Light a glow-stick pyre for the corporate-coined, neon-tinged initialism “EDM.” With industry behemoth SFX filing for bankruptcy, bottle-poppers Swedish House Mafia announcing early retirement and Las Vegas club owners second-guessing celebrity-DJ culture, it’s no wonder Guetta released the tongue-in-cheek track “The Death of EDM” (whose lyrics we cribbed in our headline). But electronic music still dominates American festivals and raves, informing virtually every genre in its sphere. All summer long, new noise from savvy artists like the three featured here will drive the ever-diversifying evolution of electronic sound.
Back in the late 1990s, when other southern California adolescents still abided by strict subcultural boundaries, a 12-year-old Korean American kid from Cerritos named Jason Chung picked up the turntables, turned on the computer and instinctively fused G-funk hip-hop, jungle, art rock and British IDM (intelligent dance music). Nosaj (Jason spelled backward) emerged as a breakout producer from L.A.’s beat-scene hub, Low End Theory; he has worked with Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Kid Cudi, among many others. His latest Innovative Leisure EP, No Reality, created partly on an iPad, blurs boundaries between genre, technological format and even sensory perception. “Everyone is unsure what’s going to happen with virtual reality, Oculus Rift and all these new platforms that change how you see the world,” Chung says. “To me, No Reality is doing our own thing with no rules.”
Despite the vintage connotations of their name, few define contemporary eclecticism quite like Classixx. What says postmodernity more than a millennial duo, raised in the Brady Bunch suburbs of Los Angeles and influenced by soulful Chicago house and 1970s disco, whose latest album, Faraway Reach, was recorded in South Africa and other spots around the world and features T-Pain, How to Dress Well and Passion Pit? “Our first record [2013’s Hanging Gardens] was just us and our immediate friends,” says Michael David (at left above), who spent his early years in apartheid-era Johannesburg before moving to southern California, where he met future bandmate Tyler Blake. “For this one, we wanted to collaborate with artists of different styles and expand on what we’d done in the past.” That simple statement speaks for much of the best dance music happening right now. You can’t kill what you can’t pin down.
Envision Janet Jackson as an art school dropout raised on reggae and Radiohead and you’ll start to understand AlunaGeorge. Aluna Francis, the band’s half-Indian, half-Jamaican lead singer, is one of the most vital voices in dance music. (The group’s other member, producer George Reid, opts for a low profile.) That’s her vocal on “White Noise” by fellow U.K. sensation Disclosure, and the duo has collaborated with Skrillex, Diplo, Flume and DJ Snake—whose remix of AlunaGeorge’s “You Know You Like It” hit number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 last year. Some predict that with its just-released sophomore album, I Remember, the band’s effervescent take on house, Jamaican ragga and noirish glitchy beats will change the face of pop. Francis aims for something more personal. “We use music when we need to feel something,” she says. “I want these songs to be the rhythm to those critical life moments.”