Off The Record
The great thing about the genre known as “dance and electronica” is that it affords an incredible scope.
It’s suitable then – not to mention timely – that we’re slowly but surely catching on to that ambition.
Do we want to catch on? Do we want to shatter the glorious artifice of labels like “electronic music” into their necessary, idiosyncratic and distinct pieces – pieces that can then be called anything from “dark ambient” to “electro acoustic DIY tape music” to “EBM” to “minimal synth” to “vapor wave” to “deep house”?
Personally, I would suggest that yes, we absolutely do need to imbue electronic music with its individual personalities and its lineage. Say no to hero worship, say yes to greater respect for true diversity.
In tracing the development of electronic genres, we inevitably end up at the same roots, more or less, with a lot of secondary influences or offshoots bubbling under the surface. This sense of influence is felt in a tangible sense; one can trace the evolution of a sound, a riff, a progression, an effect. But it’s also an abstract and ethereal sensibility too; a mood and a feeling.
Take synth pop, for example. The plastics, New Romantics, New Wavers, polished heads and mannequins are all part of the sub-genre’s history, as is the image of pasty-white, immovable silhouettes tapping away at a keyboard. But although that is part of the genre’s foundation, it’s not the be all and end all. To that, here’s some alternatives to the likes of Visage...
Formed in Sydney, Severed Heads [above] clearly enjoyed subverting audience expectations with their gory name. “Severed Heads?! They’d fit comfortably alongside other industry shock stalwarts such as Dying Fetus, surely?” Well, no, actually the name is just part of their inimitable charm.
Though most publicly recognized for 1984 single ‘Dead Eyes Opened’, a shimmering instrumental pop tune carried on a bouncy synth line, the band’s creative mastermind Tom Ellard famously refuses to be characterized and frequently bucks expectation. To that end, Severed Heads remain one of Australia’s most important bands in the broad realm of electronic music.
The Associates [below]
2017 marks the 20th anniversary of The Associates lead singer Billy MacKenzie’s death. Mercurial, androgynous and marvellously morbid, MacKenzie switched from miserable low croons to falsetto shrieks in an instant, and his unforgettable, unique singing stripped and stretched every sinew of his sombre lyric.
At times bordering on sordid camp melancholy, The Associates’ third album Sulk is the ultimate expression of the band’s macabre merry-go-round, underpinned by multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine’s throbbing, ever-divergent synth soundscapes, moody piano fills and the muscular basslines provided by one-time The Cure associate Michael Dempsey. It’s slightly jagged, bleak, and spectacularly dreary pop with an insistent pulse. And, after all that, one listen to ‘Party Fears Two’ will make them seem remarkably upbeat!
This week’s playlist
Floating Points’ Elaenia is back on repeat. It’s a record rich with simmering progressive electronic landscapes informed by jazz, flavoured with analogue hardware, and betrays a compositional skill present in few other albums. Also worth checking out is Tom Middleton’s The Sound Of The Cosmos mix, one of the most remarkable and comprehensive musical journeys I’ve ever heard, covering acid/future jazz, house, electro and breaks. Not only is Middleton’s selection outstanding but he throws a few little mixing tricks in for good measure.
SATURDAY MARCH 11
Michael Mayer @ TBA
SATURDAY MARCH 18
Trevino, Leif Mueller @ TBA
FRIDAY MARCH 24
Pelvis @ Sydney Portugal Community Club
SATURDAY MARCH 25
Picnic 9th Birthday @ Jam Gallery
TUESDAY APRIL 11
Underworld @ Sydney Opera House