Electronica is a very vague term- some would say it’s fairly self-explanatory, others wave their genre cleaver and yell things like “NO NO THAT’S IDM.” OR “THAT’S JUST A POP SONG WITH SOME BLEEPS IN IT.” I’m not really a fan of genres, historical context aside, and even that can be wildly open to debate. The media (including that saviour/villain of modern music, the internet) is extremely prone to slapping stupid titles on things and manufacturing scenes that don’t actually exist. So I prefer to use very loose terms to describe different families of modern mainstream(ish) music- pop, rock (a ludicrously large category), soul, funk, metal, hip-hop (essentially the innovation of rapping and sampling, borne out of funk and soul) and finally electronica.
It’s easy to forget how quickly computers have infiltrated music, both in the way we listen to it and the process of making it in the first place. Electronica is a category dedicated to music in which computers have been integral to its creation. Distinct from the turntable and other manual editing techniques, using a computer to deconstruct blocks of music and then reassemble them into something new is a mindboggling task, as anyone who has fannied about with Audacity can testify.
Some people have already got the hang of these new techniques and my current favourite is a guy called James Vella, known hereafter as A Lily. There’s only one album around at the moment, mostly because this is really a side-project. He pays the rent- well, it probably helps a little next to some kind of day job or dreaded shift pattern, perhaps too ambitious in this post-rocknroll world (yes, the ROKNROLLDRUGSNPARTIESNGROUPIESWOOOOO reverie is just that these days. Whether it was ever anything apart from a brief glimpse at paradise for a small cluster back then is worth discussing elsewhere.) to say bills are paid by recording and touring- playing guitar in Yndi Halda.*
There are two interesting things about this album, titled Wake: Sleep. The first is the mixture of organic instrumentation like guitars, pianos and homemade percussion with the usual bleeps, swoops and gurgles that distinguish electronica from more traditional genres. The second is the concept behind it. As you’ll see in the interview (linked at the bottom), he wrote the music entirely for his girlfriend. Every note, rhythm and squelch was lovingly crafted for her enjoyment. It’s not explicit (no dirty samples, you sick perverts) when you hear it, as although a few pieces employ his hushed vocals, there is no stomach-turning narrative of how much they weally wuv eech ovah.
If you’re looking for pop hits with obnoxious noises blasted in at inappropriate moments, you’ll be disappointed, though I’d question whether you’ll find much of interest in this blog in the first place. It works best as a complete piece of music- even the extremely testing 30+ minute final track, The Shipwreck. I’ve included two tracks from the nine that Wake: Sleep offers in order to give you an idea of what to expect. As Simon sagely noted in the previous post, it’s absolutely vital that people understand how music is funded- writing, recording and especially touring require time off work and a spider’s web of payment. The proverbial fly is you, the listener/audience member. Everything worthwhile in music begins when somebody gets enthusiatic about a song, band or gig.
Sadly, as I’m increasingly finding while trying to delve further into less obvious music, it’s very difficult to get hold of this album in Britain. In fact, Amazon (never mind the High Street) don’t stock it- not even in the Marketplace! Finally, the third track is a cheeky treat discovered in a secluded corner of Myspace.