This week, Electronic Dance Music’s most overtly opinionated, twitter-fighting bass genius Joel Zimmerman, a.k.a Deadmau5 dropped his latest studio double-album while(1<2).
Well, what does mean? While most may just yawn, close this tab or even throw their computer at the wall with the sheer thought of another release of a repetitive head-banging EDM collaboration, this album release, alongside many others in 2013/2014, have spurred a debate really worth raving about (…literally).
Anyone who knows the Mau5, knows he has a history of distaste for sloppy production, festivals, the banal of over-played EDM music and well, anything music related, thanks to the joys and reach of social media. However, in a recent interview with the UK’s The Standard, Zimmerman took one more dig at the music genre which has housed his music for so many years.
“Disco had a longer run than EDM has, to be honest about it, and that died in a f****** hurry. EDM is way more susceptible because that was in a time when they didn’t have mass social media and all that shit. It’s not gonna be me saying, ‘OK, EDM’s done’, and the whole thing falls apart, but I think it’ll eventually f*** itself so hard.”
While some are selling-out to Las Vegas adaptating (I’m looking at you Calvin Harris) in order to survive as the biggest, most well-paid DJ on the planet. Other artists who found their roots in the EDM scene have done a complete 1800 and rebelled against the pressures of money, fame and their record labels, to produce some of the most exciting tracks of the last year. I am not here to sit and ridicule EDM culture; I proudly fly the “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat” flag. It is has just come to the surface that times are changing and, dare I say it, it is not all about the “drop” any more. Here are some of the big-name rebels who are shaking up the current EDM industry:
Why am I starting with Avicii? Why? He’s just so mainstream…
Remember that song “Wake Me Up”? That tiny song, which he produced with Aloe Blacc, reached number one in over 22 countries, and had over 375 million YouTube views. Yeah that’s the one. Well, things did not start out all peachy for this 24-year old Swedish rebel. If we take ourselves back to Miami’s Ultra Music Festival 2013, when he dropped this bluegrass banjo-infused, thigh-slapper set with live instrumentalists and singers, fans of this tried-and-tested banger machine were left shocked, outraged and confused with no drop to jump to.
Avicii later replied, “I really wanted to switch things up and do something fun and different, as I always strive for, and this album is about experimentation and about showing the endless possibilities of house and electronic music…My music is open to anyone who wants to listen to it and I will always stay true to my sound.”
Even Ash Pournouri, Avicii’s manager, knew the gamble would pay off:
While, we may all argue that Wake Me Up, and other songs of his 2013 album release “True,” have now become dance floor staples, we have to remember this is the same guy that bought us Levels. He took a big risk on a global stage and at that moment, in terms of production and ingenuity, this was a large step forward for the young Swede. Since then we have seen him collaborate with country legend Mac Davis, bluegrass musician Dan Tyminksi, Incubus guitarists Mike Einziiger and Ben Kenney and folk rock singer-songwriter Audra Mae. In a music scene which can quickly become shrouded in artistic unoriginality, this courage to step up to the plate should be commended favourably.
No Dj in the world is more outspoken and passionate about the Electronic Music genre than the mouse-head-clad Deadmau5. However, when he took to the stage at Ultra Music Festival’s to play the Saturday closing set earlier this year, he provided one of his most controversial outcries to date.
With the antics starting on Twitter shortly before his set, the fans were somewhat ready for his trademark rebellion:
While some have called his Levels shout-out a fair tribute to the hospitalized Avicii, who was set to play the marquee spot at Ultra, EDM young-gun Martin Garrix did not get off so lightly. Halfway through his set, Deadmau5 dropped Martin Garrix’s festival-anthem Animals, with a distinct mash up with Old MacDonald Had a Farm; gaining him the official dickhead troll of the year title.
Just like a duck into water, Deadmau5 dealt with the inevitable backlash to his public EDM tantrum in true Mau5 fashion – over Twitter. Among those who did not find it funny was superstar DJ Tiesto, a mentor to fellow Dutchman Garrix. While Tiesto did not directly condone Zimmerman’s action, he did make the point to call out Animals as an “epic track” and pinned Garrix as a “super talent.” Deadmau5 later replied with a sarcastic “Am I supposed to sneer while hitting the sync button? Or is that ironic?”.
We can just to add to his list of his other twitter disputes: Deadmau5 v.s The Internet, Madonna, Arcade Fire, Justin Bieber, Porter Robinson, Steve Angello…the list goes on.
In a very enlightening Reddit AMA last Wednesday, 21-year old Porter Robinson opened up to his fans revealing that he “started to become really unhappy with the EDM-type stuff” and “basically, [he] wanted to stop writing music for DJs/clubs/etc and instead write more personal, songwriting-oriented stuff that focuses more on being beautiful and vast-sounding and nostalgic.”
“I don’t see myself ever producing EDM music-for-DJs again, no,” Robinson told one fan.
Right. Well, this was unexpected. Last time I remember hearing this bass-driven EDM whiz-kid, he was filling the room with Language, and 100% in the Bitch, and gracing the mainstage of Ultra. However, if we could learn anything from this young EDM rebel, it is that under no circumstances can we call his new hotly-anticipated album Worlds, set to be released on August 12, an EDM album.
“A lot of my angst about EDM came from my songwriting process. iIthink that EDM, in order to do its job in its intended setting (a DJ set), has requirements to make it ‘work’. the most effective electro tracks have a 30-second buildup, where the chord returns to the root note, with risers, maybe a rising vocal, a snare roll – there are moves you HAVE to do in an ‘EDM’ track to make it work.”
He later added, “It was the BEST FUCKING FEELING EVER to be writing music without those confines. writing music makes me so goddamn happy again.” Those “confines” being pressure on the function over real artistic expression.
In 2014, Porter has enticed us with a 10-hour release video, and three songs including Sad Machine, Sea of Voices and his latest release, Lionhearted, a clear departure from his usual bass-heavy big room sounds. It is obvious he has spent a long-time separating his new work from the rest of the EDM cluster pack, and with this evolution, sets a bright future for electronic music.
This Saturday sees Robinson take over the decks on BBC Radio 1 for a special Pete Tong Essential Mix. A rebellious mix which should not be missed.
UPDATE: Listen to the two-hour long mix here.
This guy. Mr funny man himself Dillon Francis may not be the most overtly opinionated dance-infused producer, but he definitely does not take the pressures of the EDM world too seriously. Nurtured under the decks of producing mega-dude Diplo, and his Mad Decent label, Francis has flown the flag for a new sound called “Moombahton.” Do not fret, I can barely wrap my head around the terminology – apparently a fusion genre of house music and reggaeton. What you do need to know is that this signature don’t-give-a-fuck style (“I.D.G.A.F.O.S” is one of his prime tracks) and well-produced beats are what looks to be the immediate future of the EDM genre. Taking the piss out of anything and everything.
Besides his flourishing DJ career, providing one of the most memorable sets at Coachella 2014, his social media presence has gone from stride to stride; or should I say, alter ego to alter ego. Dj Hanzel, one of Francis’ many alter egos, urges his crows to go “vun deeper” and provides endless Vines and Instagram Videos for his fans. His latest attempt to poke fun at the ridiculousness of the EDM festival scene, was personified in his new character “Treva” from Australia (yay, we are now globally recognised feral festival goers!). In reality, this rough jab is an attempt to break away from the confines of the EDM trap Moombaton sound which very often pigeon-holes his work. While Dillon Francis may be relatively new to the ‘fuck-you EDM, revolution, this attempt to add diversity to his DJ career makes him a rebel to the system in 2014.