night8 by NightCat
By MARC McDONALD
Tonight's music selection is a track called "Night8" by, uh, me. A word of caution: it's not easy listening. In fact, if you've never heard music in the experimental "electronica" genre, you might well hate it and not regard it as "music" at all. (I'd suspect that most Baby Boomers will fall into this category).
I myself have yet to decide if this track is rubbish or if it is something worthwhile. I do know that over 1,000 people, from Europe to Japan, have listened to this track since I uploaded it to SoundCloud, the popular German music distribution site. If you've listened, I thank you for your time.
I've long been a fan of "electronica" music, ever since I heard a various artists album called Modulation & Transformation, Vol. 4, released in 1999 by the German label, Mille Plateaux, which specializes in this sort of music.
I have to admit, when I first heard this sort of music, I wondered if (A) it really was "music" at all and (B) if it wasn't just a bunch of random, aimless noise. It then occurred to me that I'd felt the same way when I first heard Free Jazz.
It also occurred to me that each new generation of music listeners can always be depended upon to condemn the next generation of music as "rubbish" (and even question whether it is "music" at all).
Recall how in the 1950s, traditional music lovers criticized rock'n'roll and called it rubbish. (What's amazing is that the music they were condemning at the time---from the likes of prime Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly---is now recognized as some of the greatest rock'n'roll ever recorded). And before that era, jazz lovers often had their music ridiculed by classical music lovers, who maintained that jazz wasn't really "music" at all.
Anyway, back to the Electronica genre. I have found that, the more I listened to this new music, the more I enjoyed it. I began to seek out and listen to the leading artists in the genre, ranging from Pan Sonic of Finland to Germany's Ekkehard Ehlers. Don't be surprised if you've never heard these artists: this genre's popularity is mostly in Europe (and, to a lesser extent, in East Asia, particularly Japan).
If you're tired of the current Top 40 chart pap and you'd like to hear something risk-taking and adventurous for a change, I urge you to give the Electronica genre a chance. It's not easy-listening, but I find that the best in this genre does reward patient listening. In that sense, it's a bit like jazz: it does not come to you, you must go to it.
(Indeed, when I first heard Electronica, it occurred to me that this music did indeed seem to share a few things with Free Jazz. I didn't know if that idea was heresy, or simply lunacy. But since then, I've noticed that there have been a number of highly successful collaborations between Electronica musicians and jazz musicians. One example of this was the acclaimed Masses album in 2001, which was a collaboration between British Electronica artist Spring Heel Jack and avant-garde jazz players from the Thirsty Ear record label.
If you'd like to explore this music further, here are a few of the best Electronica recordings I've come across recently:
1. Clicks & Cuts Various Artists, volumes 1 through 5, German label Mille Plateaux's showcasing of the best Electronica/IDM artists from Europe, North America and Japan.
2. Kesto by Pan Sonic. A massive 4-CD set from 2004 from Finland's prolific and relentlessly experimental Pan Sonic. Sadly, this record appears to already be out of print and copies fetch steep prices on eBay.
3. Confield by Autechre. One of my favorite Electronica artists, Autechre hails from Britain. I've enjoyed pretty much everything they're recorded since 1993, but the adventurous Confield is a notable highlight.
4. Ohm: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music: 1948-1980 Various Artists. Electronic music, of course, is nothing new. Here's a well-done roundup of the leading artists that inspired today's generation of Electronica artists. For my money, this is some of the best music of the 20th century.