The Verge – Left-field Beat Makers

Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the edge of a breakthrough. Last week’s column profiled some throwback house music stylists, while today I’ll take a look at a few forward-thinking, left-field beat makers.

For all our talk of dubstep, you might think that anyone producing electronic music that isn’t equipped with a four-on-the-floor beat must describe their music in that way. Clearly, this isn’t the case, as a whole crop of producers are making music that defies easy classification. With influences from hip hop, turntablism, jazz, and R&B, among others, these artists tend towards the atmospheric and orchestral rather than danceable hits and boom-bap bangers. This is background music for an edgy tea house, or for partaking an herbal refreshment at home.

One of the most prominent purveyors of this sound is Flying Lotus. First gaining notoriety for producing the bumper music on Adult Swim, he eventually signed to like-minded record label Warp and began releasing a steady stream of music soon after. His highly anticipated sophomore record, Cosmogramma, is set for release on May 3rd.

The jittery, laser beam electro of Cosmogramma‘s “…And the World Laughs with You” features a brief, heavily processed appearance by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. The song builds over a stop-start rhythm, adding fuzzy synths like so many blankets on a cold, rainy day before devolving into a beat somewhere between jungle and minimal.

He also produced for R&B chanteuse Muhsinah on her slept-on 2009 release The Oscillations: Triangle. The DC native and Foreign Exchange collaborator brings out the sultry side of FlyLo’s music on “Lose My Fuse,” a swirling beat and bass combo acting as the perfect soundscape for her vocal style.

Tokimonsta, a Flying Lotus protege and member of his Brainfeeder Records family, produces a more hip hop based sound. The LA-based artist played a live set at SOVA back in January, and rather than DJing, she manipulates and tweaks beats live. Her remixes give tracks a grimy, lo-fi character, that re-create the music in exciting new ways. Here’s her take on Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick Push:”

Check out Toki’s free 2008 Attention Deficit mixtape, which includes remixes of “How High” by Meth and Red and “A Mili” by Weezy. Her debut EP Cosmic Intoxication is due on Brainfeeder on April 29th.

FlyLo’s Warp labelmate Hudson Mohawke makes music that glitches and shimmers like CPUs singing love songs. At 15, he was the youngest ever UK DMC finalist. At 24, he’s an in-demand producer/DJ, quickly making a name for himself. His compositions are dense, moving, and groundbreaking. “FUSE,” off his 2009 Warp record Butter, is a massive tune full of bubbling synth lines and percussion that crashes through your speakers:

Technology not only allows electronic music to be made in new ways, but it also expands the breadth of sounds and styles that exist. Thanks to the diffusion of music made possible by file sharing and a robust Internet culture, more artists in the mold of Flying Lotus, Tokimonsta, and Hudson Mohawke are over the horizon and on the verge.

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