By: Brennan Carley, Taylor Cavallo, & Dan Siering
A close cousin to trance, electro house music uses similar synthesizers and catchy lyrical melodies, yet the genre’s DJs tend to speed up the tempo and build up songs quicker for more powerful drops. Electro house still stays away from the intense, song-altering drops more accustomed to dubstep, as the DJs aim to create clean and euphoric sound. Despite a rather small following in Europe, electro house’s popularity has grown exponentially in America, as famous DJs within the genre constantly tour in the States.
No one in DJ universe had a bigger 2011 than Tim Bergling, better known by his stage name Avicii. The 22- year-old Swedish DJ exploded onto the music scene late in 2010 with his upbeat single, “Seek Bromance.” Then, spring of last year, the smash-hit “Levels” surfaced on the Internet and quickly invaded the playlists of radio stations and college parties across the country. The success of his catchy electro anthem has effectively brought the Swedish DJ and the electro house genre into the mainstream and, coupled with the popularity of fellow countrymen Swedish House Mafia, there’s no signs of this being a one-year fad.
With an onslaught of popular singles and a rigorous touring schedule, Avicii is arguably the most popular DJ in America right now. Interested in seeing the electro house superstar? He will be playing the Mullins Center in Amherst on Tuesday. And it shouldn’t be hard to find a ride—several of your fellow classmates have already brought their tickets.
Considered the tamest of the electronic genres, progressive house gets its name from the slow but steady build-up of its increasingly complex melodies. While some modern progressive mixers tend to incorporate heavy electro sounds into their songs, progressive music in its purest sense consists of tame and docile melodies. The trademark long runtime of progressive house tracks allows DJs to stack up the anticipation towards an unsurprising yet pleasing drop. Unlike dubstep or techno, it’s the type of electro music that you can use as a backdrop while reading a book or studying for a test.
Perhaps the most visually recognizable of the DJs, sporting an unmistakable, typically red ‘mau5′ head, this Canadian-born DJ released his first album Get Scraped in 2006. He blew up after three collaborations with Rob Swire, his Australian artistic counterpart and producer, had reached number-one on Billboard dance hits—the most well-known is “Ghosts n’ Stuff,” which was later featured on a PlayStation commercial (the mix of the same song, entitled “Moar Ghosts n’ Stuff” is perhaps better than the original and worth checking out). In 2009, he was named the best selling artist on Beatport, with more than 30, 000 downloads of his singles “Not Exactly,” “Ghosts n’ Stuff,” and “Faxing Berlin.” Known for his high-energy performances, Deadmau5 seems to enjoy performing, and has no doubt widened his audience by attending music festivals such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Coachella, gaining respect from artists and fans who may not necessarily be drawn to the electro/progressive house genre.
Heavy dubstep drops and electro bass lines not your thing? Perhaps you are most suited for the trance lifestyle. While not very popular stateside, trance has been a solid cornerstone in the European music scene for almost two decades. With hypnotic synthesizers and slow buildups and breakdowns, trance music looks to lull the listener into a dreamlike state. A trademark of the trance genre is the catchy lyrical progressions that frequently accompany the docile synth melodies.
Armin Van Buuren
If you’re looking to begin an exploration into the world of trance, look no further than Armin Van Buuren. Coming from the Netherlands, arguably the epicenter of trance, Van Buuren is perhaps the most popular DJ on the planet. Singers such as Sharon den Adel and Nadia Ali have become famous overnight because of their collaborations with Van Buuren. He held the top spot of DJ Magazine‘s infamous top 100 list from 2007-2010, and his weekly internet radio show, “A State of Trance,” attracts over 15 million viewers a week. His latest show showcased his infamous year mix, Van Buuren’s personal mashup of the eighty most popular trance songs of the year.
Currently touring through Latin America, Van Buuren will return to the U.S. for a spring circuit, including a headline gig at the Ultra Music Festival. Rumor has it that the Dutch DJ will debut some tracks from his upcoming album, set to be released later this year, at Miami’s infamous electro festival.
Easily the biggest British musical export since the Beatles, dubstep features what Wikipedia describes as “overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns.” Though it has only recently weaseled its way into the mainstream, thanks to artists like Britney Spears, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, dubstep has been a staple of British music for over a decade.
“What is a Skrillex?” countless people asked themselves after the dubstep maven infiltrated November’s Grammy nominations. This year, the Best New Artist nominee gained fans after the release of his now-hugely popular Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, an EP that takes a YouTube clip of a girl “cup stacking” and urgently distorts it. The effect is a pulsating, incessant sound that demands listeners’ attention. In December, Skrillex released Bangarang, an EP featuring popular Brit-pop singer Ellie Goulding. The disc showcases the DJ at his best. Present are his prevalent heart-stopping drum drops and fuzzy, chopped-and-screwed vocals. Last week, he dropped a remix of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” that reinterprets the song without losing its core, which is perhaps why audiences are finally taking notice.
Techno is the grandfather of the electronic music craze, as its history stretches back into the 80s. The backbone of a techno song is its heavy and persistent drumbeat, which usually comes in early and sets the standard rapid pace of the genre. The accompaniment to these drums is usually high octave synthesizers and a booming, infectious low octave baseline. The genre found its audience in America during the rise of the 90s rave culture and has occupied a small niche in the music industry ever since.
Without Benny Benassi, it is safe to say that none of these DJs would exist. Benassi is the father of all things techno, bringing the underground house music epidemic to the main stream; his 2002 hit “Satisfaction” is not only immediately recognizable by its pounding bass line, but is a timeless party classic (and well known for its infamous music video featuring tall models and power tools). With five solo albums under his belt, the most recent one released in June 2011, Benassi who is (shockingly) 45 years old, has clearly lost none of his talent or drive. The Italian DJ has collaborated with a huge variety of artists, from Outkast to Chris Brown. His most famous remix, perhaps, is “Bring the Noise,” a mix of the Public Enemy song of the same name, which won a Grammy for Best Remix in 2008. While he may be a seasoned vet, this DJ certainly cannot be overlooked or ignored.
Last February, The Scene did a spotlight on how dance music is infiltrating the pop world, and 2011 proved to be no different in that regard. Top 40 hits featured clubbier beats, spiraling choruses, and bass lines too deep to resist.
Nowhere is dance’s influence in pop clearer than in Calvin Harris’ work. The Scottish DJ began his career in 2007, and has since released several albums—including the instant classic Ready for the Weekend—that topped the charts overseas. His glossy, synth-driven music frequently features his own vocals, but Harris is a generous man. A purveyor of massive beats, Harris aided Rihanna in her quest for dancehall domination with “We Found Love,” that song you can’t get out of your head once you hear its opening chords. He also worked on the Barbadian’s “Where Have You Been,” a song that is certain to blow up in 2012. Another notable Harris song, “Feel So Close,” sends up Americana—think of it as the Friday Night Lights theme song on acid. With an impending album and dual appearances at both Coachella weekends, Calvin Harris seems poised to conquer the charts all over again.