By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
There's something rumbling on dance floors across the United States. You might have seen it coming from France in Daft Punk's swelling popularity or the hype surrounding the Ed Banger phenomenon. Perhaps you caught wind of it through listening to Canadian acts such as MSTRKRFT, Chromeo, and DJ A-Trak. Clubs across the country and, of course, blogs confirm: It's cool to dance again, especially to the music of DJs formerly wedded to other genres.
While some rush to label this music as dance-rock, club music, or even an offshoot of "indie" culture, most are comfortable referring to it as a sort of new wave of electro. But before images of Luke and Egyptian Lover flood your conscience, know this is not the electro that once found its home in the backrooms of Nineties raves.
This electro is a separate phenomenon, arising as a convergence of both indie-rock kids gravitating toward turntables and of electronic producers and DJs looking for something new and more accessible. Add the fact that Serato is killing the vinyl market and that there appear to be new blogs popping up faster than Soulja Boy clones, and you've got a scene that seems to spring forth more from the Internet than any specific region. In bypassing the need for physical releases or even pay-for-download services, the aptly coined "blog house" has allowed its artists to rise to prominence in a short time.
But still, a few regional hotbeds are arising. In Los Angeles, two particular acts have caught the national and international eye. The Villains, a trio of remixers extraordinaire, appeared on the blog scene in the fall of 2007. They've taken on Bloc Party's "Hunting for Witches," Daft Punk's "Around the World," and most surprisingly, a good remix of Michael Jackson's epic "Thriller." Though they have fewer original tunes, they have provided more than enough mixes to bait fans through MySpace and blogs such as www.missingtoof.com.
LA Riots, meanwhile, is a duo that truly represents the spirit of the U.S. electro craze. With one member defecting from his drum 'n' bass production moniker, Edison Gem, the two took the tracks "The Party" and "DVNO" from Justice's album and applied their choppy, club-crushing style to such acclaim that their remixes received an official nod from Ed Banger Records. From then on, they have been nonstop churning out numerous DJ-ready tracks to blogs and major labels alike. They're currently supporting MSTRKRFT on a U.S. tour.
LA Riots are not the only drum 'n' bass-to-electro converts, though. Back on the East Coast, a number of artists from the later waves of d'n'b have slyly crafted wicked and infectious disco-tinged electro, completely flipping the script on the sounds for which they were known.
Treasure Fingers, a producer and DJ residing in Atlanta, is one example, an erstwhile member of the drum 'n' bass production trio Evol Intent. While under that moniker, he was known for extremely heavy production; as Treasure Fingers, he produces bouncy, happy tunes with zany and unique melodies that will stay in your head for weeks. He's still adjusting to the new scene, though. "I'm surprised when I show up to play a show and I've already got a fan base," he says. "It's kind of weird for me; I like it."
He first tried his hand at the sound a couple years ago but kept it as a private solo project. He eventually did a remix for a local band that wound up on the www.kissatlanta.blog, and suddenly his side project was propelled into the limelight. He has even been tapped to contribute to DJ A-Trak's Fool's Gold label and is working on some quirky, hip-hop influenced beats for Kid Sister. He is still involved with Evol Intent, however, and splits his time between the two projects.
"Half the scene came from indie and rock backgrounds, and now they're getting into electronic music," Treasure Fingers observes. "The other half came from electro and drum 'n' bass. One thing that is strange is that a lot of the U.S. producers are from a drum 'n' bass background, [and] production is really crisp, because d'n'b has such a high bar for quality. [We're] definitely heading in a good direction, with a lot of hype behind the U.S."
Farther north, in Rochester, New York, we can find drum 'n' bass producer Ewun building an incredible track record via his new project, Kill the Noise. He does exactly what his name suggests, combining a powerful sound of distorted, growling bass, layered with funkier melodies with sprinkles of vocoded party lyrics to, well, kill the noise of the competition.
With more influences outside electro than inside it, Kill the Noise says he grew into this production style quite naturally. "Somewhere along the line of being involved in drum 'n' bass, I was exposed to other music," he recalls. "I've always had an interest in writing breakbeat-speed stuff, around 120 to 135 bpm.... But to be honest, the electro stuff I'm producing now uses a lot of the same sensibilities of when I'm producing drum 'n' bass."