A Labelling Nightmare
The term “Dance Music” is being used and overused these days to an extent that it is basically being stripped of all meaning. It would have applied to disco and perhaps some rising electronic artists in the 70s/80s, the horrific, stabby-keyboard based dance tracks of blandness and unusual hair in the 90s (a parody/homage to which has recently been produced by Chase and Status in their 90s throwback spectacular Count On Me), and of course the rise of some mild innovation and more catchy dance tunes such as Ian Van Dahls Castles in the Sky in the 2000s. Fast forward slightly to the present, and dance music could literally mean pretty much anything that one can move their feet to, but because this is 2013 and most of us should know better, the dance music I’m talking about is the electronic kind. This narrows down the field considerably to some commercial artists that have broken through to the “mainstream” (you know, the hipster’s nightmare) such as Swedish House Mafia, Skrillex, and – and I hate to even refer to him as a music artist – David Guetta. While I am more of a fan of the more talented minimal/dance/trance such as Moonbeam or Book Shade, this list will hope to cover both spheres and simply highlight a few of the more impressive dance, trance, and minimal music artists of recent times.
Oh my, yes: Deadmau5 is of course a name that has become synonymous with wobbly electro but that also has some wonderfully diverse tunes to offer as well. Whether you dig the ridiculous mask-wearing gentleman or not, you can’t deny that his discography has contained some bangers over the years, from original tunes like Ghosts n’ Stuff and the soft, breathy vocals in the shower of mid-tempo euphoria that is I Remember (probably one of my favourite progressive house songs to ever exist) to the epic 8-minute The Veldt through to his remixes including that of Pendulum’s Watercolour. Deadma5 most definitely isn’t for everyone, but his traversing of the dance, house, and electro genres means he deserves a place in this list.
Swedish House Mafia
That’s right, propelled to colossal fame and recent, global notoriety with their electronic dance smash hit Don’t You Worry Child and to a lesser extent Save the World Tonight, the now-split Swedish House Mafia have brought electronic musical pleasure to the masses for years though their melodic and occasionally unremarkable style make them hard to stomach for some.
We’re going properly minimal now, and what better artist to strip way the needless synths and over-produced vocals of mainstream house/dance music than Booka Shade? The German duo have been going strong for over a decade and make the minimal genre worth listening to with tunes like Charlotte, the trance-inducing In White Rooms, and the legendary Body Language. With four albums under their belt and millions of fans recognising their minimalistic talents, Booka Shade needed to be on this list.
For such a relatively obscure artist, the duo that make up Moonbeam have banged out a whopping nine albums since 2008 spanning genres like house, dubstep, minimal techno, and trance, making them extremely prolific and notably innovative as well. Their recent work has been what hipsters would definitely refer to as a little “commercial”, pandering to current trends such as the rise of dubstep, but they should be remembered for their incredible minimal tracks such as the spine-tingling 7 Seconds, the one-note melody masterpiece that is Stay With Me, and the atmospheric About You.
Only idiots of the highest order would think that Boratto’s No Turning Back and Beautiful Life are anything less than absolute tunes, and his Chromophobia album was actually awarded album of the month by Mixmag. His innovation has a proud place in the genre of electronic and progressive music and it will only be the aforementioned idiots that deny this.
Tiesto and Armin Van Buuren(?)
The question mark is deliberate and meant to evoke annoyance in commercial dance/trance fans out there because though both artists have come up with some respectable tunes, their brand of dance/trance is so commercial it hurts, our wallets that is. Well, it hurts the wallets of those silly enough to buy the music and go and see Tiesto in a superclub for 100 Euros, but why, people? These artists are distinctly unoriginal and in most songs don’t even drop a noticeably dance-worthy beat, instead relying on 4/4 bassdrum kicks on every beat and over-layering of tired-sounding synth sounds. They had to be on the list because of their ridiculous fame and success, but I struggle to acknowledge that these artists are anything more than house music for the idiotic.
Holding a special place in my musical heart, Knife Party has torn up the electro and commercial (not traditional) “dubstep” scene. Founded by two members of the also-incredible drum and bass group Pendulum, Knife Party have some wobbly electro house songs like Internet Friends (you’ve blocked me on Facebook, and now you’re going to die/get f***ed up), huge remixes such as that of Porter Robinson’s Unison, and the dub/bro-step closing track on their 100% No Modern Talking Ep, Fire Hive. Their popularity is undeniable and their tunes are relentless, so what’s not to like?