Aug 8, 2009

New York, London, Paris, Munich, everybody talk about complicated electronica with difficult time signatures and a limited listening demographic

XFM are asking listeners to vote on the bestest song of all timest everest.

I don't care. Firstly, I don't listen to XFM. Secondly, it involves other people's opinions.

These polls can go wrong, like the Telegraph's 100 Greatest Songs which stuffed Love Will Tear Us Apart down the back of the proverbial sofa at number 25 while dedicating the top ten to what looks like Mojo magazine's greatest hits.

And thirdly, whether it's a rock or a dance radio station, such polls inevitably miss out electronica.

Yet - and here, dear reader, is the point of this whole piece - writing a good electronica track is about knowing how to pen a great pop song.

Orbital once wrote an ethereal critique of body image called I Wish I Had Duck Feet. It started off unassumingly enough, with reedy percussion bopping over a looped water sample.

But it then builds and builds with melancholic chords swelling to a drum-rolled climax. It never threatens to be chart-worthy at any point, but it is as a perfect a four-minute pop song as Orbital ever wrote.

Their radio edit of Halcyon (as opposed to their long, beautiful sprawling epic Halcyon + On + On) is also worth a mention too.

The Future Sound Of London's Papua New Guinea is probably electronica's greatest pop song, in that it's short, structured, catchy but still unrelentingly electronica.

As a pithy pop package, it's up there with but better than Come To Daddy (pictured), Arcadian, 5:23 and In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country. Okay, some of those are a bit long to be 'pop', but there's something joyfully attractive and self-contained about them.

It's not just old tracks. Clark's Growls Garden signalled a move towards catchiness, having used vocals heavily in his music for the first time.

So I would encourage all other electronica artists to do the same. Aphex, let's have your own version of Song 2. Can we please have action dolls of Global Communication?

And Venetian Snares, you need a bit of glam retro like Girls Aloud, maybe trying out some sassy hip movements in a glittering, flowing dress.

Crikes. I think I fancy Venetian Snares.

1 comment:

steve said...

Great great post and points made here! Yes, Orbital knew how to make a track into a song indeed - true masters of composition. Still, what's with all the "best of" compilations lately (three so far I think) ?

I think Deastro got it right with both of his releases, his second and latest a masterpiece in my humble opinion. It reminds me of Substance era New Order in the sense that he knows just how to tickle the brain and get the ass shaking. I can also think of Luke Slater's Alright On Top lp, which was a bold leap for vocal-tinged electronic music - really stellar stuff!