By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Before we (and the rest of the world) start counting down our favorite albums, songs and trends of 2009, let's get this out of the way right now: Far as electronic music is concerned, it's been a banner year.
Mary Anne Hobbs performs Friday, November 20, at The Green Elephant.
Kid Sister performs at Meltdown 2009 on Saturday, November 21, at the Palladium Ballroom
Critically, look no further than buzz bands like Passion Pit and Animal Collective for proof. Each of these bands' stunning releases, Manners and Merriweather Post Pavillion respectively, similarly and capably incorporated electronic elements into their sounds, albeit toward different ends (one for an electro-dance sheen, the other for a psych-rock glisten). It's simple enough: Those elements are in there; you can hear them.
Yup, 2009 has seen a heavy, heavy influence of electronic music bubbling under its most interesting sounds—even locally. Or, maybe more appropriate, especially locally. Consider the ever-present VEGA and Neon Indian projects from DFW's own Alan Palomo. Or the Japanese dance-pop of Fizzy Dino Pop, Denton-based Avery Williamson's cross-Pacific collaborative project with the Kyoto-based Yuria Hashimoto. Or the electro-tinged hip-hop of acts such as Damaged Good$ and galleryCat. Sure, these artists may choose to identify their music with various genres, but, at their core, they're all pretty much electronic acts masquerading as something else.
This weekend, with two fairly major electronic-based events taking place, local audiences will see these influences firsthand.
First up, on Friday night, galleryCat will perform at the Green Elephant as part of the first event put on by area electronic-music aficionado Mwanza Dover's new Astroblaque label. But, no slight intended, galleryCat's hardly the draw there; rather, the real coup is the headlining DJ set from BBC Radio's Mary Anne Hobbs, the so-called Queen of Dubstep. Since 2006, Hobbs has championed the icy cool, dark and grimy electronic genre's sounds on her highly influential weekly broadcast, BBC Radio 1's Experimental Show, where she's helped break acts such as the currently stateside-buzzing Joy Orbison and California's Flying Lotus and even given airplay to Dover's own Blixaboy project. (Blixaboy, too, will perform on Friday.)
Hobbs, long an outspoken advocate for electronic music, has also seen America's increased interest in dubstep and other electronica-based sounds of late: "To be honest, the West Coast of America has completely transformed and reshaped my radio show," she says from her Hollywood hotel room on her current four-city tour of the States. "There's an atmosphere here that's very similar to what was happening in 2006 in the U.K. with the whole dubstep movement."
And though it's hardly her goal, Hobbs can't deny what's happening with electronica's growing influence in the States.
"The sound's bouncing in the mainstream," she says.
Sure is. And, for electro-hip-hop artist Kid Sister—one of the headliners at Saturday's big dance affair, Meltdown 2009 (which will take place at the Palladium Ballroom and features the likes of internationally acclaimed DJs David Guetta, A-Trak and Kill the Noise)—that's made for an interesting dynamic. Since she burst onto the landscape with the 2007 release of her singles "Control" and "Pro Nails," the latter of which features Kanye West, Kid Sister has nurtured her buzzing status with the comfort of knowing that she was ahead of the curve in combining elements of electronic music and hip-hop.
"I make it pretty clear what I'm going for," the affable Kid Sister says with a laugh, while talking over the phone from New York City and choosing an outfit for her appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last week. "But, no, what I do isn't that different from what mainstream artists are doing today."
That's the trouble she's facing, actually: Though she's been a fixture in the party music scene for a few years now, Kid Sister's debut album, Ultraviolet, only earned its official release this week. And, as that release was delayed and delayed, the pop music landscape kind of caught up to her innovations. Which, in turn, Kid Sister says, is why her record took so long to see the light of day.
"I guess if I'm supposed to be a premier artist in this new genre where hip-hop and electronic music are blended, then I better do a good job and make it palatable," she says. Far as she's concerned, though, the genres' blending was inevitable. "When you look at the way hip-hop has evolved over the past 35 years, it went from being this super-rebellious, fringe underground thing, and it's turned into something almost blah blah and got boring. This sound came natural to me. It's not a trend."
Which brings us full circle to the original point—namely, that electronica's rise isn't just a trend. Rather, the infusion of electronic elements into all forms of music seems to indicate a real turning point, a change in ideals brought on by the increased availability and affordability of computer-based music-creating programs. These days, Hobbs explains, with anyone able to create music from the comfort of home, genre borders are bound to be pushed and lines are bound to be blurred.
"For me, the fact that [electronic music] has fragmented and that there are millions of offshoots, that's what makes it thrilling," Hobbs says. "Music moves forward in a million different scatter points every day, doesn't it? We've never seen such a great creative acceleration as we are today."
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