Of the top 100 spots in last week’s Billboard 200, only one album is categorized as an electronic album – Lady GaGa’s “The Fame.”
This in an accurate illustration of the role that electronic music plays in the American mainstream today.
This genre is overshadowed by hip hop, rock and pop – three immense industries – in America’s popular-music catalog, regardless of its success overseas in Europe and Asia.
However, things are looking up for the genre.
Artists, such as Madonna with her “Confessions” tour – the highest grossing tour by a female in history – and Kanye West with his newest production “808s and Heartbreaks,” are increasingly integrating electronic influences into their productions.
The influence of electronica is seen everywhere from T-Pain’s auto-tuned dance floor manifesto “Thr33 Ringz,” released last week, to reggaeton’s leading duo Wisin & Yandel, who have single-handedly transformed the genre into a club-oriented sound.
This leads many to believe that the electronic music industry will be a force to be reckone with in the near future.
At the backbone of electronica is the DJ – the modern-day composer.
Currently, only a few DJs are celebrated in American popular culture, most notably Moby, while international artists, like The Avalanches, The Chemical Brothers and Justice are widely ignored in the American music scene.
“Since I Left You”
The debut album from the Australian electronic group “The Avalanches” was released in 2000. It took 3,500 vinyl samples to put this album together, making it one of the more elaborate DJ productions out there.
There are a lot of voice samples and music from everywhere; it samples horses, parrots and even a baby.
“Since I Left You” has something of a motion-picture feel to it. By the end of the album, you get the sense that you’ve seen something develop; you get the sense that you’ve seen a story unfold.
Eighteen tracks is a lot for a concept album, but The Avalanches manage to make it work.
However, they don’t make it easy for the listener to enjoy as intimately as one would like due to the sheer volume of sound. Nevertheless, “Since I Left You” is a masterpiece and should be in any DJs collection.
Three tracks to try: “Close to You,” “Frontier Psychiatrist,” “Extra Kings.”
The Chemical Brothers
“We Are The Night”
The sixth studio album from the English duo Tod Rowlands and Ed Simons, also known as The Chemical Brothers is probably one of the best electronica albums of all time. It won the Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album last year. It’s also one of the better written electronica albums.
“We Are The Night” is extremely conceptual; in fact, it’s as electronic as electronica gets. This album is just inundated with electronic sounds.
The album has a space-age sound in a curious way. It explores all of the varied notions of the term “future.”
It’s apocalyptic hell fire in “All Rights Reversed,” it’s time-diffusing meditation in “Harpoons” and it’s tear-your-heart-out ecstasy in “Saturate.”
And it doesn’t hurt that the cover of the album resembles extra-planetary exploration.
Three tracks to try: “Saturate,” “Burst Generator,” “Das Spiegel.”
Justice’s debut release can only be described as dirty, crazy dance.
With bass lines more intimidating than Maximilien Robespierre in Jacobim France, the duo of Frenchmen Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnayis, also known as Justice, has one of the heaviest electronic sounds not considered to be trance or techno.
The group calls its sound “elektro punk” – a hybrid between the bass-slapping rhythms of ’70s funk, the space-age synth sounds of ’80s pop and the menacing drumming of ’90s heavy metal.
On “Cross,” Both Augé and Rosnay build upon the enigmatic Daft Punk paradigm by elegantly chopping and mixing nearly unrecognizable samples and also by dressing them in colorful, addictive chorus hooks, like in tracks “D.A.N.C.E.” and “DVNO.”
Justice’s motive was to make an innovative dance-centric electronic album.
This project brings together the ambiences pertinent to hard rock and club music without becoming overtly dance or overtly rock while making a sound tough enough to be both at the same time.
What the duo constructed is undoubtedly one of the best concept albums of 2007.
Three tracks to try: “Let There Be Light,” “Phantom 2,” “DVNO.”