America’s music scene is in a constant and blissful state of evolution. One of the fastest growing trends across the country is electronic music, and with hundreds of big-name and underground artists producing every style and subgenre you can name, its growth doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. In recent years, the skyrocketing popularity of large-scale music festivals has noticeably changed electronic producers’ experience in the creation and performance of their sound. Not only do the crowds expect to see acts they already know, the gigantic line-ups have also allowed artists from around the world to showcase themselves in an entirely new setting, leaving behind a growing influence on American artists and the scene itself. Acts like Flume, Emoh Instead (and their collaborative outfit, What So Not), Ta-ku, Chet Faker, and Wave Racer are only a few examples of Australians who are beginning to make huge waves over in the States, and it’s about time.
My own introduction to Australia’s electronic scene came a couple years ago, on a lazy day while scrolling through Spotify. After an endless train of searches, I ended up on Flume’s page and listened to his most popular hits, Holdin’ On and Insane (feat. Moon Holiday). This quickly led me to check out the rest of his album and then go back to the top and start again three more times. I had no idea that years later, I would still be bothering my friends and family by insisting on hearing the album again and again, trying to breakdown each song and instrument for them, hoping to convert them to the Australian sound. I had never heard anything like it, nor been so affected by a series of strange, broken sounds and haunting, tribal melodies, and I wasn’t the only one.
While at a small show in northern California about a year ago, one of the openers played Flume’s remix of Disclosure’s You and Me. It was the first time I’d heard one of his songs played live, and naturally I made a commotion. After it ended and the crowd was able to take a breath, all I was able to hear were the people around me asking each other what song they had just heard, and who the artist was. It was a clear standout in the rest of the set. You would’ve thought I was working for Future Classic by the way I was shelling Flume’s name out to everyone. Getting to witness an entire venue’s first introduction to a piece of Australia’s sound was magical, and our immediate, frantic embrace only grew as the months went on.
The mainstream electronic music scene in America nowadays, specifically trap music, follows several trends that are worth noting when comparing it to the stuff migrating from Australia. Hear me out. First, you won’t find much trap in the States without a snare on the 2’s and 4’s and a rolling hi hat coming in after the first half of the “drop”. These are givens. To go a little broader though, the underlying vibe of the songs often seems to be the same as well. The rhythms hit the off beats hard, inspiring you to throw your body around and pump your fists in the air. The vocal samples used are very provocative, usually short phrases or words meant to stimulate the crowd, make them feel in control of the song, and offend the older generations. Basically, America likes grime. We judge the success of our raves by the number of frowning ‘stank’ faces and the music’s level of aggression or badassery. This is where Australia’s recent assimilation has really opened our eyes.
An example of a ‘stank face’
[soundcloud width=”750″ heigh=”200]https://soundcloud.com/wave-racer/wave-racer-streamers[/soundcloud]
The musical formulas I described still hold true with many artists such as Yahtzel, L D R U, Sable, Basenji, and even Flume, but the big difference lies in their creation of melodies and overall intentions for their songs. They are able to match the high level of energy without a sense of anger or inflated ego found in so much of America’s electronic sound, but instead replace it with an uplifting feeling of celebration and joy. For lack of better words, Australia’s music is optimistic. Just listen to any one of Wave Racer’s tracks and you’ll know what I mean. The melodies within the songs are complex and beautiful. It feels like listening to actual music, rather than just a cool beat. Even though the colossal scale of some popular American music may shadow it at times, it fully compensates with its vast, musical detail and melodic styling.
[soundcloud width=”750″ heigh=”200]https://soundcloud.com/whatsonot/sets/tell-me-rl-grime-x-what-so-not[/soundcloud]
A perfect comparison of the two styles comes in the form of an actual collaboration between our countries: RL Grime and What So Not’s Tell Me. The build up, created by What So Not, features warped vocal samples and tribal instruments layered over each other. It creates an ominous and yet elevating vibe, which sharply contrasts with RL’s drop. Only using one leading synth and three notes, he completely changes the vibe to be very minimal and hard-hitting. This collaboration shows the difference in technique and musical atmosphere of our countries’ sounds, and as you can tell from listening to Tell Me, they go quite well together.
What So Not’s ever-growing number of collaborations with American artists such as Dillon Francis and Skrillex, Flume’s wildly successful North American tour, and Ta-ku’s heavy involvement with LA-based label HW&W are only a few examples of the major moves Australians are making in the States. With their unique and refreshing approach to electronic music, they’re blowing the dust off America’s EDM book.
American music often feels like a one night stand.
Australian music feels like your soul mate.