A Quick Guide to the Subgenres of Electronic Music

Electronic music is a genre entirely unique to the twentieth century, where we saw the invention of the synthesizer and computers, two instruments that have greatly impacted the music industry and allowed artists an entirely new universe to explore sound-wise. 
 
Though, if you want to get technical, “electronic” music, in the sense of music working off of some type of electricity, dates back even further, to the 19th century.
 
Electronic music, in the sense that we mean (using synths and computers as a base for the sound) is named for the various electronic instruments with which it is created.

Basic Essential Subgenres of Electronic Music

This article will give you a basic understanding of electronic music as well as its subgenres.
 
Electronic music is best known, perhaps, for being utterly danceable.  It also has the unique characteristic of being sonically limitless, since electronic instruments can emulate any sound. You can have electronic classical music, hip hop or techno.
 
 

The Rise of the MP3 – Internet Audio Files That Changed the Music Industry

As an avid music listener and maker, it has been interesting to look back through the history of music availability and the changing formats in which music has been presented. 

With the advent of internet and computers especially into the 1990s, it introduced an entirely new way of storing music. 

There are two different categories of music file formats: lossless and lossy. Lossless, as you may surmise, indicates a file format that retains the original quality of the music whether it came from vinyl, CD, et cetera.

This includes AIFF, made by Apple, WAV, a universal format, FLAC, ALAC and APE. Most of these are uncompressed file formats, meaning there is no loss in quality or detail from the original music. 

Lossy refers to a slightly lower quality file format that is designed to save storage space, which leaves you, the listener, with more room for more music.

However, you will notice a significant difference in sound quality. This is because lossy file formats (MP3, AAC, et cetera) are typically compressed in order to make them smaller.

What matters in these formats is bit rate. If you’ve a file with a high bi trate then you won’t notice much difference, if any, between this and lossless files. 

What is an MP3?

MP3 is one of the most – if not THE most – popular file format available. It is a form of codec (COmpressing and DECompressing data).

Sometimes when people download music they look specifically for the MP3 format because it is so ubitiquitous and therefore well known, and some of us believe it is the only file format out there. Since it’s so popular, other formats like APE or FLAC can look rather daunting or untrustworthy. 

MP3 refers to a mass-produced file format that lacks proper and due quality, but people still love it. 

Its name, MP3, is short for MPEG 1 layer 3. It is an audio-coding technology that takes the information from CDs (and others), compresses the information into tiny files suitable for Internet transferring and computer storage.

This way, the music does not take up much space, allowing the user to download or copy as many songs as they please. Mostly these came from CDs.

CDs contain digital files too, but one song can be up to 40 megabytes in size, and that is a lot of space when you take into consideration a full-length CD multiplied by your entire collection.

Think of it this way: one minute of CD quality audio sound takes up about 10 megabytes. This is for full-resolution files.

The MP3 file would take up about 3.5 megabytes instead, making the files eleven times smaller. That’s quite a significant change and you can imagine the bits of detail that may get quashed during the process, since there just isn’t room for it.

However, MP3, like other lossy formats, are built on the theory that the human ear doesn’t really pick up much information to begin with, therefore it’s not even worth coding in.

In addition to allowing for more storage on your personal computer, MP3 files, being so much smaller, can be downloaded in ten minutes instead of several hours. It is important to note that once the files are compressed, the lost data is lost forever.

The sharing of music and MP3 downloading was, in 1999, as popular as people searching for sex online. 

When was the MP3 invented? 

The MP3 was developed in the late 1980s and used in the early 1990s. It was nearly abandoned, considered a dead format by 1995. It was replaced by the AAC format in 1996, a format that could get around technical limitations imposed on the MP3.

Initially the MP3 was used for sports sites. The internet however really took off in the 1990s, with tons of websites popping up that were dedicated solely to pirated music and file sharing. Remember Napster?

The MP3 was named in popular press in 1997 and fully reborn by 1999. Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS are the companies behind it. A lot of people had computers and internet service at this time.

The MP3 subsequently appeared for those who wanted to use the Internet as a new and powerful tool to share their creative works with others. It was a fast and easy way of sharing music with people all over the world. 

Its rise in popularity

When MP3 websites were first available, it was a lot of college and university students sharing files of bootlegged albums with each other since they lacked the funds to purchase CDs.

However, these young people also had passionate interest in lesser known artists and the internet was the perfect place for them to both find and share new musicians.

The very first MP3 player was the MPman, released in 1998, and then Apple soon joined the market in 2001 with iTunes and the iPod.

This meant an entirely new relationship of music and listener. The same file could be shared by thousands of people anywhere in the world, just by the click of a button, whereas previously, a cassette, vinyl or CD physically belonged to a person, and they could only share it at home with friends or family.

This also meant that people now had access to an infinite library of music. You could download another person’s entire music collection and there was no more worrying about returning CDs or scratching someone’s vinyl.

And, because people had access to nearly anything they wanted, they could acquire much more music in a shorter amount of time.

For example, instead of buying your favourite band’s new CD once a year, you could have thousands and thousands of new songs and artists to check out, all within a matter of days.

While some artists saw the amazing potential in the MP3 and this newfound ability to share music with a global audience like never before, many feared the MP3 and foresaw problems with copyright and a loss of rights for the artists or producers.

For those artists who did see the potential with the MP3, they found they could share bits of music that didn’t make it onto the album, or tease their fans with hints of new songs.

This was a bonus not just for the artist but also the diehard fans, who would appreciate tidbits of unreleased material, as a way of accessing virtually everything their favourite artists had created rather than enjoying the final cut of an album.

Record companies, being the mega-capitalists they are, with money as their bottom line, were not so jazzed about the MP3 and would beg their artists not to share the music for free.

They preferred to instead wait until they had figured out a way to make the fans pay to hear these tidbits or unreleased songs. This would force the listener/fan to not only pay to download the song, but that the file would have a limitation of number of plays before the listener had to pay again to download another file for the same song.

Of course, the smart ones would have burned everything onto CDs before the files expired.

Everyone from ultra-popular Beastie Boys to lesser known artists saw the MP3 as a way to reach the world if they couldn’t afford a tour or didn’t have a record deal. Before the days of internet music file sharing and MP3s, how were these smaller bands to get their music heard?

They would, like record companies, release a song for free to titillate the audience and then release a full album that the audience would then purchase.

MP3s are especially favoured by smaller bands and independent artists who are looking for new and exciting ways to get their music out there in the world.

If you’ve ever recorded an album or toured as musician you will know it’s very expensive to rent studio time and to then produce music and release it.

For musicians who are not signed to record labels, it is a lot easier and more affordable to record music in home studios and upload it as MP3s, which fans or listeners would find on MP3.com, one of the first major file transfer websites.

Digital distribution allows the artist to keep a much higher percentage of the sale price, too, and allow artists greater control over distribution. The MP3 file format is truly a revolutionary tool in the music industry, allowing artists to take over from the bottom up. 

However, despite all its benefits, there have been some downsides. 

Where it is now

When MP3s first came out, back in 1999 (that’s nearly 20 years ago), things were different. There was only dial-up internet. MP3s were made for dial-up internet when everything could be shared across the globe but took a lot longer than it does today.

Some artists and record companies blame the MP3 for killing the music industry, but other musicians, like Radiohead or Amanda Palmer, for example, have taken the cue and separated from their record companies; preferring to instead release their music independently, online, and letting listeners pay whatever they want, whether it’s ten cents or twenty dollars.

Today there are many, many online file sharing websites like Spotify and Apple Music. You can buy songs on iTunes for a dollar.

It really shows how music providers and artists have changed with the times, listening to the demands of the public and offering them what they want. The quality of these files is incredibly good; you just need good speakers to play them.

Of course, there are still websites where you can download music for free, and there are still record companies and musicians releasing their work through them.

And the public are still buying them.

There’s one thing online files will never have: the physical experience of interacting with music. The booklets, the artworks, the cover themes and fonts. The CD that sits like a book on a shelf with a title on its spine that you recognize immediately and pull out.

It is that very immersive and real experience that comes with physical music that you would never experience with downloaded files, and so many of us music appreciators tend to be artistic and exploratory folk.

We say immersive because it is so rewardingly consuming to sit down with your favourite record, pull out the booklet, read the lyrics, study the artwork while the music plays: to be immersed in that full experience designed intimately from the artist to the listener. 

In conclusion, we don’t hate MP3’s.  They were invented for a reason, and in the big picture, they serve a purpose or two, so why treat them with disdain?

Downtempo – A Guide to the Great Artists and Their Best Songs and Albums

What is Downtempo Music?

Downtempo is a killer subgenre of electronic music, with little to no vocals and simple beats. It’s laidback like ambient music but has a beat you can groove to, unlike ambient music.

Okay, that is a total lie. At the bottom of the article we have included several of the best downtempo artists and some of them include vocals, but for the sake of this brief introduction to the genre, and to help familiarize you with it, let’s go ahead and say that most downtempo music uses soft vocals for audible texture but not so much to tell a story.

Partygoers, ravers and clubbers will be familiar with this genre, as well as DJs, of course. 

The music is a lot more chill than others in the electronica genre. Seasoned DJs will leave downtempo to the end of the set when the party draws to a close.

downtempo music

This music is also played in side rooms of clubs or designated “take five” areas. The beats are slower and super groovy, perfect for a break from dancing or wrapping up a party.

Most clubgoers, whether they recognize and know downtempo or not, will automatically get the signal from this type of music that it’s late into the night.

If you’ve ever seen Portlandia, the theme song is a prime example of downtempo music with a chill beat that is easy to listen to and very enjoyable. There are some vocals but they’re airy and non-dominant. 

Non-dominance is a good way to define downtempo. It’s got elements of ambient music and serves listeners the same way: it can be enjoyed either as a focal point or be ignored while still providing an atmosphere. It neither overpowers nor disappears. 

It’s a beautiful genre for summer driving.

You will often hear downtempo in lounges.

It’s great for a casual hangout with friends or any time you need to relax.

A bit of history

It all started with the synthesizer. This instrument became more affordable to people in the late 1960s – early 1970’s and so musicians, being the experimental and curious artists they are, ever-searching for the perfect tool for self-expression, fell in love with it. We had the beginnings of ambient music in the 1970s; 

Electronic music really came into huge popularity in the early 1990’s. The club scene brought in all kinds of new genres after the : electronica ruled the soundsystems everywhere because it didn’t require a live band and provided dancing crowds with non-stop movement to inspire their dancing.

It was an obvious new experimentation with the synthesizer, which at the time had only been around for a couple of decades. There was plenty left to explore on that instrument with so many options.

Downtempo is usually played on a synthesizer as well as a drum machine and a few other things.

Electronica is typically faster paced, and so downtempo was created not as an antithesis but simply as an alternative for lounge areas and chill-out rooms at festivals and nightclubs. 

Dancers could go into these rooms and sit for a while, taking a break from the intense energy of the dancefloor and enjoying a drink. 

You’ll notice rather a hypnotizing element to downtempo, the same way electronica brings you in and holds you.

The genre originated on Ibiza, a Mediterranean island, well known for its nightlife and electronic music. Tourists from all over the world come to Ibiza as a destination for this type of holiday.

DJs have always known how to read a crowd (or, they should) and know how to bring up the energy and bring it down. On the island of Ibiza, where they party til sunrise, the DJs start playing downtempo to bring the crowd down after a full night of partying.

Here’s a “Best of Ibiza” chillout downtempo playlist if you want to feel a little bit of that vibe for a while.

Oh, and downtempo is sometimes called trip hop, taking elements from hip hop, drum and bass and ambient music: these are combined altogether over a lower tempo. These days the music also incorporates more melodic instrumentals.

The Artists

Now that we are familiar with the genre, let’s have a listen, shall we?

Here are some of the best downtempo artists out there. Some were around for the advent of the genre and helped shape it; others showed up along the way and furthered the genre’s popularity by keeping it alive. 

Thievery Corporation

Thievery Corporation has been around since 1995. This electronic duo has opened for Paul McCartney and worked with artists such as David Byrne and Wayne Coyne.

They bring an overtly political message with their music and actions, performing at the Operation Ceasefire concert and supporting human rights and the World Food Programme.

Visit the Thievery Corporation official website


Flume

Flume is a young’un, born in 1991 and has been making music since 2004. He has risen to popularity rather fast, having remixed several famous songs by artists like Lorde and selling 40 000 tickets for his first national tour.

He is from Australia and his work incorporates many electronic elements from hip hop to dub. Here is his self-titled debut album. 

Visit Flume’s official website 


Blue Sky Black Death

Another duo on our list, Blue Sky Black Death hails from San Francisco, California. They produce their music with a drum machine, sampler, keyboard, synth and guitar. They’ve been on the scene since 2003.

The phrase “blue sky black death” is a skydiving phrase alluding to beauty and death. They got their start making beats to rap over but soon gave up rapping to pursue producing. Below you can hear their third full-length album, Noir.

 Visit the Blue Sky Black Death Bandcamp page


Kruder & Dorfmeister

Kruder & Dorfmeister get automatic points from us for their G-Stoned cover, which resembles the famous Bookends cover by American duo Simon & Garfunkel.

Peter Kruder & Richard Dorfmeister comprise this Austrian duo and have been making music together since 1993. They got their start playing big festivals and were instantly loved by the audience. They have gone on to tour the world and continue producing music to this day. They’ve also put out their own solo albums and albums under aliases. They have at least 9 studio recorded albums available.

Here is their first album, G-Stoned.

Check out the Kruder and Dorfmeister Facebook page


Samantha James

Samantha James stands out from others on our list for her vocal style. Many downtempo artists are producers and rarely feature vocals in their work. Rather the vocals are presented as a soft ambience over the beat.

Samantha’s singing is incredibly soulful and gives a whole new life to this style of music. Coming from Los Angeles, she became involved with the underground dance scene there as a teenager.

She has been making music of her own since 2007. Her first single, Rise, was an instant hit in 2006 and she has since toured the world with her wonderful blend of electronic and soul music.

She has two full-length albums and has reached #1 on the US dance charts.

Listen to her first album, Rise, here:

Check out Samantha James on Om Records


Helicopter Girl

Helicopter Girl is a Scottish musician and has been active since 1993. She gives downtempo a unique spin incorporating elements from several genres, including dance music, indie pop and jazz.

Helicopter Girl is widely revered for her vocal style and the lyrics offer a listening experience that speaks utter truth. Straight badass. You’ve just got to give a listen and experience this for yourself.

We’ve included a link to her video for Glove Compartment but we also recommend listening to her song Angel City.

Glove Compartment is mysterious and fateful; Angel City is rockier than everything else on this list, but the vocals are cool, calm and sultry, chilling you right out with icy proclamations.

Check out Helicopter Girl on Dharma Records


Portishead

Portishead are one of the better known artists on this list. They remind us of Helicopter Girl a bit – with their infusions of other genres like indie rock laid on top of downtempo – and a bit of sex appeal.

This is music you can throw on for driving or grooving out at home, and works just as well in a lounge setting. Portishead has been around since 1991, taking a brief hiatus from 1999 through 2005. They took up music again after the break.

They’re an English band, well known in this genre because they were one of its pioneers. Despite their dislike for press coverage, their music has been successful internationally.

Even Rolling Stone referred to them as Gothic hip-hop. They’ve been around so long making this kind of music that they have been played in all kinds of underground clubs and gothic scenes.

Visit the Portishead website here

Intro to Intelligent Dance Music (IDM)

Just in case you don’t know what dance music is, we will first explain that, and then describe its subgenre, intelligent dance music.

Dance music, also known as techno, was borne of a generation or two with all this new technology at its fingertips.

In the 1970’s, we had the synthesizer becoming available to more people with its mass production and reduced selling prices, and the subsequent foray into the creation of ambient music.

Then, into the 1980’s, we begin to work with computers as well as influences from 70s acid-inspired music and disco, as well as synthesized beats.

Together, these facilitated the development of dance music: electronic music with repetitive beats that is designed specifically to get people moving. 

Okay. Now we all know what dance music is. It’s music designed to make people move their bodies. But what is intelligent dance music and how does it differ from regular plain old dance music? 

As you may surmise, the genre is rather controversial and has seen a lot of backlash for being derogatory toward other genres, as though it were the only dance genre for smart or superior people. 

Intelligent dance music, also known as IDM, is rather a form of electronic music that first emerged in the early 1990s that was designed more for home enjoyment than nightclubbing or dancing.

 

It formed as a result of experimentation and inspiration from other dance genres such as acid house, techno and ambient music. It is cerebral and rather abstract in its sound. It does not follow traditional song structure at all.

Most people to this day hate the title but enjoy the genre. With this article we will look into some of that controversy and how it got its name in the first place, and then we will provide some examples of artists within the genre so you can taste and see if you are intelligent enough to appreciate it.

Just kidding about that last bit, of course….

Let’s first look at one of the influencers, ambient music. Ambient music was very prominent during the 1970s and 1980s. Toward the end of the 1980s, ambient had combined with house to form ambient house music, which covered any music that was just as enjoyable to simply listen to as it was to dance to. It provided atmosphere while giving just the right amount of tangible energy to the listener.

By the early 1990s this genre had, quite essentially, exploded following the popularity of the rave scene. This genre as we mentioned was targeting an at-home audience. Around this time people were turning their noses up and frowning down upon the word rave.

 

An English record label released a compilation called Artificial Intelligence in 1992, designed for listening at home. Featured on this compilation were Aphex Twin, The Orb and others using aliases. The compilation was wildly successful and as a result, the term “intelligent techno” came to popularity.

Other names were of course used to describe this music including art techno or, most hilariously, armchair techno. No matter the umbrella term, the umbrella was the music enjoyed by people who preferred to stay at home rather than attend a rave to hear this music. This music was so popular in the early 1990s that, even though it began as an underground dance scene, it was now very marketable and mass-produced.

Don’t be confused, though: when we describe the at-home listener, the person may well be motivated to take on a day’s chores or complete an exercise regime. The music is not much like ambient at all; it is very fast with drum and bass. There are elements of ambient in the background but the repetitive beats are far too powerful, I’d say, to be considered ambient.

The phrase “intelligent techno” actually showed up in 1991 on message boards as well as offline, in music press by 1992.

During the same time, around 1992 and 1993, hardcore techno records were rather formulaic and repetitive. Rather than referring to the music as rave music, clubs started advertising the DJ sets as intelligent techno.

This attracted a crowd who was tired of the current hardcore techno that was now very commercialized. So while the “intelligent dance music” name may have been taken from the Artificial Intelligence compilation, it is pretty easy to also assume it catered to a crowd frustrated by the new commercialization of a genre previously enjoyed underground. 

In fact in 1993 a few record labels emerged that were entirely for intelligent techno.

 

The phrase gained popularity on the internet and implied music that was for more than just dancing to. Popular artists – or, should we say, well-known artists – included Aphex Twin, LFO and The Future Sound of London. 

The second Artificial Intelligence compilation was released in 1994 with sleeve notes telling the listener about the many cultural and musical influences on the development of the genre and making sure to declare that none was more important than the other.

Surely, one can’t help notice the irony of the words artificial and intelligence next to each other? We do realize it has everything to do with computers but it is a little funny. On that note, let’s look at the controversy within the genre.

For one, the music is not easy to dance to. It moves quickly and changes speeds often: highly mercurial, somewhat intense.

The name combined with the target market paints a picture of someone at home using thought and engaging intellectually with the music by listening, reflecting.

Some people disagree with all of this and find that, in their own experience with the two genres, plain old dance music is more listenable at home. IDM on the other hand is intense and difficult to follow and not at all calming. In fact some find it unsettling, so it is very interesting that the marketers of the music had a different idea.

The community of dancers who were excluded from the IDM scene and genre asked sarcastically did they then listen to Stupid Dance Music.

What’s even more interesting is to call something dance music and make music within that genre and then declare that also suits sitting at home. Was this intended? Do the dancers have the right to be offended?

The history of music is all very interesting stuff. Like the history of anything, there is much question of loyalty and identity. Even Aphex Twin, one of the best known artists in the genre, rejects the term Intelligent Dance Music, saying that it’s ridiculous to put oneself above another that way, preferring not to use names at all but rather go by how music makes them feel.

aphex-twin-top-gear

The music itself can be confusing and rather disorienting to listen to. It is highly chaotic and robotic, very computer-like in every way. If you can imagine the sound of data being organised in a computing system then you can imagine IDM (don’t worry: we provide some IDM at the end of the article).

Another well-known artist in the genre, Autechre, agrees that IDM is weirder than pop music, but thinks the title Artificial Intelligence was rather a joke and indicated science-fiction references, so the listeners would associate the sounds with space, robots and the like. Autechre also takes issue with the very definition of intelligence and says the artists are just brilliantly talented musicians making really good music.

The scene was really big both in England and Japan, but it seems that the term IDM is mostly used in the United States. Englishmen, for example, may use the term when speaking with Americans but do not really use it much in their own country.

To this day the genre is popular and enjoyed worldwide.

Like with most genres, the founders and those at the forefront are considered classics and, ironically, can sometimes be heard in nightclubs: usually ones that play electronic dance music (EDM) or electronic body music (EBM).

There are even subgenres of IDM including drill and bass, microhouse and breakcore. 

Here are some essential IDM musicians to check out:
Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin is an Irish musician highly revered as one of the most important electronic music artists of all time.

Autechre

Autechre is an electronic duo from the UK. They have been active since 1987.

LFO

This band is from the UK and not to be confused with the American LFO. They have been making music since 1988. LFO stands for low-frequency-oscillator, which is used in electronic music.

Early Ambient Artists and Their Great Albums

May your wishes be granted,

Wendy

The Best Dark Ambient Artists and Albums You Should Know About

 

Ah, you’ve come.

Welcome.

Your nostrils tingle with the scent of misty roses in the hour of the gloaming. Lurking in the trees, stalking the rows of the cemetery, the hunger of a humid night under a full moon in June.

We have gathered for you creators of the perfect visionary soundscapes to accompany you on this journey.

For that is what dark ambient is all about: the journey. There can seem to be no beginning nor an end; there is not a climax. Only the atmosphere. Ambient music is soothing, with few instruments, and sounds with large gaps in between.

The kind of music that plays while you get a massage: music that calms you, relaxes the breathing and frees the mind.

Dark ambient is the atmosphere of a lonely nightmare, soft violence, utter fear. And in facing this fear through listening to the music – through bearing that exact experience – one comes out the other side feeling rather liberated, risen, freed. For in facing fear we conquer it.

Generally speaking, that’s a very important theme to appreciate about dark music: that shared experience between creator and listener, the cause and effect of having put that emotional work into the music and then effecting the same responses in the listener.

One could argue it is a spiritiual experience for through endurance we grow stronger.

Endurance is another big theme in dark ambient music: the notes and beats and frequently repeated, suggesting endurance in both the repetitive, machinelike motion and pain evident in the vocals. But there is always sensuality in this music, for in its ghostly state it feels so very and truly alive.

Dark ambient music is about the experience of feeling while listening. From guttural, deep and quiet vocals just a bit offkey, to muffled horror sounds, there are elements some find disturbing and others find calming.

Personally I find them to be a bit of both, as per that aforementioned liberating experience.

Early Ambient

Ambient music as a genre took root sometime in the 1960s, when synthesizers were becoming more affordable to the average consumer.

It is true that the accessibility of the synthesizer led to an ever-increasing presence of the instrument in music from the 1960s and 70s, but – as with most genres of music and art – the group or artist who invented or began the genre shall forever be argued upon.

The synthesizer opened up endless doors to new sonic possibilities, with its myriad sound effects and capacity for programming and recording. In the late 1960s music took on rather a psychedelic and fantastical sound in the form of prog rock.

Bands like Genesis and King Crimson were experimenting with synthesizers and creating an entirely new atmospheric experience for the listener. The length of songs extended to make room for instrumental parts that sounded otherworldly, ethereal, sometimes downright haunting.

Into the 1980s, synthpop is very popular and mainstream, so following Einstein’s law of universal relativism, we begin to see dark branches splinter off into goth and industrial music, with both sounds and words often containing strong and slow beats, injury to the body, minor chords, haunting sound effects, machinery, heavy emotional content and response from the listener. With every technological advancement, music becomes heavier.

And so, naturally, this led to the experimentation with an exploration of instrumental ambient music to suggest the so called dark themes of confusion, feeling lost, melancholic, haunting, horrifying or mysterious, to name a few.

<Read our more detailed history of Dark Ambient music here>

Here it is: a collection of the names of dark ambient artists you should know about.

  1. Nocturnal Emissions
    https://nocturnalemissions.bandcamp.com/

Nocturnal Emissions has been around since the late 1970s, initially as a sound art project by art student Nigel Ayers and a few other members. He is based in the United Kingdom. 

Since the mid-1980s, it has primarily been Ayers’ solo project. As you go through the bandcamp page, you will notice quite an extensive discography.

The sounds primarily orbit about dark ambient but venture into electro techno stuff, post-industrial and noise music. He avoids the music industry and has rather a big cult following.

Since the early 1990s Nocturnal Emissions contains a lot of sacred, magic and ritual elements.

 

  1. Controlled Bleeding
    https://controlledbleeding.bandcamp.com/

This American band has also been around since the 1970s, but released their first full-length album in 1983. To this day they have released more than 30 full-length albums.

With such a large output, they have of course experimented with progressive rock, metal, classical, sacred music and jazz, all in addition to ambient.

They have received their best critical response to their industrial dance. In this phase they began using lyrics more prominently in the 1990s, as a change from their previously mostly instrumental music.

3. Zoviet France
https://soundcloud.com/zoviet-france

Little is known about the members of Zoviet France, other than their names. The musical group has been around since 1980 and gone through several personnel changes in that time.

Their music incorporates some industrial elements but is altogether out of this world. We link to a rather profoundly disturbing track of theirs: the 20-minute long Shamany Enfluence from the 1988 album Looking at the Ground.

  1. Lustmord
    https://soundcloud.com/lustmord

Lustmord hails from North Wales and has been active since 1980, releasing at least one album each year since. He is a musician as well as a film score composer, known for having worked on The Crow.

His work is exceptionally dark, as he combines all kinds of clips from field recordings in crypts and other such creepy places where death lurks and mixed them into his work.

He is in fact widely recognized as the founder of this genre. One of the elements unique to Lustmord is the expanded bass lines that remind one of the darkest depths of the ocean.

His work is altogether ominous, haunting and calm, with just the right tempered balance of dark and ambient.

  1. Coph Nia
    https://cophnia.bandcamp.com/

Coph Nia is a newer band on the list, having founded in 1999 after the height of industrial music. They come, appropriately, from Gothenbug, Sweden.

The very slow beats in a lot of dark ambient music, combined with the ominous sounds, one is likely to associate with dark ritual and moonlight.

Coph Nia sounds like ritual music and is utterly empowering with spoken, monotone vocal style. Their name comes from a passage from Aleister Crowley.

Their songs contain a lot of western magical themes.

 

  1. Robin Rimbaud AKA Scanner
    https://soundcloud.com/scanner

Another fantastic artist from the United Kingdom. Scanner is the stage name of musician Robin Rimbaud and he has been making music since 1982. He works under this name because he uses cell phones, police scanners, radio and cell phone signals in his works.

These indiscernible hints at human life – and the broken communication – make for rather a profound emotional impact on the listener. In the early 1980s Rimbaud played with a band and released cassette tapes of their recordings. He debuted Scanner in 1992.

In addition to music, he creates artworks, plays classical music and helped develop a natural light and sound alarm clock with Philips Electronics.

He also creates performance and installation art and has been honoured with many awards over the years. Some of his compositions are utterly chilling.

  1. Klaus Wiese

Wiese passed away at the age of 67 in 2009. He was a fantastic multi-instrumenalist who made compositions using Tibetan singing bowls; he is widely known as being a master of those bowls, having created several full-length albums with them. His work is very spacy and meditative, but the slowed notes of the singing bowls add a slightly unnerving seriousness to his work (we mean this in the best way possible).

It is through this mood created his work falls into dark ambient. There are elements of drone presented through an ever-zooming, pulsing lens.

He studied Mysticism in the Far East for many years, the influence of which can certainly be heard in the songs. For example, his entire album Maquam is about the stations of enlightenment within Islamic mysticism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dmM_uPw2-c&t=807s

10 Synthwave Artists You Should Know

 

Synthesizers! They are so cool, right?  You take the most reliable aspects of a computer – programmable, reliable in its mathematics – attach a keyboard; amplify the sound through electronic speakers and be taken to another dreamy and sometimes intense world.

What is the Demoscene?

Demoscene may be a word you have not heard before. Reading it or saying it aloud conjures different associations depending on your background or interests.

One may summon thoughts of band demos, promotional, raw versions of songs that the band may send to record labels or event co-ordinators. However, that’s not it at all. It does have something to do with music.

Are you into computers? You may be familiar with game demos, which are promotional versions of a game featuring sneak peeks or tidbits. Demoscene is, in fact, software that has been coded to produce audio-visual artworks.

Origins in Digital Graffiti

Demoscene is a genre that sprung up in the very late 1970s/early 1980s as a result of the emergence of computer technology. Coders or “crackers” would hack/crack into games to remove their copyright protection and would add their own visual presentations to the games. These began as introduction screens with plain text listing the crackers.

These were known as signatures, the way a graffiti artist may go around and tag walls with just their name/initials or symbols. It was rather a way of showing off their ability to have cracked the game. Sometimes these intros were more technically advanced than the games themselves.

Eventually coders and viewers lost interest in the games and began making their own stand-alone demos: thus Demoscene was born.

The thrill came from creating things with computers rather than simply playing games on them. Viewers went from passive audience to active creators.

Early Days

Back then, all computers had basically the same hardware, so any changes made were fully credited to the programmer rather than one computer having better hardware than the next. This bred a very competitive atmosphere, challenging coders to create better effects than their counterparts.

In the early days, demo-making was borne of disbelief at the things computer users would see on the screen. Demo-makers would then play around to show their skill at what they could do with a computer. A large motivator has always been and continues to be the quest to find new and interesting ways of rendering graphics.

It was in 1980 that Atari, Inc., caught onto this new craze and began using a demo, on loop, that gave both visual and audio effects to show off their Atari 400 & 800 computers, which were available in stores.

Five years later, they released a demo for their newest 8-bit computers, which featured a three-dimensional walking robot and flying spaceship set, of course, to music.

It was in 1986 that Demoscene was created: or at least given a name. The original demo groups were 1001 Crew and The Judges, both from Denmark.

Demoscene remains to this day largely European and male-centric. These groups competed in 1986 with highly involved and impressive demos comprised of their own graphics and music. In the late 1980’s, the demo scene began to rise, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Demoscene Today

Demoscene is largely enjoyed by coders because of its possibilities. It enables coders to follow a system or create abstract works, making it a very popular international computer art subculture. They can – and will – work to get every last bit of performance out of their computer, since they work to produce visual and audio works. They will even extract techniques and effects not intended for the original hardware. The resulting artwork is one that shows one’s ability to program, as well as the visual and musical component. This subculture has a large following online (as you may have surmised), where users share their creations.

Demoscene to this day is mostly competition based, where the artists – whether working individually or within groups – compete to show both artistic and technical skill. Everyone in the scene must follow the implicit rules such as creating entirely original content, making the effort to figure out answers rather than ask for help and to make contacts within the scene. It is subculture that prefers to stay underground without mainstream attention. It is estimated there are about 10 000 participants.

The goal of the demoscene video is to create an experience similar to watching a music video, one that provides entertaining visuals to the sound of pleasing audio music, all entirely generated by software coding. It is also common for coders to work with musicians and graphic artists to create the demo. Most demos are created by a very small number of people.

Essentially the goal is enjoyment from start to finish: coders enjoy the artistic creativity and the technical challenge, while creating a finished product that is both entertaining and pleasing to watch.

So who are these coders? They do not go by their real names so as to avoid the attention of law enforcement, but demoscene is more about self-expression than its origins in cracking copyrighted software. Therefore, their stage names are more about the theatricality than the legality. It should be known that demosceners tend toward legal activity. Individual demosceners will have their own names, and their groups with have a name, so the demosceners will be known as (illustrated example) My Name of Certain Group.

There are often voting parties where difference demos are presented to the public and then the public votes. Traditionally they would have voted for the more technical side of demos but now the emphasis is more on overall impact or mood. Of course the subjectivity of the public is not reliable and so in recent years, Scene.org Awards has gathered a jury of renowned members to vote on the best productions. The scene was more social and casual in the 1980s with demomakers meeting to create and share their software, while the competitive side emerged in the 1990s, taking focus away from illegal activity and putting it into competitions.

Demoparties

Demoparties take place typically over a weekend where demosceners can socialize and partake in competitions, where they design demos all day and then show them at night. Often the visitors bring their own computers, but the party will provide a large space with tables, internet and of course, electricity.

Demosceners typically socialize more than they work on their computers when attending demoparties. These events are most often found in Europe with nearly a party every week, while in the United States, for example, there may only be two or three demoparties per year.

The events typically gather visitors from a single country, with the average attendee list from dozens to hundreds of people. Larger international parties also take place, hosting thousands of people.

Attendees will bring gadgets and decorations to set up at their workspace for the weekend. They will sleep either under their desk or in appointed rooms on air mattresses.

Female attendance at these events makes up less than 20% of the total attendee population; they usually get in for free, which is meant to encourage their participation.

Guide to Classical Mandolin & Early Music

With this article we will go into details of the history of the use of mandolin in both early music and all the way up to the classical period. First we must define these time periods. Early music is classified as and includes medieval, Renaissance and early baroque, spanning nearly a millennium. Medieval music is anything written 500-1400 A.D. The Renaissance period runs 1400-1600 and the Baroque period includes 1600-1760 A.D. For the sake of this article we will look at European early music, which spans 1250-1750. During this 500 years many new instruments were created, one of which being the mandolin.

There is not a lot written on the early mandolin music for a number of reasons. First of all, the mandolin was not really developed until the 16th century. Its lineage can be traced all the way back to cave paintings from 13 000 B.C. that depict a single-stringed instrument played with a bow. As time went on, slowly new instruments were invented with more strings, each string playing a single note, eventually becoming harps and lyres. The bow harp had more strings, leading to the development of chords. Eventually the bow harp was straightened out and became the lute.

These early stringed instruments were easy to carry on the person. Portability was crucial to the lifestyles back then. From the 13th century onward, one sees the lute depicted in both paintings and sculpture, giving one an idea of the modifications made to the instrument over the century, including the number of strings. By the 14th century one sees the introduction of doubled strings.

In the 16th century, there appeared a teardrop-shaped lute, called the mandore. This version of the lute was then redesigned by the Italians, creating the Baroque mandolin. It was smaller and plucked with the fingers. In the later half of the 1700s, the mandolin was used by men courting potential mates, as well as street musicians and in the concert hall.

Some composers did write for the mandolin, but it was not typically featured as it was perceived as a folk instrument. There was not really room for a mandolin in the orchestra. Composers who wrote for the mandolin include Vivaldi, Beethoven and Mozart. The mandolin was developed in the 18h century in Italy, deriving from the mandolino.

In the middle of the 18th century, Neopolitan composers such as Majo and Barbella, a violinist, as well as mandolinists such as Gervasio wrote sonatas, duets and concertos for the mandolin. During this time, Italian mandolinists travelled Europe to perform and train students.

Vivaldi wrote concertos for the mandolin. A concerto is a piece of music written for a solo instrument or one that is accompanied by an orchestra. His orchestral compositions were unique in the instruments featured as the head: for example, the mandolin! Who else was writing for the mandolin at the time? Not many. Vivaldi’s mandolin concertos included:

– four-chord mandolin, string bass in C major

– two 5-chord mandolinos, string bass in G major

– two mandolins, two violino intromba, 2 recorders, salmo, theorbo, cello, string bass in C major

The mandolin was quite big in France, as well, and their mandolin developed from the Baroque mandore. There is some philosophy involved in classical mandolin history: particularly that of Rousseau, who was also a musician and influenced the French revolution. This genre was called opera-comique, which mixed both song and spoken word, so as to tell the stories of the peasant and middle class in a simple but noble way of the aristocracy. In fact this style was loaded politically and in it, you could sense the foretelling of the French Revolution.

After the Revolution in France, the mandolin lost popularity, but was widely played in Italy and Germany.

Beethoven was an avid player of the mandolin and wrote four small pieces for it in 1796. Both Vivaldi and Beethoven wrote their music on a mandolin strung with harpsichord wire.

Around 1800, Viennese composer Giovanni Hoffmann wrote chamber music pieces that employ the mandolin, violin, viola and cello, as well as a concerto for mandolin and chamber orchestra. It features a mandolin and alto duet very indicative of the classical era.

For most of the 1800s after this, the mandolin rather disappeared from popularity and was only really popular in Italy until the Paris World Fair of 1890.

The mandolin’s classical golden era ranged 1890-1920 after the Paris World Fair where there played a mandolin orchestra. For the next thirty years, the mandolin remained a very popular instrument that was taken up as a suitable pastime for gentlepeople. In fact many of the pieces written specifically for mandolin were written to please the aristocratic patrons who played mandolin themselves.

The mandolin of course was not developed until the 18th century, but its predecessor the soprano lute was used in the Middle Ages and through the Baroque era.

Hard Shell Vs. Soft Shell (Gig Bag) Guitar Cases – Which is Better?

We’ve got to make the right choices for our instruments, and this extends far beyond the purchasing of the instrument itself! What are we going to do with the instrument once we get it home? Will we only play it on weekends in the comfort of our homes, or will we take it across town to a friend’s house for a jam session, or will we take it onstage to play live?

There are so many factors to consider. An important accessory that you will want to purchase with your instrument is a case. You should absolutely get a case to house and protect your instrument whether you leave it at home or travel far distances. A case will keep dust from accumulating on the instrument and will make it easier to carry, as well as house it so as to protect it from damage. There are two different styles of cases you can get: hard shells and soft shells, also known as gig bags. Which is the right one for you?

With this article we will look at all the possible factors that would go into your decision, so you can make an educated choice for your lifestyle and of course, your beloved instrument.

First, let us look at hard shell cases.

Hard Shell Cases

A hard shell case is the type with a hinged lid and snaps to keep it closed, and usually has feet. The hard shell case maintains its shape when the instrument is not inside it. For this reason, the hard shell case is a popular choice since it stands on its own. It can be inconvenient to have to structure and form the case every time you want to open or close it up. The hard shell will simply sit there once you have laid it down, and will remain like that until you need it again. This makes it very easy to take the instrument in and out.

Hard shell cases are ideal for far distance travel. If you are in a band and travel with other musicians and instruments, you will want a hard shell as it offers the best protection. Hard shell cases range in price from $75 to $500 and up. Quality is of course a main factor in the pricing of these cases: for example, a $75 case will protect the instrument from banging off walls or being crushed in a vehicle amongst other instruments, but it might not hold up to a car driving over it. A more expensive case will offer stronger protection.

Hard shells are also favoured because they cannot be broken into. They usually come equipped with lock and key, which will deter theft. The hard shell, unlike the soft shell, cannot simply be sliced open. For this reason soft shell cases do not come with locks.

Hard shell cases are favoured for long term storage. If you have several instruments and don’t use certain ones for long periods of time, you will likely want a hard shell, rather than soft shell, to store it away in the garage or attic or music room.

Hard shells will protect the instrument from minor damage too, including scratches or dents that you might not notice on the outside of a soft shell, but would certainly reach the instrument inside, thereby damaging it. A hard shell is a firm and durable barrier between the instrument and anything that lies outside the shell.

Hard shell interiors are usually lined with velvet or plush fabric to create a snug nest for the instrument. The tight fit will only serve to further protect the instrument. Their waterproof nature also sets them above the gig bag.

Additionally, hard shell cases tend to be the most attractive looking cases. They come in all kinds of colours such as black with burgundy interiors, or creamy pearl exterior with blue velvet interior.

Now we will look at soft shell cases, otherwise known as gig bags.

Soft Shell Case (Gig Bag)

Soft shell cases, like the hard shell, provide a convenient handle by which to carry the instrument. They also tend to be lighter in weight so they are good for anyone who walks a long distance to and from gigs with their instruments.

They take up less space so they are favoured by those who may take public transit, for example. Gig bags are far less cumbersome than hard shell cases, but they are not usually waterproof (unless you spray them with waterproofing spray) so any liquid damage will get the better of the case and then your instrument.

Soft shell cases often include pockets on the front in which you may store sheet music and other accessories. They are known as gig bags because they are most convenient for players who get regular use of their instruments. Gig bags are the cheaper option of the two, so this may affect your decision.