From the moment I remove myself from the tranquillity of my bed, on average, I spend anywhere between three to six hours flicking through my iTunes, combing SoundCloud or undertaking other related activities in a habitual attempt to satisfy my musical thirst until my saturated head hits the pillow once again. But even people who love electronic music would agree that day-to-day listening can become tiring.
Just to clarify, this isn’t one of those ‘can you have too much of a good thing’ debates. My iTunes is in constant flux and keeping on top of it all requires effort, oh so much effort. The other week I called HM Revenue & Customs to notify them that I’ve taken a second job. So don’t get me wrong, listening to hundreds of tracks, mixes, podcasts, promos, demos, EPs, and LPs every week is all very well and good, but it is scientifically impossible to deny that the psychological act of listening, not to be confused with the subconscious phenomenon of hearing, involves a great degree of brain power.
I’m writing this, I’m listening to new music, it’s difficult. I’m cognitively confused.
And because I’ve been soaking up so much material since graduation nine months ago patterns are beginning to emerge. I’m starting to realise that very few electronic releases have a sense of humour. Some bits leave me feeling sad, every emotion in between, and the vast majority of music that enters my ears makes me happy whether that’s because it’s found a way of attaching itself to specific memories and moments in time, or because I’ve encountered a previously undiscovered gem that I seriously like. Humour breeds happiness, but happiness is not humour. It is important to remember that these frames of mind, although parallel, are far apart. A bit like the difference between dBridge and Phace.
One artist who undoubtedly knows how to cook up humourous music is Swindle. The London producer’s latest album is thoroughly enjoyable and I could cherry-pick a number of tunes from Long Live The Jazz that fit the bill but the whole idea for writing this article came as a result of listening to one of his earlier works which first made me realise that some material just has more about it.
The clue is in the title. The way Swindle so naturally swaps from what begins as an airy, sparkly dubstep track into a sinister monster of a tune and then back again… and then back again, is funny. The beef of the song consists of relentless kicks and slaps of snare accompanied by wave after wave of what is best described as alien bass and when played I can almost see Swindle grinning, probably thinking ‘yeah, this one’s different,’ and most importantly it’s original which counts for so much, particularly within a genre that is often, but not always, quite aggressive.
From dubstep to d&b, Swindle got me thinking that there must be some humorous examples in the genre that I adore most, and a track immediately sprang to mind.
Balloons was and still is a favourite of mine but this revelation shed new light on the tune which has been crafted in a comedic way. I’m not laughing at it, I’m laughing with it because it’s charming, thoughtfully put together, and has a level of jovial depth that many artists are unable to accomplish. A bouncy melody elevates the mood and I even think Super Mario sounds have been sampled in the track.
It’s difficult to determine exactly why humour is so few and far between across electronic genres but nowadays music often gets tossed aside like a bruised apple if it’s not considered to be cool. Maybe having too much fun, or being seen to have too much fun, has become a bit of a taboo. I’ve endured my share of straight-faced, un-bait, soulless DJ sets. Regular event attendees reading this would probably be able to name a person or group of people that they frequently see at the hottest nights but who hardly ever crack a smile. I hear this attitude reflected in the way tunes are produced, the demand is for ‘cool’ music, which is proportional to the growing amount of people who consider themselves to be just that. Don’t worry though, everybody knows that people who try to be cool really aren’t, it’s those who don’t try at all which are, even if that means everybody saw them at the last red carpet event having an incredible time at 5am.
Going back to what I said earlier, if I spend six hours listening to music each day that equates to a quarter of my time. It’s refreshing to spend at least some of that time soaking up the organic comedy that music sometimes offers. Luckily for me some producers have been on the sense of humour thing since back in day.
Stikky has admitted that 70 per cent of the garage he produced contains the type of bass that can be heard in Triplets II and if you’re using it to such a fun effect why not follow the formula repeatedly? Sharp violin chords and a curious melody accompanied by some Indian sounds infatuate the spirit drawing you in before the heavy-hitting and joy-inducing drop arrives.
I’m not sure whether Sticky or any of the producers mentioned knowingly intended to create music in a comedic way, actually I’m not sure whether this post is just nonsense and an entire issue has been fabricated within my strange mind. Ultimately what I’m referring to is music that puts a smile on your face because of the way it’s constructed, music that when psychologically listened to seems made of more. It’s a shame that smiles are stigmatised because funny music is sometimes best.