The international electronic dance music scene in 2013 is deeply divided.
On one hand, you have the fans of "EDM" or generic, commercial dance-pop designed for festivals and stadium arenas. And on the other hand, you have the underground electronic dance music snobs, bitching and moaning because their precious subculture is getting co-opted by corporations and money-grubbing superstar DJs.
Admittedly, for Crossfade, the term EDM is just an easy way to say electronic dance music when referring to the overall category of music, whether it's commercial or underground. But is there any validity to the underground scene's complaints about the state of EDM? There might be when you have a point of comparison.
Take Irish DJ-producer Mano Le Tough, AKA Niall Mannion.
He's one of the new rising stars on the international underground scene. This guy is getting it right on so many different levels, that it makes you start to see the many ways in which EDM's biggest stars are falling short.
If you missed Mano Le Tough's Miami Music Week appearances, don't make the same mistake when he headlines at The Vagabond this Saturday. But first, check the cut for Crossfade's five reasons Mano Le Tough is saving electronic dance music.
His DJ Sets
Sure, it is a DJ's job to entertain you. But it's also a DJ's job to educate and challenge you. A proper electronic dance music DJ goes digging deeper than anyone for those obscure cuts and buried gems that will blow your mind on the dance floor and keep you up at night combing the Internet for that one track ID. The Swedish House Mafias and David Guettas of the world are like human Top 40 radio stations, playing a tiresome rotation of nonstop commercial hits during every set. Mano Le Tough's DJ sets, on the other hand, offer a journey through uncharted
territory, full of surprises, delights, and "WTF is that record?!" moments of sheer awe.
A monkey could write most of the hooks and riffs that go into commercial EDM hits these days. It's all ear-pummeling, skull-numbing bass drops, infantile three-note melodies, and moronic vocal refrains. But Mano Le Tough's productions have been universally praised for their elegant, nuanced sound design and sophisticated melodic arrangements. "I guess I try and make music that has an emotional resonance without being overly sentimental or schmaltzy," he told Resident Advisor. "It means a lot to me to try and connect with the listener on a deeper level and add something to their lives that's more than a hands-in-the-air 5 a.m. moment in a club (although there is nothing wrong with that)."
In an era when YouTube views can turn an almost unknown Avicii into one of the world's biggest EDM stars overnight because of a single track like "Levels," it takes a truly authentic artist to lock himself away in a studio for months in order to produce an actual album. Mano Le Tough's critically-acclaimed Changing Days LP, released on Permanent Vacation in February, is the rarest of offerings in electronic dance music: a slow-burning full-length artist album.
It's pretty much the norm for commercial EDM producers to use vocal samples or uncredited session vocalists on their records. The result: Vocal tracks with a very impersonal feeling to them -- music that works superficially, but with which the listener will never feel truly connected. Changing Days saw Mano Le Tough write deep-thinking lyrics and use his own voice, and the result is a deeply personal album that's elevated him from mere producer to full-blown musical auteur.
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5. His Integrity
It doesn't seem as though Mano Le Tough will be selling out anytime soon. We know through his production work that he simply doesn't give a fuck about commercial trends and the marketability of his releases -- ironic, considering they are still so good (despite their uniqueness) that they're charting anyways. Still, we also won't see Mano Le Tough chasing the big bucks by playing at commercial megaclubs. He's clearly committed to the underground, and the intimate small rooms where his deeply personal and nuanced sound can be best appreciated. Find out for yourself.
Mano Le Tough. Presented by PL0T, Young Hearts, and Un_Mute. With Alejandro Sab and Inbal. Saturday, March 30. The Vagabond, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. Tickets cost $10 via residentadvisor.net. Call 305-379-0508 or visit thevagabondmiami.com .