Perhaps one of the most unfortunately named genres, experimental electronic music, is the most progressive, expansive and inclusive movements in contemporary music. This non-exhaustive list is to serve as an entry point to the genre’s most recent accomplishments.
The pioneer of ambient music has a wide influence still prevalent today even outside of just ambient music. Eno started his music career in the early 70s in a glam/art rock group Roxy Music and has since contributed pieces to soundtracks for films like “The Beach,” “Traffic” and “Starship Troopers.” He has produced records for musicians like Coldplay, Slowdive and U2. This is in addition to designing several installation pieces, generative music apps and the startup sound to Windows 95.
Key works: “Ambient 1: Music for Airports,” “Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks”
The English musician has been called “the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music,” by The Guardian, and might have the widest range on this list. He is well known for his contributions and elaborations to glitch, ambient, acid techno and so many other various styles.
Key works: “Selected Ambient Works 85–92,” “Richard D. James Album”
Boards of Canada
Boards of Canada have been around just as long as Aphex Twin. The Scottish duo has racked up some big exposure over the years, landing their most recent “Tomorrow’s Harvest” on several best of 2013 lists and a Metacritic score of 85. Boards of Canada are known for their unconfirmed earlier releases and unconventional advertising methods.
Key works: “Geogaddi,” “Tomorrow’s Harvest”
Nils Frahm adds an interesting dimension to the genre through his use of live electronics and piano work. Trained in classical piano by a student of the great Pyotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky, Frahm has mastered classical as well as contemporary pieces.
Key works: “Felt,” “Juno”
The Haxan Cloak
A relatively unknown artist until the release of his most recent album, The Haxan Cloak makes music that lands somewhere between the realms of dance, drone and metal. “Excavation,” his second studio album, was given a 9 out of 10 by Spin and labeled by Rolling Stone as the 16th best dance album of 2013. However, it adheres to no conventional dance standards with its dark, brooding drones and crescendoing, car break-like screeches.
Key works: “Excavation”
Former Canadian political analyst and minimalist techno producer, Tim Hecker has spent time doing a bit of everything. He is most known for his ambient work which has made him a leader in the experimental electronic movement. He is continually well received for his works, with his lowest album rating on Pitchfork Media being a 7.7. He has worked with the likes of Daniel Lopatin from Oneohtrix Point Never for a collaboration album and recorded his second latest album, “Ravedeath, 1972,” with Icelandic composer Ben Frost. His latest album “Virgins” peaked at Number 16 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers.
Key works: “An Imaginary Country,” “Ravedeath, 1972,” “Virgins”
Ben Frost is one of the most active musicians in any field or genre. Other than serving as a protegé to Brian Eno and working closely with Tim Hecker, Frost has composed music for film, dance and video games. He has lent his ability as a composer, producer, recording musician and designer to a handful of other artists. Recently he directed a music-theater adaptation of the “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks. Upcoming release “A U R O R A” is already hyped to be one of the best releases 2014 could possibly debut.
Key works: “By the Throat,” “Sólaris”
Warp, Bedroom Community, Kranky Records and Erased Tapes Records are home to many more artists who are helping define the genre. I highly suggest checking out all of them.
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