We are experiencing a truly revolutionary change in the world of music right now. The digital era is breaking all the rules. The flow of information is unstoppable, granting us access to infinite knowledge and giving us the opportunity to create and build like never before. The best part of all is the stylistic diversity and new forms of sound expression that are being created. Almost every six months you can witness the outburst of a new splice between genres that you would never expect had anything in common.
Of course, nothing comes out of nowhere and the current state of the industry can be somewhat logically explained relying on past influences. At the core of it all is still the primeval urge to shake your body while spinning in circles around the fire, all to the rhythm of the drums: we give in to the vibration, eternally chasing those goose bumps.
Perhaps some genres in music will always maintain solid ground as those were the ones to pioneer, tame and objectify the very essence of sound. Classical music, known for its explorations of harmony, melody and form, gave us the rules and the ability to understand music as a controlled entity. Jazz pushed those elements to a parallel dimension by merging the emotional cry of blues, the academism of the classical school and the pace of its time. By a number of permutations and mutual influences we got to the 21st century and we are on the brink of yet another revolution that is happening right now as you’re reading this.
House Music & The World
Let’s look at some of the sounds that are dominating the music industry right now.
Four years ago Disclosure, without realizing it, sparked a whole wave of sound coming from the UK and inspiring the upcoming generation.
“My Intention Is War”, and pretty much all other records by Disclosure, is a combination of UK garage, American house and soul music, and jazz. Garage is known for vocal chops, shuffled percussion grooves and intricate hi-hat work. (To the uninitiated, vocal chops refers to the practice of chopping up a vocal sample in small segments and using the new samples as instruments in the mix.) The 4-to-the-floor beat, fundamental to house music, combines with soulful vocal samples and merges with jazzy and funky chords to create the unstoppable movement.
Perhaps you have also heard about all the deep house craze that made its way here from Chicago’s underground parties in the 80s and onto the mainstream radio right now. Of course it morphed and is soaked in contemporary production techniques but the influences are clear.
Our next record features Swedish sensation Zara Larsson and MNEK on vocals, totally killing it!
The song starts with piano chords providing the harmony at [0:14] and gradually builds adding strings, building towards the chorus section [0:41], which is then followed by the drop [1:06]. While all the parts preceding the drop are standard pop fare, the drop itself is inspired by deep house. You can clearly hear the pitched vocal chops that are so popular in the dance music scene among deep house producers.
Another rather crazy splice of house music and hip hop is found in this record by Destructo featuring Ty Dolla $ign and ILOVEMAKONNEN called “4 Real”. Destructo is known for his house and techno records and also as the founder of LA’s festival Hard Fest. “4 Real” starts as a typical hip-hop record and keeps on going like this for a whole minute. You get familiar drums and bassline pattern until you reach [1:02] when the record goes into the “deep” dimension with a 4-to-the-floor house beat, UK garage synth plucks, and bassline similar to the sound of Dirty Birds Records and Night Bass brand, both huge in California right now.
Indie, Pop & Future Bass
If you’re familiar with Hype Machine, chances are you already know what we are going to be talking about. A popular wave of sound is poised to entirely dominate the scene. Everything started a few years ago in Australia by a producer known as Flume. This guy was tweaking some knobs in his bedroom and collaborating with an indie artist Chet Faker. What came next is a huge outlet for indie musicians to morph into something completely new.
This sound utilizes intricate percussion work, wavy synths and predominantly indie vocals. Hipsters, rejoice! This is the next big thing and you can dig it “before it’s cool”. While the term Future Bass is primarily used in the dance music circles, the sound itself is already on the top 40.
I remember my surprise browsing through the charts and seeing future bass take it all the way to the Billboard Top 10. This track is “Roses”, written by The Chainsmokers and features Rozes on vocals.
Go to [1:26] to hear the future bass synths come in on the drop. You’ve got everything in this song: melancholic and stripped down production, vocal chops, even trapish hi-hats morphing into a powerful indie bliss.
The latest release by Flume “Never Be Like You,” featuring Kai on vocals, is all about the original intention of future bass. Dreamy synth work followed by huge sounding acoustic drums combines with tasteful percussion popping out at you from every sonic corner. Go to [0:39] to hear signature synths for this genre. It’s the wobble synths that identify the genre. This technique became so widespread that now it is all over the music scene.
Recognizing the Sound
How can you recognize other genres in various songs? The answer is quite simple – listen, listen and listen. Check out the underground scene: that is where the next big thing takes shape.
There’s something special about raw and emerging music genres, probably because they are so sincere and emotional, and don’t have a manufacturer’s stamp all over themselves. If you seek genuineness, right now is the perfect time to take a look around. Like a skillful alchemist brewing potions of sound and vibration from the morphing subtleties of various genres you can find a golden formula. As long as it is true and shakes the walls, you are on the right track!