From commercials to sporting events to pop radio, EDM has surfaced from its underground roots to be fully embraced by rising pop stars and established artists here in the United States. And DJs you were only likely to hear in certain clubs years ago are now making their mark on the mainstream: artists such as Deadmau5, Avicii and Skrillex.
Bassnectar is at the forefront of the rebooted world of electronic dance music. The genre that was supposed to be pop’s next big thing for the new millennium, only to sputter in popularity until it was infamously dismissed by Eminem (“nobody listens to techno”), is back, powered by DJs that most people have never heard of but who are selling out venues all over the country.
“It’s no longer an undiscovered treasure,” says Bassnectar, aka Lorin Ashton. “Everything has its moment.”
In State College, for example, EDM is the focus of recent and upcoming concerts. Adventure Club sold out a show at Levels Nightclub last year, and the venue has boasted a packed schedule of electronica and DJs monthly, including Showtek, Krewella, Kap Slap and more since it opened in 2012; the Bryce Jordan Center booked top electronic DJs Tiesto, Skillrex, Diplo and Pretty Lights in 2012 and international DJ Avicii in 2011. Even Tussey Mountain has embraced the buzz by hosting the Boombox Music Festival, which featured Canadian dubstep superstar Datsik and Germany’s trance master Markus Schulz.
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But this seemingly new genre has been more than 30 years in the making.
Disco’s days were numbered. In the early 1980s, the genre was dying, but according to the BBC documentary “Pump Up the Volume,” Chicago soon became home to a new dance music — house — that involved taking disco tracks and adding drum machines and sound effects.
Soon, DJs began messing around with equipment and eventually started creating their own dance music compositions. A few years later, house took on a harder edge and, because of its darker themes, the music became known as techno.
While house and techno songs were being spun endlessly in clubs across Chicago and Detroit, the music would take several years before it hit the mainstream in the United States. But it didn’t take nearly as long to cross the Atlantic.
In the mid- to late-1990s, groups such as The Prodigy and Daft Punk brought electronic dance music to the forefront of the music industry. But soon the genre began to wane, West Virginia-based Clint Ciroula, aka DJ Clintonics, said, and in the early 2000s, the music began to fade back into the underground. Until the second wave hit in about 2007 and 2008. Ciroula said the re-emergence is because the ability to create EDM songs is much more attainable now than before. All you need is a laptop, no expensive equipment.
“Now everybody has a laptop. Now everybody can make the music,” Ciroula said.
What is music?
Can EDM have a soul when its songs are packed full of machine-created effects?
Sure, Ciroula said. The sheer fact that it is created by a human gives it humanity, but he also pointed out that many DJs and artists may rely too heavily on equipment.
“I think a nice mix is important,” he said. “We shouldn’t throw out the real instruments. We shouldn’t take all the humanity out of music. ... But “what is real music? It’s just a sound wave, a vibration,” he said.