November saw Sydney’s inaugural Electronic Music Conference provide a platform for many essential discussions about electronic music. There was a lot of chat about festivals, marketing, branding, the role of the DJ, and of course the oft-discussed ‘EDM’ explosion in the States and its implications for the rest of the world. However despite the extensive schedule, something monstrous was skimmed over. To look past the USA’s recent surge in influence is to set your gaze upon an even larger movement in the UK. It lurks just underneath the surface of international mainstream consciousness, and when it eventually bursts forth to reveal itself in all its splendour, pop music could be in for a thrilling change.
This movement doesn’t have a name as far as I know. Simply put, it’s all about instilling electronic dance music with the seamless blend of unhinged creativity and shameless pop. The melodies hit all the same notes as anything you’ll hear on commercial radio, yet they somehow don’t seem as obvious; they never leave that sickly sweet, over-produced taste in your mouth. In fact these melodies occasionally don’t even contain words – just snippets of vocals that have been twisted and stretched into incredible reincarnations of their earthly forms, transcending the unaltered voice yet somehow making human hearts swell in the most natural way. Basically, it’s proof that you can enjoy pop music regardless of your level of music snobbery.
What’s more, this music captivates and moves crowds without shoving huge screaming synths in their ears. Underneath the catchy surface is absolutely some of the most creative electronic music that has been heard in a long time. Music is at its most rewarding when it’s passionate and unexpectedly creative, and this movement in sound does all that in an accessible way, without alienating the underground.
Bands like Hot Chip and Friendly Fires helped to lay the path for all this. However the first significant example of the future UK pop sound came about as recently as mid-2010, with the release of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs’ ‘Garden’. Almost exactly a year later, SBTRKT released his debut LP, containing the soon-to-be single ‘Pharaohs’. Both of these tracks – well, songs really – were huge as you know. As it turns out though, their purpose was to light up the path for this new wave of producers. This is where it gets exciting.
Over the last year or so, Disclosure have been creating incredible music as part of the development of the future garage sound. But with the release of ‘Latch’, they’ve started to reach a whole new audience. Bondax and AlunaGeorge stride alongside them; a trio of English duos contributing something increasingly rare in electronic pop music – boundless creativity. Two of these three teams have already toured (or are currently touring) the States, despite their fledgling careers, and are expanding their sound globally. They sit at the centre of the movement, and are crucial to how everything plays out.
However it’s not all in their hands. Carling Ruse and Wih’lo are making themselves heard in the US, Cashmere Cat is pushing something truly unique all the way from Norway, and Karma Kid is backing up the big three in the UK. Here in Australia, Flume’s twisted version of pop is blowing up in a huge way. In fact his album sat at #1 on the domestic iTunes charts for a while, above offerings from The Rolling Stones and the outrageously popular One Direction. Needless to say, there’s a UK-led, but very global push to inject creativity back into mainstream electronic pop music. Pop can be more than just a product. It can be art.
This new, open-minded interpretation of pop music is impossible to ignore. While it’s not as straightforward or aggressive as the ‘big’ sound that the USA is buying right now, it’s got the same ear-catching immediacy that morphs into the uncontrollable desire to dance. Moreover, the two sounds rely on very different sparks to create a similar energy, so there is definitely room for both sounds at the top. The movement is already in motion. Many people are just discovering their hunger for something different. The future of pop music is bright.