Modern musical minimalism and you
Minimalist electronic music is about as far from accessible as you get without getting into pure experimental composition. In order to understand or at least appreciate genres like microhouse and minimal techno, one needs some sort of understanding of their influences and goals. Like modern art, it just seems like nonsense until you dive deeper. I think it was Resident Advisor who compared minimal techno to free jazz in terms of accessibility.
There’s a whole lineage that can be traced back through various artists and genres; if you want a more complete history I’d recommend the links above, as I won’t be delving into the historical aspect much. Basically, I think there are a few genres that cross-pollinated each other, had a few subspecies split off, and more or less ended up at the same place. One group comes from the Detroit techno camp, which includes the duo Basic Channel. Hailing from Berlin, they became a large part of the “Berlin sound” which emphasized dark, metallic, atmospheric drones. Meanwhile other German producers were more influenced by glitchy EDM and eventually formed the squelchy, stark backdrop known as microhouse in the early 2000s. Coming at it from the more “conventional” progressive side is an artist like Fairmont, who put out the excellent album Coloured in Memory on James Holden’s Border Community label. And, as is unavoidable in atmospheric music, there are also Eno-influenced soundscapes and Kraftwerk-induced stoicism.
A nice example of the cross-pollination of genres is Deepchord Presents Echospace – The Coldest Season. Deepchord, a Detroit act, was influenced by the Berlin scene, which basically looped these influences back on themselves and came out with one the driest albums you’ll ever hear. The Coldest Season sounds like how you think it would. With blisteringly cold sweeping synths and relentless reverb, the album is a penetrating and unique experience. The Coldest Season is something that really needs to be digested as its gestalt. In contrast to the coldness found here, there’s The Orb‘s Okie Dokie It’s the Orb on Kompakt. While Okie Dokie is still melodically distant, the harmonies are warm and bubbly. Combining Thomas Fehlmann’s rigid German discipline with a touch of Brit Alex Paterson’s whimsy, you get tracks like minimal yet melodic “Traumvogel” (listen) and the shuffling “Cool Harbour” (listen). Fehlmann has also done other work on Kompakt such as Visions of Blah and Honigpumpe, which Pitchfork describes as being “sneakily better than” From Here We Go Sublime by The Field.
From Here We Go To Sublime is the type of album that gets stellar reviews due to its crossing of a cult-like subgenre with more accessible melodies and indie influences. A Swedish gentleman, The Field injects a little emotion and some quirky cut-up melodies into minimal techno. This is probably one of the easier albums for someone to start with if they have a background in something like trance or IDM. While nowhere near as disparate as The Coldest Season, The Field does bring a little chill to the table with “Sun and Ice”. Ricardo Villalobos is another DJ/producer who is seeking to expand the domains of minimalism. Apparently, the genre is now popular enough for the Chilean Villalobos to poll as the number 1 DJ in the world.
Arbitrary song of the day: The MFA – The Difference It Makes (Original Mix)