Realism

My dad likes music more than I do.

From time to time, while driving to the post office at night or sitting at the table drinking wine after a rich meal of properly prepared red meat, he’ll make a pithy remark about the state of music. Electronic music is dear to him, (some of my earliest memories are of Thomas Dolby and William Orbit deep cuts) so many of these observations have to do with the present state of electronic music.

His comments are varied, but they always return to the same refrain: that the future of electronic music is wretched. He says no one’s making new music. Everything’s been done, abandoned and recycled for the ignorant younger generation, who smugly retro-rejoice in its irritatingly morbid and flippant overproduction.

As a member of that generation, who never saw musique concrète become ‘experimental electronic’ and is not sure how to distinguish drum and bass from any other genre that features those two instruments, I am gratefully unable to sympathize. Everything still sounds new to me. So I periodically try new bands out on him, hoping I can find something he likes and prove him wrong.

 

But there is one kind of electronic music he’s seen come into fashion recently that he prefers. It has to do with the fifth item in this post on intel/VICE’s The Creator’s Blog that briefly touched on five techniques electronic musicians use to take the sound of production out of their songs.

The five ways are
1. Making humans do the work of sequencers
2. Digital recordings of old music formats (vinyl, tape, 8-track, sheet music, cave echoes)
3. Acoustic instruments (this shouldn’t be news)
4. Sampling ambient sounds (also not news)
and 5. Imitating real sounds

1, 3, and 4 are elements of traditional music re-inserted into electronic music. Two is traditional music thrown back in wholesale. Electronic music never really abandoned these elements of music, but they have been periodically sacrificed as the genre has gone through the process of figuring out what it wants to be.
I’d like to look at the last one, which pertains to the kind of music that’s interested my dad.

The Creators give this song as an example of real sound counterfeit:

This is good; using vinyl crackles to imitate soda fizz. I think Mount Kimbie does this in a few of their songs (see Sketch On Glass).

Similarly, Kuedo uses a helicopter-like whir to sharpen his Scissors.

The bands that transcend this reproduction are the ones that have caught my dad’s attention.
Kiln, from East Lansing, Mich. has the uncanny ability to impart warmth with their music:

This, according to my dad, is the hazy far-off lighthouse of ingenuity we half-imagine as our ship crumbles in the shallow eddys of synthpop and glitch revivals.
This is electronic music that has stopped trying to filter the reality from samples and abandoned the pretension that each new patch on synthesizer makes it a completely new instrument.
This is electronic music that tries to sound organic and does so, I think, by combining all of the methods Creators mentions.

It’s glitchy, but it doesn’t sound like an android in a trash compactor. It sounds like a cricket or boots on dry grass.

There’s a few other artists that do things like this (see Ochre, Helios) but none have the enveloping touch of Kiln, to me at least.

The more I talk about this, the more I ruin its magic, so I’ll just leave with the request for more music like this, if you’ve heard something similar.

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Adam

Adam is a ghost, floating between layers of existence and degrees of employment. He enjoys camping, listening to headphones, looking at stars and learning new things. He used to have an small, demonstrative tortoiseshell cat named Rhu, but his iPhone has since filled that role. He strokes it, like one might stroke a cat, and talks to it.

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