The Rise of Electronic Music in 2009 – a viewpoint

2009 has seen a significant rise in the profile of “electronic music” through the likes of La Roux, Little Boots et al and from a certain point of view it could actually be considered a good thing as it should have had the potential to bring that new interest in the direction of people and acts such as ourselves.

However, my personal feelings are that, whilst Lady Gaga, Little Boots etc are giving the genre a little more focus, they are distorting the reality of what this genre is all about. Curiously, electronic music covers a wide range of styles from electro to sequenced to ambient to concrete to sonic manilpulation with samples etc, yet what the “public” perceive as being electronic music is about making mainstream, formatted and predictable pieces with a Moog Little Phatty and a Yamaha Tenori-On that aren’t pushing new boundaries or looking to new sounds or approaches. I’ve got Little Boots’ album (a 12 year old daughter who thinks it’s the same as what her dad does – WTF???!!!) and whilst yes it’s quite good in the commercial “bubble-gum pop” sense and I personally don’t find it offensive to my ears, it’s far too polished and exact, it’s entire spectrum is made up of safe ground that’s tried and tested, little variation of themes, no room for improvisation and lacking in soul.

And maybe that’s why we don’t receive so much attention, we don’t play safe (though we could!!!) and we don’t make instrumental music to appeal to a specific audience hungry for the next “big thing”. We do what we do because it’s what we love to do. Our respective styles simply don’t fall into the mainstream ideal and now the “specific audience” has had it’s preconceptions manufactured in the same way as the music.

To talk of the live side of things, there has been a lot of criticism of these new artists about the use of backing tracks etc and this is something where I think a balance has to be brought to the argument. Playing live, particularly as a solo artist, can be a tough call – on a personal level, through both a lack of financial backing and physical storage space, I don’t have much in the way of synthesizer hardware (just a Roland JV-2080!!!) and I am predominantly software reliant, but I have a burning desire to perform so, I have to use backing tracks through either DVD (with added visuals) or audio tracks sequenced on a computer. From a certain point of view, my live stuff would not be considered by some to be totally live – I have to rely on my good looks and sparkling personality – LMAO!!!. But, as a trained musician, I play to those backing tracks, using the small amount of hardware I have to it’s best. But it’s the music you make that’s important, and satisfying the passion to create and keep creating using old and new methods, adapting existing practices or approaches and discovering your own methods of creativity through experimentation, in some respects, the modern musician is a kind of text book definition of the word “evolution” – my second album is due for release in early 2010, it’s wholly different to my first and I’ve started work on my third which again will be different to the previous two in that I am experimenting more, and taking a different approach. And it isn’t anything that any of us in this game aren’t already doing and haven’t been doing since the first piece of electronic equipment appeared. And it’s that which is missing from the mainstream and now, to some extent, has been alienated by the influence of modern “chart-hungry” acts that have clouded the true concepts and feel of the genre.

This brings me onto the question of longevity. To some extent, those that do well on what some would consider the underground scene, be it an electro act or an ambient act, will, I believe, have far more longevity than those who seek and hopefully fot ehm, find the brightest lights – an example of this that I would like to cite is that of John Foxx and Ultravox. Okay, in fairness, Ultravox with Midge Ure hit off a fantastic tour this year and the tickets sold well – but, they haven’t enjoyed longevity as a group or as individuals. Billy Currie releases quality instrumental electronic music now and again but isn’t prolific  in terms of live performance, the drummer who was a leading light in the advancement of modern rhythm programming and manipulation, sadly now a case of Warren who? (in terms of public exposure over thelast 20 odd years), Chris……erm, yeah, bass player wasn’t he? and of course Mr. Ure himself who, and bear in mind I’m a huge fan of his music, effectively lost his musical “mojo” some years ago and is now doing exactly what he said he would never do by belting out 30 year old songs well into his 50’s. Then, as a kind of curious contrast, you have a certain Mr. Foxx. Now let’s create a perspective thing here: who is the one so many people in electronic music cite as their main influence? John Foxx. Who is the man that created a ground-breaking album called “Metamatic” which still sounds as fresh today as it did during first airplay nearly 29 years ago? John Foxx. Who has a strong yet subtle public persona, yet is still as much a mystery today as he was back in 1976? John Foxx. Who has released a myriad of releases that helped to define an ecletic cross-genre approach and style from techno to ambient to electro? John Foxx. Okay, he’s one of a number of influential people around at this time (Martin Ware, Vince Clark, Depeche guys to name a few) who have had a massive impact on the modern electronic music scene, but the point is that he has never received the high profile attention that the MU era Ultravox did, and I feel that this perfectly high-lights how exposure can sometimes stunt the growth of the short-term successful musician – looking at John Foxx, I think that his career and creative output is all the stronger for the lack of bright lights and chart success. So, history will resolve this equation, but as it stands, when the likes of Little Boots and Lady Gaga have turned to cellulite and wrinkles, those on the underground will most likely be going from strength to strength

To sum up, I pose this question: Could a 14 year old girl who is now into “electronic music” and loves the likes of Lady Gaga and Little Boots seriously embrace the true vibe of the genre from such luminaries as Ian Boddy, the ORIGINAL Human League, John Dyson, Radio Massacre International, Jarre, TD, Tomita – and of course, David Wright!!!

Posted by Neil Fellowes (AKA Geigertek)

~ by admusic on December 13, 2009.

One Response to “The Rise of Electronic Music in 2009 – a viewpoint”

  1. Eh, don’t be too hard on your little ‘un – at 14 I thought Wham were the dog’s b*llocks! (Mind you, George Michael did at least have staying power. Kind of). At 14 though I was also heavily into classical music – now that’s what you call staying power, cos after a few centuries those dudes are still going strong! 😀

    As for EM pioneers however, I always think Gary Numan is vastly under-rated. He’s probably one of my biggest influences believe it or not.

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