A few things that kept dance music original in 2013
We’re celebrating artists and originators carving their own unique path in music thanks to ORGNL.TV, a new content hub by Stolichnaya Premium Vodka. To mark the end of a very good year for electronic music, we’ve looked back at the last 12 months to pick the 10 most original moments of 2013: from unexpected collaborations to innovative beats and beyond.
Avicii breaking all the rules
Having quickly become the poster boy for global EDM domination, the producer and DJ worshipped by many as Avicii could easily have spent 2013 resting on his prior triumphs and delivered a debut album full of big drops and certain hits. That didn’t happen. Regardless of how you feel about Tim Bergling, the Swedish superstar tried hard to break new ground with his anticipated debut LP True. That meant roping in an unexpected cast of supporting players including members of Incubus and Alison Krauss’ band, former American Idol Adam Lambert and the inimitable Nile Rogers.
Even more unbelievable than turning the mournful Hope There’s Someone from Manhattan avant-garde stars Antony & The Johnsons into a stomping club tune was Avicii’s fusion of main stage EDM bigness and soaring indie-folk in the vein of Mumfore & Sons, for monster single Wake Me Up. Better still was the choice of vocalist with soulful Stones Throw singer Aloe Blacc belting out the refrain to create some new mutant sub genre of country-soul-EDM. Such audacity from Bergling could quite easily alienate the producer’s built in fanbase but, like the most effective innovations, it only swelled his appeal to all encompassing new heights.
Everything about Midnight Juggs’ ‘Ballad Of The War Machine’
Australian three piece Midnight Juggernauts veered rather wildly from their earlier indie-dance roots on their 2010 LP The Crystal Axis, the Sydney group embracing a more psych-kraut sound that has come to feel most authentic for the band. That said Midnight Juggernauts haven’t skimped on their love of keyboards and the catharsis of a subterranean groove, which is just what listeners got on the woozy Ballad Of The War Machine. With some off-kilter ‘70s sci-fi vibes Ballad… gets the precise video treatment with what appears to be a lost Soviet art/reality television experiment. Bless these loons, it totally works.
James Blake’s hip hop collaborations
Englishman James Blake had a banner year in 2013, criss-crossing the earth with his spectacular live show and deservedly taking out the Mercury Prize with Overgrown. Blake also confirmed his status as an ambitious and adventurous young musician following a pair of stunning rap collaborations, with RZA on album cut Take A Fall For Me and later Chance The Rapper on the stand-alone tune Life Round Here, the former keeping low and slimy like the best Wu-Tang tunes while the Chance The Rapper collab’s a hypnotic crossover of falsetto, rambling verses and futuristic production.
Ta-ku brings all of the feels
The new wave of Australian electronic producers has offered up some outstanding new sounds which have quickly infiltrated clubs and radio alike, having already lit up the blogosphere on the ‘net. But it was beginning to feel as though the scene was searching for a heart to go along with its brains and fleet-footed energy, and with no Chet Faker full length in sight, it was left to West Australian star Ta-ku to drop anchor with his grounding release Songs To Break Up To. Yes, the collection contains plenty of examples of Ta-ku’s superior production powers but tunes like We Were In Love and I Miss You are full of emotional resonance that can’t be easily manufactured. A cohesive, rich package like this is just what we needed.
Daft Punk’s oral history of Giorgio Moroder
True originals in their own right, French dance masters Daft Punk keep us guessing with every dribble of information leading up to their celebrated comeback record Random Access Memories this year. The LP holds collaborators galore, from straight-forward guest stars like Pharrell Williams, Gonzales and Nile Rodgers to left field choices like Animal Collective singer Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas from New York garage group The Strokes.
The most remarkable coup on the record though has to be be luring electronic pioneer Giorgio Moroder out of hibernation for Giorgio By Moroder, a nine minute long biography narrated by the man himself. This shouldn’t work. It’s essentially an audio book with a soundtrack carved from the same stone as Moroder’s finest discotheque cuts from the turn of the ‘80s; arpeggiators rolling while Moroder ambles in his reminisces of early synthesiser experiments. But it makes perfect sense – the robots paying tribute to their hero with a surprisingly accessible album track oddity.