A Place for Artistic Electronica in the World

I've spoken out pretty vehemently against the overuse of computers in modern music. Because of that fact, you might expect that my answer to the question: "Where is the place for electronica in world?", might be something like "in the trash bin," "only in the stereotypical dance club where you'll never find me," or "only places where I don't have to listen to it", but that's not the case. In fact there are more than a few electronic music artists who have really impressed me with their depth and creativity, leading me to believe that there is definitely a place for electronica, although perhaps not the one you'd first expect.

For the purpose of this article, when I refer to electronica I'm using that term to focus in specifically on dance, trance and other more computer driven genres. I'm not referring to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Gorillaz or Radiohead, all of which use electronic elements quite a bit (I'm also a fan of all of them) , but are still closer to traditional rock and roll song formats.

I think what turns many people off to the electronica genre is the stereotypical dance music that we can all instantly identify. It's that pounding, downbeat bass, dance music that, to me at least, serves little purpose other than giving quasi coordinated people half a chance of bumping and grinding at the right time to look like they are "dancing". I'm definitely not into that kind of electronica (and no offense to anyone who is), but artists like Moby, the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and a few others have found a place within my collection because they seem to take a different approach, a hypnotic, almost eve symphonic one.

For me, the the mark of a good electronica artist it that their music creates a sort of hypnotic landscape that is not dominated by bass or any part really, but seems to create a sort of computerized symphony and provokes thought. It's not necessarily symphonic like Mozart though, although I've heard remixed Mozart and it is surprisingly effective, but more of a hypnotic pulse to drive your thoughts. The artists that are really interesting for me from this genre are the ones who don't fall into stereotypes and create moods, feels, thoughts and artistic soundscapes. That is what I think is missing from most electronica... it lacks artistic value and instead sounds far to generic to be interesting... definitely a turn off for me. When born out of creativity though, electronica can be quite a moving musical format although not in traditional emotional ways like rock and roll, blues etc. The good artists I relate closer to classical and of course new age, than anything else, making for a completely different animal than rock and roll.

Of course electronica is not for everyone and I know I've had a hard time getting over my preconceived notions about it. I'm also the first to admit that I have to be in a very particular mood to want to listen to it... usually a philosophical one where I can just drift off into the hypnotic rhythms and let my mind go... and even when I am in the mood I don't listen to it for days (or often even hours) at a time. Still, I don't think us rock and rollers should dismiss this genre all together as nothing but the endless bass thump and meaningless bump and grind rhythms of the dance floors. There is far more to the genre than that.

If you've never really listened to any electronica before, I'd start with artists like Moby who are radio friendly enough to be considered "mildly electronic", plus I think he's quite a creative artist as well. I'm also especially partial to the trance like rhythms of the Chemical Brothers and the more industrial Prodigy each of whom I put in a class of their own for creativity and dedication to making unique sonic experiences. Not necessarily incredible in it's creativity, but is so instantly recognizable and and gets stuck in your head unlike any other once you've heard it, that it's classic. If you know the song simply by the title, you know what I'm talking about, you probably know the dance as well (I do) and you should have a copy of this song. If you don't know what I'm talking about... well then you need to be initiated by someone who does (or by grade school gym class like I was).

I know, an article on electronica is probably a bit of a shock coming from me with my stance on computers in rock and roll. I stand by my stance that computers are often overused and abused in modern music, taking out a lot of the character and spontaneity. At the same time though, some of the electronica artists I've mentioned are extremely creative and talented at their craft. They shouldn't be overlooked simply because they use computers to make their art.

Artistic and creative electronica I definitely can appreciate.

- The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is a division of Fifth Column Media - www.fifthcolumnmedia.com -