Over the last few months I’ve already made some pretty decent strides into what will be the second Invictus Hi-Fi album but to keep things fresh I’m taking a bit of a break to just kick back and listen to records, read books and watch documentaries – ultimately to fill up the brain tank with new ideas, concepts and inspirations.
If you don’t already do this then I really recommend it, especially during the summer when being cooped up in a darkened studio probably isn’t amazing for your mind or your creativity. Winter always seems a better time to focus too.
This return to intensive listening has got me thinking that, for me at least, the greatest and most groundbreaking electronica producers fall into two categories – both brilliant in their way and with a fair degree of overlap but still distinct in approach.
First up are those who subvert existing styles to create new sonic world. Examples include FourTet, Caribou, DJ Shadow – who each have fed and blended genres though the filter of new technologies to create something remarkable and new. In doing this they’ve preserved the heart and soul of these genres while mutating them – balancing the recognisable with the innovative. I always imagine these are people that live, breathe and sleep their music – constantly absorbing and considering.
Furthermore this re-engineering of familiar musical DNA often means these artists see commercial and critical success since they are more easily understood and described by audiences, DJ’s and journalists alike.
The there are those producers who are focused on creating a genuinely new sound that derives from known genres even less – or sometimes not at all. In this group are artists such as Autechre, Aphex Twin, James Holden and Brian Eno. Much like Stockhausen decades before, this group start at edges and have often been major innovators with nascent forms of music tech such as new types of synthesis, samplers and FX.
This group can certainly be less accessible, but the true innovators here see well deserved love and respect in time as well as the opportunity to innovate further without the need for commercial ‘hits’ to sustain their careers.
I don’t have a personal preference for either of these, both types feature heavily in my listening and both feature a certain type of innovative genius.