Just over a year after the death of dance music superstar Avicii, the electronic scene is in flux, faced with hip-hop’s dominance as the youthful party music du jour.
Artists in the once underground genre largely associated with nightclubs and raves are branching out, toying with new features in their acts like live instrumentals in a bid to stay fresh and win new fans.
Avicii was one of the first DJs to take electronic music mainstream, playing to massive crowds at festivals and collaborating with pop stars including Madonna and Coldplay.
The Swede’s untimely death at the age of 28 left a void, with many calling Avicii EDM’s version of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman who died at age 27.
Prior to his passing, the DJ cautioned that EDM — which includes styles like house, techno, trance and dub step — must evolve to stay alive.
“Since it got so big in America the past couple of years, dance music is taking over everywhere,” he told the London Evening Standard.
“It’s important that it keeps changing so it doesn’t become a fad.”
Now, with an eye for more musicality and performance art, many of today’s contemporary EDM artists are shelving the higher-intensity, party-pounding beats for more experimental work.
The Canadian duo Bob Moses has crafted a blended rock-electro style with live instruments and robust vocal hooks, breaking out of the warehouse scene they grew up in to play major festivals like Coachella and New York’s Governors Ball.
“When we came together in the time that we did and the place that we did — which was Brooklyn in, like, 2012 — it was all about underground dance music and warehouse raves,” said the duo’s Tom Howie.
“That was like super punk rock — super new and exciting.”
EDM’s move into the mainstream opened up new paths for the duo, they say, leading them to experiment with bringing mics and guitars into DJ booths to create a fusion sound.
Jimmy Vallance — the other half of the group — says emphasizing the lyrics of their songs has allowed the pair to reach a wider audience.
This way, they can “really let the songs speak, as opposed to leading with the production,” Vallance said.