Tag Archives: electronic music

Big Ups: Deerhoof’s Favorite Bands on Bandcamp

Deerhoof

Photo by Asha Shechter

Greg Saunier admits he’s a funny choice for an interview about music. For the record, the Deerhoof drummer loves the stuff—you don’t have to dig too far into his band’s nine-album deep catalog to discover his passion for producing, writing, performing, and experimenting with music. But sometimes, it can be a bit too much.

“It’s like the busman’s holiday,” Saunier explains from his home in New York. “The last thing the bus driver wants to do when he gets a break is go on a trip. Because I’m working on music so much, I like to regenerate with silence. I almost never listen to any background music. But once in awhile, if I feel like I need a crutch, if I need some help, or if I need to be in mood X but I’m in mood Y, I’ll put on a record.”

Sure he may not be blanketing his days with sound, but perhaps predictably, Saunier enjoys records where—much like his own output—musicians take risks. Genre purists need not apply. Noise rock rebels and classical heroes alike, here are five of Deerhoof’s favorite Bandcamp finds.

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The Flourishing Electro Scene in the D.R.

Volt Phonic

Volt Phonic

The Dominican music scene is in the middle of an electronic revival. Well, a slow revival. But as musicians and fans across the island can attest, something is happening. Clubs are beginning to host more nights focused on electronic music. Encouraged by both ease and price point, teenagers are swapping electric guitars for ProTools. And in April at the Isle Of Light Festival in Santo Domingo, an event that features artists from across the Latin world, the music of over half of the artists contained some kind of electronic element.

“The scene’s still in diapers,” explains Dominican beat maker Bacayne, of his country’s emerging electro fascination. “It’s underrated. We have the capability of growing and being more global.”

House music is currently king, according to a few of the musicians listed below, but a subtle shift is on the way, as the way as more artists are beginning to play with beats inspired by disco, Detroit, vaporwave, and even their dreams. From electro pop to synthwave Merengue, here are eight artists from the Dominican Republic who have mastered the machines.

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High Scores: Alec Holowka on “Night in the Woods”

Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods is one of the most affecting, mature, and enthralling indie games in recent years—and it’s not often you can say that about a game loaded with adorable cartoon animals. But the animals that populate the fictional town of Possum Springs are restless, punk rock critters, caught in the liminal space between teenage rebellion and adulthood. They smoke cigarettes and play in bands and fight with their parents and hate authority, but they also contemplate sexuality, life, and death.

The music that accompanies their adventures—penned by Canadian composer and musician Alec Holowka, who also co-created the game—is perfectly moody and wide-eyed. It ranges from groovy David Lynchian elevator jazz to sparkling ambience and intense baroque electronica, and it’s completely indispensable in setting the mood for a game that feels very much like a magical universe unto itself. The three-volume soundtrack isn’t Holowka’s only impressive work (see TowerFall: Ascension, another brilliant collection from an equally brilliant game), and one gets the distinct feeling that the young artist is only in the early stages of a very impressive career as both a musician and a game designer. We spoke to him via email.

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The Best New Halftime Drum & Bass On Bandcamp

drum-bass-600

From jungle to jump-up—by way of neuro, liquid, deep, pop, ambient, intelligent, soulful, drumstep, skullstep, and techstep—drum & bass has morphed and mutated into more sub-styles and categories than any other genre of electronic music. But few of those are as exciting or reinvigorating as the increasingly popular style that’s become known as “halftime.”

The recipe is simple: Halve the tempo, double the fun. Halftime tracks flex around the 80-85 BPM region (a tempo most commonly associated with hip-hop) rather than drum & bass’s traditional double-time, white knuckle 160/170 BPM framework.

Early sightings of half-tempo drum & bass can be traced back as early as 1992, with tracks such as DJ Phantasy & DJ Gemini’s “Switch To 33.” Pioneering producers Digital and Amit have been experimenting with sparse kick drum arrangements since 1999 and the sound, as it exists today, has been developing momentum in earnest since dBridge & Instra:Mental launched their game-changing duo project, Autonomic, in 2009. In the last few years, halftime has become even more prominent, not just as a subgenre itself, but as a style and rhythm arrangement across all drum & bass subgenres.

Much of this is in keeping with drum & bass’s oldest tradition: the breakbeat melting pot where the 170 BPM breaks framework is used as a blank canvas to portray the artist’s own culture and roots. While the genre’s original pioneers were using the soul, reggae, hip-hop, dub, and rare groove records they’d grown up with as keystones, newer producers are reflecting their own inspirations such as techno, trap, grime, dubstep, and hip-hop.

The sounds, dynamics, references, and spacious aesthetics of this new breakbeat melting pot resonate with what’s happening under the wider bass umbrella in other genres that cherish the halftime break: the L.A. beats scene, London’s instrumental grime sound, Chicago’s juke and footwork movement. Halving the tempo of drum & bass means it’s only 10 BPM away from these kindred styles, rather than the double-time, uniquely fast-tempo it’s largely been all these years. This has created a lot more interchange and dialogue between drum & bass and the wider musical world.

This, in turn, has accelerated creativity and opened up new possibilities. Drum & bass DJ sets are much wider and more dynamic in tempo and energy thanks to halftime tracks. Rhythmically, productions have become more varied and unpredictable, as more artists are looking beyond drum & bass’s typical two-step or “amen” drum arrangements. There are vast caverns of space that provide room for new polyrhythms and percussion dynamics—a growing community of high-level and technically-astute exponents such as Noisia, Ivy Lab, dBridge, Alix Perez, Mefjus, Fracture, and Kasra are all pushing the sound into bold new directions. Halftime isn’t just reinvigorating the genre, it’s one of the most full-flavored dishes on drum & bass’s dizzying subgenre menu.

Boasting artists and labels from the Czech Republic to New Zealand, as well as the bass universe (from house to garage to trap to hip-hop), these new releases on Bandcamp are a succinct snapshot of halftime, right now.

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Nite Jewel on the Highs and Lows of Being a Woman in the Music Industry

Nite Jewel

Nite Jewel. Photos by Patrick Gookin.

Ramona Gonzalez’s third album as Nite Jewel plays like a chilled-out tribute to ‘90s Top 40 R&B artists like Janet Jackson and Aaliyah. Gonzalez freely admits there are elements of both artists in the mix, even if their inclusion was more subconscious, but Real High is not a deliberate attempt to emulate her teenage heroes.

After consciously uncoupling with her label (the process kept her from releasing music for four years) and rediscovering the creative freedom of releasing an album on her own label Gloriette, Gonzalez found herself using music to channel frustration and sensuality in equal parts. The two ultimately end up complementing one another—from hip-shaking single “2 Good 2 Be True” to the meandering title track where Gonzalez transforms a slow-motion ballad into a meditation on the kind of love so all-encompassing there’s a temptation to throw it all away.

We talked with the Los Angeles-based musician/producer about why she opted to release her own music, holding her own in a male-driven industry, and why she’s happy to let her alter ego do the emotional heavy lifting.

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