Tag Archives: Electronic music

The SoundCloud bootleggers

28 Aug


Copyright law is a funny thing. Mostly written before today’s digital technologies for creating and distributing music and art existed, it’s selectively enforced by creators, rights holders and content platforms, to say the least. Go on any popular music website, from YouTube to Bandcamp to SoundCloud, and you’ll find copyright violations galore. SoundCloud, in particular, seems like a service that was practically built on unauthorized reuse of other people’s sounds.

I wanted to figure out why sites like SoundCloud, while paying lip service to copyright law, allow so much casual infringement to take place. I never really got a good answer to that question (SoundCloud wouldn’t comment, except to reiterate their anti-infringement terms of use), but exploring the question with remixers, lawyers and music professors was pretty fascinating.

How remix culture lives and dies on SoundCloud (Daily Dot)


Remember when it was called “electronica”?

8 Mar


Electronic music has always suffered from poor nomenclature. Lately the term everyone uses and, paradoxically, everyone seems to hate is “EDM,” which I actually don’t mind so much because it’s just short for “electronic dance music,” so it covers pretty much everything. Or it would have, except somehow it quickly came to be associated more specifically with the cheesiest, most mainstream elements of electronic music: your David Guettas and Swedish House Mafias and whatnot. So I guess we’ll have to keep flailing around for a good, all-encompassing term for music made on computers for the purpose of dancing.

Back in the ’90s, another seemingly useful but quickly reviled term came into vogue: “electronica.” Like “EDM,” its creators intended it (as I understand the history—I’m sure others will have a very different take on it) to be a word that could be broadly applied to most forms of electronic music, from house and techno to ambient and downtempo. But as with today’s EDM, ’90s electronica came to connote a loungier, less clubby strain of music made up of beats, synths and samples. And eventually it came to connote only the most banal, mass-produced forms of that easy-listening style of electronic music: compilation CDs with titles like The Chillout Lounge or A Journey Into Ambient Groove. It was background music for aging ravers—or at least that’s how the haters dismissed it, and by extension the term “electronica.”

But—and I’m speaking here as someone who was an aging raver almost from the minute I discovered dance music—a lot of that late ’90s/early ’00s “electronica” was really fucking good. Call it what you will, but the music of artists like Zero 7, Lemon Jelly, Bent and dZihan & Kamien mixed elements of electronic music, soul, jazz, pop and dub/reggae in ways that were totally original and that have held up over time. So that’s why I was excited to attend my first live show by Tosca, the main project of “electronica” elder statesman Richard Dorfmeister. Those early Tosca albums are classics, especially Suzuki and Dehli9. And their thick, sexy basslines would sound great on a big club sound system.

Truth be told, I was a bit kind in my review of the show for LA Weekly. Dorfmeister and his partner, Rupert Huber, aren’t riveting live performers, and the sound system at the El Rey is geared more towards rock shows and didn’t quite do those basslines justice. But it was still a thoroughly enjoyable show, especially thanks to the two guest vocalists the Tosca guys brought along with them, Robert “Earl Zinger” Gallagher and Cath Coffey, formerly of the Stereo MCs. They kept the energy level high, even when the beats were definitely on the loungier side. And hey, speaking as an aging ex-raver, I don’t mind my beats on the loungy side occasionally. Although I’m glad they ended the set with some more uptempo stuff. Us old folks still like to dance, too.

Tosca – The El Rey – 3/3/14