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Technology In Music: The Future Is Now

Which one’s the autotune button again?

I really wanted to title this something like “The Next Phase of Music” or something really sensationalist like that, but honestly, it’s not true. I wanted to make this about how mixing electronics and acoustic instruments, especially in a live setting, was the next big movement. It’s not. It’s already happened, it’s just been such a slow progression that people didn’t notice it was happening. Even me, the guy writing about it. So, that explains that godawful title.

It used to be that electronic music was a niche. You had a particular set of people who made it, using a particular set of specialized instruments/devices, and there was a particular set of people who would listen to their output. Now, here in the ‘eclectic age’ where everyone listens to a little bit of everything, electronic elements and instruments have found their way into every corner of music. I wanted to talk about a few standouts though. I’m going to highlight artists from a span of nearly a decade who have been combining electronics with acoustical instruments in such a way that not only defies convention, but subtly subverts the traditional concepts of musical performance. There are countless other examples, even more far-reaching than these, but these were the ones that I felt were worth mentioning today.

Either for innovation, proficiency, or simply because of a high level of talent mixed with a (possibly misplaced) sense of adventure, these artists have made me take notice of their usage of electronic instruments. Let’s go chronologically, shall we?

Martin Dosh is a multi-instrumentalist who is most notable for his contributions to some of Andrew Bird’s albums. I first heard about Dosh from a friend, who showed me this very video, and I find myself going back and watching this video constantly. The seamless transitions, the adept usage of the entire sonic palate of the instruments at his disposal, the dynamics, it’s all there. For anyone who might be considered skeptical about whether someone can use a sampler or a loop pedal in a way that is as valid as any other non-electronic instrument, I would point them here. The fact that he’s been doing this since the early 2000’s is a testament to the slow, subtle progression of the incorporation of electronics.

London’s Portico Quartet have been combining EDM and Jazz in their unique way since 2008. This song is actually what inspired me to write this post. While I have seen many examples of clever/innovative usage of electronics, I’ve never heard it quite like this. Certainly, bands like Sound Tribe Sector 9 achieve a somewhat similar sound via a somewhat similar process, but I believe the incorporation of a jazz feel truly sets Portico Quartet apart from their peers.

Ok. Here’s one I’m not actually that thrilled about for the music as much as the artistry. Call me a geezer, but I’m not really big on dubstep, or many of the recent popular offshoots. Navene Koperweis’s talent cannot be understated, though. Whether during his stint with Animals As Leaders, or on his own in Fleshwrought, he goes beastmode everytime he plays. The man is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, and he is one of my favorite young drummers. The way he combines his skillful, articulate yet aggressive drumming style with this surprisingly dynamic dubstep track, makes it more than worth a listen, genre-be-damned.

So, even though these three songs could easily be lumped into the “electronic” scene, I feel like the trip-hop/indie sound of Dosh, the EDM/jazz stylings of Portico Quartet, and the ultraheavy drum/dubstep combo of Navene Koperweis show how diversely this instrumentation is being utilized.

What do you think? Is the usage of electronics the wave of the future, a passing fad, or already firmly in place? And can you think of any other examples of innovative usage of electronics?

Deffrey Goines writer banner