A couple of weeks ago you may recall my review of Spoon’s new record, but also my scathing opinion of the use of electronic techniques in popular music. You may have thought, “Man, why did they let this old guy write for KSSU?” But I have returned, and unlike any college student I know, I’ve done my homework. This includes the brand-new record from Flying Lotus entitled, You’re Dead. I’ve always liked FlyLo, but have thought his music is a little hard to access; and his latest is no exception. A lot of the tracks resemble a free-jazz-like sound scape meant for the more seasoned listener. In fact, a lot of the samples are of jazz solos. Very cool for a jazz snob like me. However, there are several tracks that will groove your socks off like Never Catch Me featuring the ever-effervescent Kendrick Lamar. Not only does this track evoke head bobbing, but it catches the ear with a dazzling harmony. The other groovy tune that caught my ear was Coronus, The Terminator for its cool gospel-like feel.
My point of reviewing this album (albeit not a complete review) is that I found electronic music with actual musical integrity. And what I mean by that is the musician or musicians have a respect for the craft of the actual music rather than based on an algorithm derived from song downloads. Also music that has feeling and emotion in it. You can tell by the way the groove is set and where the notes are placed. In that, music is mathematical at heart, but humans can defy that and move beyond it, creating something new. This is what we call swing or groove. It is why our ear is drawn to hip-hop when the snare hits just a little late. And a program cannot reliably produce sound like this. But there are artists who use electronic music for good.
A popular artist on the scene, Flume, much of the caliber of Flying Lotus, crafts crunchy, danceable beats paired with excellent harmonic choices that make music snobs like me happy. However, much of Flume’s music sounds the same. On his self-titled album in 2012, the songs were good but the whole thing seemed to blend together. His strong suit is remixes. I recommend his remix of Disclosure’s “You & Me.” Max crunch.
Another couple artists I found were off of Sound Cloud, an excellent resource for music streaming and discovery. What I especially like about the site is that it’s a public forum for sharing original music. So people can comment, follow, share, and post, in a way that can snowball into significant popularity for many artists. The first of my discoveries is a Canadian DJ by the name KAYTRANADA. His most popular mix “Leave Me Alone” features smooth vocals and a drop that I can only describe as subtle. The only texture that changes is a bass synth that is so bouncy you can help but move along with it. The track has over a million plays. My second and final discovery that I will discuss is the DJ KOAN Sound and their new release, Dynasty EP. It features four tracks of brilliantly crafted, fully electronic music. My favorite two tracks “7th Dimension” and “Infinite Funk” are full of musical integrity. “7th Dimension” has a feel that pulses and “Infinite Funk” has a drop that is disjointed but still perfectly defines the time.
So I have had a change of heart, but I still hold my ground that a majority of electronic techniques are used for the evil American pop machine, but everything’s a bell curve and not everything fits into my opinion. How I can admit that and simultaneously hold my opinion is beyond me. But for now,
Your ever grumpy jazz guy,