Category: Electronica

Hard Summer books Skrillex, Miike Snow, Boys Noize, James Murphy

Skrillex
L.A.'s own Skrillex and Sweden's electro-poppers Miike Snow are among the many acts that will anchor the 2012 edition of the dance-focused Hard Summer, returning for the third year to the Los Angeles State Historic Park downtown. Reflecting the growth of electronic music and the strength of the festival market, Hard Summer will grow to two consecutive days this year, with opening night slated for Aug. 3.

Other artists set to appear at Hard Summer include Bloc Party, Boys Noize, Bloody Beetroots, Nero, James Murphy, Squarepusher and Bootsy Collins & the Funk Unity Band (full lineup below). Two-day passes are available and start at $119, not including surcharges. Last year's single-day Hard Summer was a sellout with 30,000 tickets sold.

Festival founder Gary Richards said ticket sales in 2012 are between five and 10 times greater than they were at this point last year. Capacity grew last year from about 25,000 to 30,000, and Richards did not yet have final word from the city on whether or not he could expect a similar growth this summer.

Richards said expanding to two days was a no-brainer. "It’s pretty logical to go from one day to two days," he said. "You have to build so much infrastructure –- the staging, the fencing and the power. If you put it all in there for one day, you may as well use it for another day."

It hasn't always been this easy for Richards and Hard Summer. The company is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, but just two years ago the event was caught up in the maelstrom that descended on electronic events in Los Angeles after things went haywire at 2010's Electric Daisy Carnival. Richards had hoped to stage two separate summer events at the park in 2010, but was forced to downsize to one. 

"It’s been a hot-button issue in the city for a long time," Richards acknowledged. "But I think with our operation, everyone likes working with us and we’ve come through on our end to make it as safe as can be."

The mainstream acceptance of electronic music seems to be accelerating at a rather rapid pace, thanks, in part, to Skrillex, who earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist. The recently concluded Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festivalin Indio has placed dance on equal footing with rock since the event's inception, and Swedish House Mafia was one of the mainstage headliners this year. Sunday, Coachella vet Kaskade announced he would be performing a July 27 date at Staples Center.

Despite the recent goodwill toward the electronic community, Richards isn't ready to relax. "Whenever we’re doing an event, we have to bring our A-game and everyone has to be prepared for anything that can happen," he said. "We can’t let down our guard. We don’t leave any stones unturned to try to keep this safe."  

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Coachella 2012: Swedish House Mafia heats up the night

Swedishhousemafia

Late Friday night, shortly after the Black Keys' set growled to a halt, waves of cold festival-goers began surging away from the tents and VIP areas. For a split second I thought they were racing to get off the gloomy field, but quickly realized they were pushing to the main stage to dance up a sweat during one of Coachella's rare, but increasingly prominent, headlining DJ sets.

A colleague of mine referred to the beats of Swedish House Mafia as "big, thumpy stuff," and he's right. But big, thumpy stuff seemed to be just what the crowd wanted. As fine sprays of rain made a silhouette appearance in the glaringly bright stage lights, bodies wrapped in sweatshirts and blankets began to move, spin and bounce.

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

In the much smaller dance tent, where DJs -- many more experimental than the trio of men that make up SHM -- have traditionally played, it's easy to get a good look at the performers onstage, and to get a sense of how they are using rhythm and musical changes to work up a crowd. However, on the main stage, glimpsed through masses of writhing bodies, SHM looked like nothing more than tiny statues beneath an exploding pink-and-blue light show.

Meanwhile, on the field, mini-light shows of all kinds flared up like rockets as light sticks were cracked and flashlights spun in circles. And soon the blankets and sweatshirts that protected dancers from the dipping temperatures were shed, and the field looked as it has in years past: like a sea of bare skin dappled with sweat.

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Photo: Fans dance and toss around a beach ball during Swedish House Mafia's set during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Kraftwerk limited edition catalog box set coming April 10

Kraftwerk limited edition box set of remastered albums coming April 10
In conjunction with Kraftwerk’s series of concerts next week at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the pioneering German techno band has assembled a limited edition box set with remastered editions of eight of the group’s studio albums.

It’s essentially the same set released in 2009, repackaged in a black box and released as a numbered edition of 2,000 copies worldwide that will be available exclusively through MOMA’s physical stores in Manhattan and Long Island and at the museum’s online store. The set is priced at $159.95, or $143.95 for MOMA members.

The performances at MOMA April 10-17 will present each album played in its entirety, combining sound and projected 3-D imagery, played on different nights and in chronological order, from 1974’s “Autobahn” through 2003’s “Tour de France.”

The box set is described on MOMA’s online store as the “complete catalogue,” but actually, just like next week's shows, Kraftwerk is bypassing its first two releases, “Kraftwerk” from 1970 and “Kraftwerk 2” in 1972, as well as the 1973 duo album “Ralf and Florian” made by group founders Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider.

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Photo: Examples of the box set edition. Credit: The Museum of Modern Art.

Pop & Hiss premiere: Big Gigantic's 'Nocturnal'

Pop & Hiss Premiere: Big Gigantic's 'Nocturnal'

Some would say a band name like Big Gigantic comes with some oversized expectations. But with their latest record, the high-altitude club bangers from Boulder, Colo., are proving worthy of the moniker. Forged from a partnership between saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken, Big Gigantic’s combination of dub, jazz and glossy club jams gives a refreshing face to the improv style of electro known as "jamtronica" that's been roaming the outdoor festival circuit.

Over the past year, Lalli and Salken’s live beats and squealing, melodic brass have earned them a year’s worth of tours and crazy festival gigs, including their recent U.S. run with Bassnectar and Pretty Lights.

Just two days after finishing its sophomore full-length "Nocturnal" (out Jan. 11), the duo premieres the album’s soulful, bass-rattling title track on Pop & Hiss.

The sound and the style of "Nocturnal" is emblematic of the group’s focus on heavy-handed, low-end, epic hip-hop production and horn work inspired by Herbie Hancock.

"This album, and this song in particular, is definitely an attempt to capture how we’ve evolved as a live act over the last year," said Lalli, who records and produces all of the music. Onstage, you can typically find Lalli perched over a laptop with saxophone in hand as he fuses his studio made beats with the visceral pounding of Salken’s live drums.

"Jeremy and my tastes are similar in a lot of different ways, and a lot of the drums I make on the computer are really inspired by his drumming,” said Lalli, former member of Colorado jam band the Motet. "I think a lot about how we play live, and then I come in the studio and try to transfer that over all those emotions when I  get ready to record."

Though past releases like their 2010 album "A Place Behind the Moon" favored drum-heavy hip-hop, their latest work allows additional synth and string arrangements, which flesh out their sound. As for “Nocturnal,” Lalli says he was inspired by those who take the concept of night-life revelry seriously.

“I feel like it’s just about a group of people just going out together and just live it up. Any club you go to, you can always spot that group of people in the room just living for the moment and going crazy.”

Big Gigantic, "Nocturnal"

BG-NOC by kwall

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Photo: Big Gigantic is Dominic Lalli, left, and Jeremy Salken. Credti: Steve Conry

 

Brandt Brauer Frick defies electronic-music conventions

Brandt Brauer Frick's "Mr. Machine" manipulates classical instruments to arrive at a sound meant for late-night raving
The abiding problem with seeing electronic music live is that what you're hearing often has no relationship to what's happening onstage. Whether it's a DJ cross-fading or a dubstepper banging on a sampler pad, a guy behind a laptop could be doing almost anything -- perhaps just hitting the spacebar.

The German electronic dance trio Brandt Brauer Frick pulled the curtain back in the video for its well-received single, "Bop." Over its nine minutes, the experimental electronic group takes the stage on a cheeky fake-TV show, "Minimal Parade," and methodically shows you how it's done. The song starts with a whack on a muted drum, then on the side of a xylophone, with stick claps and a bit of synthesized bass to build a handmade house beat. Then clones of the band members join them and build it out -– dissonant pianos, vocal slivers and a human-sized shaker add up to an orchestra of many Daniel Brandts, Jan Brauers and Paul Fricks making some of the most beguiling dance music in recent years.

The clip is a funny riff on the depersonalization of wonky electronic music and also a kind of brave open-source guide to their process. The formula yielded two acclaimed albums, including last month's "Mr. Machine," that manipulate classical instruments to arrive at a sound meant for late-night raving. The band has two dates in Southern California this week, including the Satellite on Thursday and the Luckman on Saturday, part of a rare U.S. tour that continues the buzz from its 2011 Coachella performance, which turned heads for defying nearly every stereotype about electronic dance music -- the biggest being that it's all just cutting and pasting.

"A lot of my studies were in weird, noisy, avant-garde music," Frick said. “But when we started playing them in this dance context, it felt surprisingly fresh."

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