The sorry state of the music industry in 2014 is news to no one, apart from perhaps to those that go to Ultra Festival and spend most of their time there shirtless, doing molly, and thinking that Skrillex is anything to do with the original dubstep movement. I’m not electronic music purist by any means; I like a few Skrillex tracks as much as the next idiot. The thing is, I don’t delude myself into thinking that most modern-day artists are somehow as influential as some of the true innovators of the last two decades. Taking a dim view the shambles that makes up 99% of modern electronic music isn’t being a purist: it’s just plain common sense.
And so to continue the common-sense filled, nonsense-busting course of this post I’d like to just take a moment to list and expand on what are undoubtedly some of the most influential electronic music artists of all time. Notice the lack of names like Calvin Harris, Owl City, Skrillex, and pretty much any modern-day “house” DJ in there? That’s because this list isn’t for pretenders or music artists whose sole purpose in life is to please the idiots only interested in records that are in the Radio 1 Top 40 charts exclusively. On the other hand, an omission from this list also doesn’t denote an actively negative or dim view on the omitted artist, it’s just that there’s only so much room in a “Top 3” list (three places to be precise and sarcastic while I’m at it).
There’s not going to be a list on earth worth reading that doesn’t at some point at least mention Richard D. James’ most famous and indeed most prolific musical guise, Aphex Twin. In fact, I would pay no attention to any list that doesn’t have him at least in the top five because this shows a complete lack of three things on the part of the compiler of the list: 1) musical awareness, 2) musical taste, and 3) common sense.
Aphex Twin is hands-down one of the most influential electronic music artists we are lucky enough to have living in the 21st century. I say this not just because I happen to like his music – you don’t actually need to enjoy his music in order to appreciate the influence and impact he has had on the music industry – but because it’s simply a fact. You cannot listen to albums like Selected Ambient Works 85-92, Come To Daddy, I care Because You do, and the Richard D. James album and come to a conclusion that’s anything other than that Richard D. James is a behemoth of the electronic music scene, and that’s in spite of his relatively reclusive and humble nature.
If you hold a different opinion to this, then I suggest you go ahead and Buy a Copy of I Care Because You Do, listen to the track Alberto Balsam, and just try to argue in contrary to my above statements. That scraping sound occasionally heard in the track is actually a sample James recorded of a chair being dragged across the floor. Now tell me a man that can build a song around that idea isn’t deserving of adulation and worship for his contribution to electronic music. Still unconvinced? Then there’s no hope for you, but I’ll leave you with songs like Xtal, Vordhosbn, Avril 14th, Cornish Acid, and of course, Windowlicker – this will hopefully correct your incorrect opinion.
This duo is without doubt deserving of a place in anyone’s top list of anything to do with music. You’ve only got to listen to the stunning albums that are Homework and Discovery to know that these guys are capable of some serious musical innovation. Daft Punk‘s place in the 1990s house music movement in France is undeniable, but more impressive is their effect on the electronic music genre as a whole. Their use of the synthpop style combined with house music framework basically makes them unique in what they have to offer (with the only other mention being Justice here; these are obviously of a similar style).
Massive and memorable melodies in songs such as Around the World, Aerodynamic, Digital Love, Voyager, and One More Time basically meant that this duo were never destined for anything but fame and influence, though Random Access Memories isn’t anywhere near as innovative as old-school Daft Punk by any means. Go and get yourself a copy of Discovery or download the album from iTunes.
Orbital have been around for quite some time, but it isn’t longevity alone that affords them recognition as one of the most influential electronic music artists of all time. Their innovation when it comes to electronic music and their pushing of electronica in general beyond the rave scene and into the homes of many is commendable.
With so many albums worth mentioning, it’s almost a futile effort to try and fit them in here but just have a listen to Orbital 20, Snivilisation, and In Sides if you want an example of how electronic music should be.