecdote because that’s exactly how I got my bobble head, hat, records, and trading cards! Fittingly the seventh part of the Summer Series is Scan 7’s live performance at the Maximal Festival in Milan from June ’09.
Mux Mool is Brian Lundgren, an artist from Minnesota with a release upcoming on the always brilliant Ghostly International. “Lady Linda” is a chilly blend of hip-hop and electronica. Synths melt and glisten over atmospheric waves of chimes and twangs. It’s icy and spacey, but nicely balanced by a grinding squelch drills intensely throughout. Excellent stuff!!
Been a while since I’ve posted, but things are going again so there will be more in the days to come. This mix by Menace was made on January 3rd, 2010 to support the tenth anniversary of his Work it Baby label (see below). It pretty amazing stuff. I played it a coule of weeks ago during my radio show on WKNC and had a great response. It’s definitely something to check out. That Poni Hoax track blew my mind! I hadn’t heard of them before, and now can’t wait to hear more! Here’s the playlist with the track below:
Little Boots – Earthquake(Dekker and Johan Remix)
lullabies -aeroplane remix
myers briggs – red cooler
ryan davis – vanderbird
aphex twin – on
stephan bodzin – mustang
badly drawn boy – promises
metro area – mirua
pony hoax – antibodies 128
rozzo – blue
instra-mental – leave it all behind
oliver koletzski – sure i can dyno
skatebard – pagans
Kris Menace‘s Work it Baby label is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Part of the celebration is a double CD set that make s the label’s amazing catalogue available in one place. The first CD features recent and unreleased tracks from the label that includes. With this posting I’m including one of the best tracks from the CD.
Work It Baby is a French House label that specializes in an energetic synth driven sound that takes inspiration from the west coast disco sounds of, say, Patrick Cowley. But this is not some Hi-NRG rehash–the releases consistent are more than the sum of their influences. That’s a good thing in this case–the sound of San Fran. disco can pretty easily become shlocky and cheeseball. Work It Baby is _never_ like that. Their tracks are invariably mostly propulsive dancefloor monsters that manage to strike chords that are at time down right inspiring. Ten years is a long time to be cutting edge in a genre like electronic music-everything is about the future, what is to come, what’s next, the new directions. Any artitst or labels who rest on their laurels for too long are pretty soon played out when they play out. Menace is still generating excitement through both of his labels. (Compuphonic is the other.)
Work It Baby, well, works it. One of the surest signs of that is the selection of artists in its catalogue. Patrick Alavi of Germany has been shining more brightly with each release. His own boutique label, roXour, is celebrating its 5th anniversary right now. His 2004 track “Power” gets a remix from Menace for the anniversary disc. This track manages to showcases all of the best features of the label-an extraordinary build with increasingly complex synth elements that final explode into an aurora borealis of color. The music is like a laser light show, and no worhtwhile dancefloor could resist this track for very long–Menace’s skillful briliance is that he so ably brings his voice to an artist’s track without undermining the spirit what made the original so fantastic in the first place.