In Which a Metal Guy Appreciates New Electronic Music
When I’m not spinning the new records from Gojira, Deftones, Red Fang, or Dub Trio, I like to broaden my horizons a little. Thanks to Spotify, here are a few artists I have allowed entry into my ear-holes.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that I would take so quickly to Bassnectar. The guy will speak at length about his metal roots, being a fan of old-school Metallica and Megadeth. Those attuned to the subtleties of metal (yes, that’s what I said, subtleties) will find the same penchant for riffage, song structure, and bit o’ swagger in Bassnectar’s music. He also likes the low, low end. His latest album, Vava Voom, is a breakneck collection of aggressive electronic music. Clever beats, deep bass, and fun vocal samples abound. Uptempo numbers like “Ugly” and the title track are punctuated by airy, ambient fare like “Empathy.” Mid-album track “What” could pass for an M.I.A. remix. The whole album is good, but the headlining jam is “Ping Pong.” I don’t mind telling you, dear reader, that this song makes me feel funny in my bathingsuit area. It makes the hairs on my arms stand at attention and turns my nipples into bullets. Starting with a rhythmic table-tennis sample (natch), the track soon turns into such a gnarly drum & bass groove. The synth-bass alone gives me stinkface. Unfortunately, to truly appreciate Bassnectar’s music you need a system with significant low-end performance. Your laptop’s speakers or Apple earbuds simply can’t recreate the tonal layers at play here.
I kind of discovered Bassnectar around the same time I discovered the Glitch Mob. Until recently, my only encounter with Glitch Mob occurred while doing research for my Skrillex review. (One of Skrillex’s samples comes from a Glitch Mob video.) I’m glad I took the time to listen to their stuff. Drink the Sea is layered, textured electronica. It sounds less like some guy dragging samples around and twiddling knobs in Ableton; these tracks feel more composed, more written, and the instrumentation (if you’re charitable enough to call it that; I am) is more varied. Yes, there are bass pads and techno-y synth lines, but there’s also the occasional piano and vocal hook. Even at their most bombastic (“How to Be Eaten by a Woman” or “Fistful of Silence”), you almost get the sense that these songs could be performed live on real instruments. And the dreamy, downtempo “Between Two Points” is easily as good as anything Portishead or Massive Attack ever came up with.
AWOLNATION isn’t necessarily “new” to me as I was a big fan of frontman Aaron Bruno’s previous band, Under the Influence of Giants. Last year’s Megalithic Symphony is a collection of snappy electropop that sounds pretty similar to his older material. “Wake Up” is the track that sounds most like Under the Influence of Giants. The whole album is bouncy and poppy, in a vaguely Scissor Sisters kinda way, with, I daresay, a dollop of punk sensibility. These are singalongs to be sure. Dance if you’re feelin’ froggy. Strangely though, the song that really sticks in my head is the album’s first single, “Sail.” It’s a slower groove, with a simple hook and a fat little bass line. You may even find yourself yelling “sail!” at embarrassing moments.
Metalheads can often be the most hard-headed music fans. If a band doesn’t “bring the shred,” they tend to be ignored by us stubborn headbangers. I’m really glad to be rewarded with quality tunes when I step outside my comfort zone. In fact, metalheads may find they don’t have to step out too far to find artists in other genres that appeal to them for the same reasons metal does.