Ask Alex: EDM (Electronic Dance Music Edition)

Logan (right) and Liam (left) Nee

I have been slacking in the advice doling department. While I have a proper Ask Alex post slated for publication next week, I thought I would flip the paradigm on its head today and ask someone else for advice.

I am someone who appreciates EDM (Electronic Dance Music) from afar, but it has been a very long time since I have had my finger on the pulse of anything new. I reached out to Logan Nee to find out more. Logan is a senior at the University of Maine where he co-hosts and produces UMainEDM (Facebook + Twitter), an EDM-themed radio show with his twin brother Liam.

Note: This is sourced from an email exchange between Logan and I, which he said after the fact would be fine for me to post. He came up with this impressively comprehensive guide in about 7 minutes, and did do so with publication in mind, so please don’t feel compelled to crucify him if you feel as though something is missing or inaccurate.

I wrote to Logan: I want to get into more EDM. All I really know by name (and consequently like) is Justice, Daft Punk Soulwax and LCD Soundsystem’s actual electro stuff. I would appreciate any suggestions about what a novice like myself should know, consider and explore.

To which he responded: This is great news. I am so glad to hear that you are getting into EDM. It has a lot more variety than most people seem to think. There is definitely something for everyone and so I hope this helps.

There are a few popular blogs out there. I prefer Dancing Astronaut and the semi-local Stop Breathe Bump. Here is a good list of some others.

There are three or four main sub-genres in the mainstream EDM scene. My brother and I are big fans of Electro/Progressive House. In other words “club music.” Big artists in this genre include David Guetta, Afrojack, Skrillex, Avicii, Kasskade, Steve Aoki, Hardwell, Zedd, Nicky Romero, Porter Robinson, Tommy Trash, Sidney Samson, and others.

Drum and Bass includes artists like Chase and Status but this is slowly fading and is mostly underground.

The other main sub-genre is Trance. You really have to be in the right state of mind to enjoy this stuff but I it’s excellent. Artists such as Armin Van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Tiesto and Eric Prydz dabble in Trance.

Straight up house beats, which I find boring, are produced by artists like Carl Cox, who is a favorite of the Ultra Music Festival. I am not sure how people can listen to that for four straight hours. (Note from Alex: I think the answer is drugs.)

Other up-and-coming sup genres include Hardcore/Dubstep, which is produced by artists like Nero, Rusko, Flux Pavilion, Knife Party, and Bassnectar. There is also the Reggaeton scene, which is the newest and is headed mostly by Diplo care of Major Lazer.

Probably the biggest element of the EDM scene is the live performances. Production is a huge aspect of the music and acts and are part of the appeal for the typical fan. These elements include lights, graphics and sound.

Some of the biggest music festivals currently are Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland and Electric Zoo.

Another unique aspect about the EDM scene is radio production. When you find an artist that you like (that is relatively mainstream), there is a good chance you will find a weekly radio podcast by that artist. Here’s an an example of Hardwell’s podcast. BBC Radio One is the Hot 97 of EDM and it is hosted by Pete Tong. Tong breaks pretty much any new music.

There’s a huge internal feud going on with current artists regarding which is better, quality or quantity of production. Joel Zimmerman (deadmau5) is one of my favorite artists of all time  and he is very passionate about production quality in the studio and in concerts. Many see him as somewhat of an elitist, an asshole, if you will. Diplo is another one who comes from this perspective. These two have gone head to head with artists like Afrojack and David Guetta, arguing that their music and production quality has been sacrificed for quick and easy profit by way or producing a high volume of EPs and remixes. I find Zimmerman and Diplo both to be very bright entrepreneurs who both have a history of incredible production, especially Diplo who has worked with a number of other artists before becoming a DJ himself.

This all coincides with the fact that my generation, and I am including myself here, is awestruck by a constant stream of new songs and remixes. We constantly check blogs every day and wait for album releases every Tuesday so we can play the newest, best music at parties and events. Unfortunately many songs get boring after a couple of weeks, and only a handful retain sentimental value in the long-run. So-called fan ADD affects radio programming and festivals production since fans are constantly looking for the newest fads. It serves like a memefication of the music.

Artists like Avicii have been bold enough to take a leap of faith by heading into new directions. His new single “Wake Me Up” is one of the first EDM songs to date that incorporates a country-like style to it. This is a guy who virtually kicked off the mainstream EDM scene with “Levels” and had produced much anticipated “new tracks” at the Ultra Music Festival in March 2013, which weren’t exactly met with approval when he started playing them. In fact, people were actually legitimately pissed off. The track, though, is now one of the few EDM songs playing on mainstream pop radio statoins this summer. Go figure.

I kind of went ham on that response, but let me know if you need any more info.

SUBMIT A QUANDARY/QUERY by emailing me at alexsteed [at] gmail [dot] com. In case you are cautiously interested, I will be keeping the identities of those in search of answers quiet in the column.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.