The phrase “electronic music” can evoke an incredibly wide range of distinct styles and sounds spread across roughly four decades. People who openly scoff at tend to either think of something like Darude’s “Sandstorm” (which while awesome in the context of 1999, it’s longstanding legacy has arguably done more harm than good), or whatever trashy, headache-inducing excuse for dubstep they were aurally assaulted with at their last party.
But electronic music is less a specific genre than a blanket term for several genres of music produced predominantly with electronic implements and/or computer software—there’s an electronic analogue to nearly every genre of “regular” music from classical, to punk, to jazz, etc. Given that wide range, there is, of course, a lot of crap masking the good bits but there’s no need for anyone to write off everything under the umbrella.
In recognition of that, but mostly because we cringe at the thought of Skrillex, The Black Eyed Peas, and every Auto-Tune abusing, kitchen-sink synth arrangement hip-hop artist presenting themselves as the alpha and omega of all that is electronic, here are 10 current and fantastic artists from a diverse array of electronic styles and sub-genres. There’s electro, synthpop, nu-disco, electro-funk, darkwave, electro-R&B, French house and even some dub all up in this selection, and it still doesn’t come close to encapsulating what’s awesome these days across the various genres.
But, it’s a good attempt at a snapshot, and I’ll be damned if anyone reads this list and doesn’t find at least a few things they like. Bear in mind that the style lists are loose; few of these acts fit neatly into any specific sub-genre and many make songs in a variety of styles.
Style(s): IDM, Darkwave, Industrial, Glitch
Currently, Chicago-based Telefon Tel Aviv is Joshua Eustis, but the act started as a duo back in 1999 with Eustis and collaborator Charles Cooper (he’s the guy in the lead image for the article). Their music hits a variety of the darker and more downtempo styles, flirting with industrial, darkwave, IDM, and glitch. Unfortunately, Cooper passed away in 2009 and while Eustis declared he’s soldiering on alone, he hasn’t released anything new yet. Thankfully, Cooper and Telefon Tel Aviv’s legacy lives on through their excellent body of music which includes five albums and a bunch of great remixes, like the Apparat one above.
Also Listen To: “Komponent”, “Sound in a Dark Room”, “The Birds”
Style(s): Electro House, Nu-Disco, Dubstep
This elusive, somewhat mysterious Estonian is a master of great hardcore electro, which can sort of be described as videogame music on ‘roids. It’s heavy on the synths, light on the vocals and has a lot of meaty bass with the occasional wobble. This shouldn’t surprise, as his own twitter describes himself as “Music Producer: 70% of my body is made of video games.” He’s new, he’s awesome and his music energetically speaks for itself.
Also Listen Too: “Sexy And I Know It”, “In The Air”, “Magic Trooper”
Style(s): Post-dubstep, Soul, Electro-R&B, UK funky, 2-step
Yet another anonymous foreigner, SBTRKT has been remixing tracks to high acclaim since 2009, but really broke out and broke new ground with his debut self-titled album that released earlier this year. He mixes soul, R&B, his own self-created synths and excellent beats to make some truly unique electronic music. You should honestly listen to the entirety of that debut album as there’s not a bad track on it, and his music can be played in just about any social setting.
Also Listen Too: “Go Bang”, “Right Thing To Do”, “Pharoahs”
Style(s): Disco, Synthpop, Electro-pop
Yet another member of the “anonymous electro-dude” club, Shook is all about da funk and thus all his remixes and originals carry a distinct retro-’70s mix. The harsh truth is that shook remixes are the songs that Chromeo wish they were behind. If you dig the retro thing but wish there was more funk and less ‘80s pop, Shook is your man. He’s also got one of the greatest artist’s bio pages, presented as a rad graphic novel.
Also Listen Too: “The Worse It Gets”, “Lights”, “Lisztomania”
Style(s): Breakbeat, Electro
Back to something heavy. Bristol-based breakbeat duo Dominic Butler and Mark Yardley make some of the meatiest, heavily syncopated electro on their side of the Atlantic. It’s no wonder considering that they’ve been releasing dope music since 1997, making them one of the longer-lasting electronic acts who’ve still managed to stay on top of the times (unlike Darude…). In particular, their remix of Kele’s “On the Lam”, linked below, cannot be missed. The duo is also known for working with a number of renowned graffiti artists for their covers and merchandise (artist Rough’s artwork for the cover of “Da Antidote” won a design award).
Also Listen Too: “Good Vibrations”, “On the Lam”, “Feel Good Inc.”
Style(s): Synthpop, Disco, New Wave, House
Originally from a small town in Portugal, Munich-based Luis Clara Gomes combines disco and house with modern bass and synthpop touches for some surprisingly smooth and occasionally funky music that’s perfect for sunny weather. His music channels an eclectic range of styles and influences to achieve a sound that’s appropriate for both the couch and the dance floor, a feat not to be underestimated.
Also Listen Too: “Cairo”, “Lights and Music”, “Kilometer”
Style(s): Deep House, Nu-Disco, Electro
It was really tough to choose a track for The Chaotic Good—a toss up between their remix of New Zealand indie group The Scanners’ “Baby Blue” or their heavier but equally excellent remix of Two Door Cinema Club’s “What You Know.” Hopefully, you’ll listen to both. Jake Carpenter hails from the unlikely city of Lexington, Ky., and creates some of the thickest, juiciest synth music I’ve come across. It’s a real art to have music that’s heavy without abandoning melody and straying into noise entirely, but Carpenter nails it in just about every song. He’s a promising up-and-comer in the electro scene, and he tours with an 8-foot-tall, 600-pound robotic statue. What’s not to love?
Also Listen Too: “What You Know”, “Kickdrum”, “Fight For You”
Style(s): French House, Synthpop, electro-pop, Nu-Disco
The German born but French-based Fred Falke had a humble beginning as a bass player in the mid ‘90s before finding his true calling in production and remix work. A student of French House, which draws heavily from both French and American disco samples of the ‘70s and ‘80s along with liberal use of cut-off and phaser effects, Falke’s music is distinctly chill and relaxing with an emphasis on ‘80s-style synth melodies to drive his songs forward. There’s enough bass to keep you tapping your feet, but the focus is on creating a pleasant tune with catchy hooks that march along at a steady pace. If you fancy yourself ‘80s glamorous, this is the music for you.
Also Listen Too: “Doctor Doctor”, “Colours”, “Shampain”
Style(s): Drum & Bass, Dubstep
Jumping back to the heavy side of the spectrum, Austrian drum and bass duo Camo & Krooked (Reinhard Rietsch and Markus Wagner) do dub right. They wobble when they want but never drop the melody and try to out-noise the competition. Their D&B tracks are fast and furious but artfully constructed, channeling the best of forerunners like Australia’s Pendulum while bringing their own unique style to the table. If you live your life at 300bpm+ and/or if you’re interested in dubstep that doesn’t sound like it’s actively trying to offend, give these guys a listen.
Also Listen Too: “Climax”, “Nothing is Older Than Yesterday”, “History of the Future”
Style(s): Synthpop, electro-pop, Disco
I can’t overstate how much I appreciate the incredibly unique work of Portland-based André Allen Anjos and his international associates Andrew Maury and Karl Kling. Together, the Remix Artist Collective (RAC) rework each song they tackle with such a unique flair, you could say that rather than making “electronic remixes”, they reinterpret or re-produce songs into the awesome version that never was. Sometimes that’s turning a dramatic slow-burner into an immensely infectious pop tune like in the Kele remix above or transforming Theophilus London’s sparse “Why Even Try” into a funky, piano driven hip-pop tune that sounds like nothing else I’ve encountered. Other times, the hand is slight. Remixes of “Walking On A Dream” and “Sweet Disposition” seem more like enhanced (greatly so) re-releases by a different production team than what usually comes to mind when someone hears “remix”. Their catalog is huge, much of it is available to download for free off of their soundcloud, and it’s unlike anything else out there. Check it out.
Also Listen Too: “Something Good Can Work”, “Why Even Try”, “Sweet Disposition”, “Frustration”, “Walking On A Dream”