New Music Discovery: best electronica — “Electronic”
I’ll start by saying I’m the furthest thing from an expert on electronic music. I just know what I like. That said, I do have a soft spot for this genre and there are some really good artists out there making music that is worth listening to.
This song has been my favorite since it came out in 1999. It’s so beautiful, and the lyrics are both sad and hopeful at the same time. I remember hearing this song before I knew anything about the group and thinking it was some kind of techno dance track. Then the lyrics came on and I was blown away.
More than a decade ago, one of our “New Music Discovery” columns featured a new wave of electronica that was beginning to gain momentum. Maybe it was the timing: The mid-1990s were the perfect storm for electronica with its triumvirate of new technologies (computers, MP3s, peer-to-peer networks) and noisemakers (The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers).
Now in 2014, we’re seeing those same forces at play once again. Only this time there’s a lot more emphasis on the “electronic” side of things as opposed to techno or dance music. It’s nigh impossible to walk into any record store and not find something with “electronica” printed in bold letters on the cover.
What is electronica? In its broadest sense, it refers to electronic music that combines elements from all genres of music — from rock and jazz to hip-hop and breakbeat. It can be ambient or funky, avant garde or danceable. It can be sonic wallpaper or a subliminal soundtrack for a film you haven’t seen yet.
After a long time, here comes a new edition of our New Music Discovery series. Let’s talk about the best electronica artists and their music.
Electronica is a genre that emerged in the late 1970s. It became popular in the 1990s, when more and more people began to join the techno-pop scene. The term was initially used to describe the electronic music made by musicians on their own, without the help of big record labels or producers. Today, electronica is still a relatively small genre, but it has become much more mainstream than it was a few years ago. There are many subgenres within electronica, including house, trance, ambient, drum and bass, and others. Most of them are based on the use of synthesizers and sequencers. This is one of the most innovative genres in today’s music scene — there are always new sounds and experiments being done by its artists.
In this edition of New Music Discovery we’ll show you 20 artists that are making some of the best electronic music today. Whether you want to chill out or dance all night long, this list has something for everyone!
We’re starting with a song from one of our favorite new electronic artists: Tycho
Since I wrote about DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing for the best of 1996, I’ve come to believe that it is not only the best electronic album, but one of the very best albums ever. It’s one of those rare albums where every song is great. If you haven’t heard it yet, get it now.
If you’re interested in more electronica, check out these four albums:
Jaga Jazzist: What We Must (Ninja Tune)
Norwegian band Jaga Jazzist has been making music since 1994 or so, but this is their first album to be released in the US. It’s a bit like Tortoise: lots of instruments and odd time signatures, with a jazz feel but without anything remotely resembling a standard jazz song. Beautiful stuff. The track “All I Know Is Tonight” reminds me strongly of The Sea and Cake.
Four Tet: Rounds (Domino)
Kieran Hebden is another very talented young British producer who has released several albums under various names on various labels, but this is his first album on Domino. This is more pastoral than some of his other stuff; if you like Aphex Twin (and what kind
In the early days of ‘electronic’ music, the music was generally known as ‘bleep’. Many of the tracks were instrumental and used synthesizers to create sounds that weren’t possible on other instruments. Kraftwerk’s Autobahn was one of the first albums to gain widespread acclaim but they were still in their infancy at that point.
The most famous electronica artist is probably Depeche Mode. They had their first big hit with ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ in 1981 and since then have sold over 50 million albums and are still going strong. The genre has given us some great bands like Underworld, Moby and The Chemical Brothers but there are also some very talented solo artists who have made their mark too, like Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk and Aphex Twin.
Electronica has spawned many sub-genres including: techno, house and trance. These sub-genres are not always considered part of electronica but for the purposes of this article we will include them here.
If you want to listen to some great electronica then check out our top 10 below or listen to our playlist here:
The word “electronic” may be used for a wide range of music that is made with electronic instruments or sound sources. Electronic music includes such genres as house, techno, electroclash, drum and bass, ambient, jungle and more.
The first notable electronic musical instrument was the theremin, which was invented in 1919. The theremin is an early example of a synthesizer employing heterodyne oscillators to produce audio frequencies. In the 1930s and 40s, electronic instruments began to be used in popular music. These included the Hammond organ (1935), electric piano (1936), RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer (1937), Ondes Martenot (1928), Trautonium (1930) and the Clavioline (1947).
In the 1950s and 60s, other important electronic instruments were designed including the Moog synthesizer (1960) and the Buchla modular synthesizer (1965). Beginning in the late 1960s, new forms of electronic music began being created by rock artists such as Pink Floyd, who used tape loops to create psychedelic effects.
In 1970, Japanese musician Isao Tomita released Snowflakes Are Dancing — considered by some to be the first piece of music created
The year’s most exciting electronica music has been made by artists whose names are, in many cases, already familiar to readers of this site. Autechre, Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never all released albums that deserve to be grouped with their best work; the same is true for John Carpenter, who returned after a long hiatus with an album that sounded like it was recorded in 1980.
James Ferraro’s Skid Row was one of the most fascinatingly weird albums I heard all year; his new release Human Story 3 continues in the same vein. In fact, it’s so strange that it’s hard to recommend on its own merits: It’s more interesting as a companion piece to Skid Row. The two albums aren’t very similar musically — Human Story 3 is mostly made up of relatively straight-ahead pop songs, though still definitely filtered through Ferraro’s worldview — but they share a preoccupation with American mythology and how that mythology has been shaped by consumer culture. Much of Skid Row seems intended as a guidebook to a certain kind of American tourist destination — malls, theme parks and so on — while Human Story 3 feels like what you might experience while staying at one