Electronica, beats, computer pop, whatever you want to call music made with machines, there’s no denying that it’s great dance music. The hard-hitting, relentless beats effect humans physically in a different way than rock music, reggae or pop.
I’ve been fascinated with electronic music since over a decade ago when I was a late nite DJ at KCMU radio (what KEXP used to be called). Mostly I was into trip-hop, slowed hip-hop beats with lush organ textures, usually with a female singer. Bands like Portishead, Zero 7, Natural Calamity and Thievery Corporation were my daily diet.
But there was edgy electronic too. I never was (and still am not) into bloopy-bleep computer noises in my songs. I love the computerized beats and machine textures, but they have to be warm. And there has to be a pop element to keep me interested: a singer or live musicians or a strong melody you can hum along to. For me great electronic acts have warmth and soul – like Massive Attack, St. Germain, DJ Shadow and DJ Krush or go beyond that warmth and make fire, heating up the dance floor, band like: Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Daft Punk.
Which brings us to this week’s Saturday Afternoon Artist. Propellerheads are Will White and Alex Gifford, two computer geeks (“Propellerhead” is slang for “nerd”) who worked on a remix of a James Bond soundtrack, then were invited to do an actual song for a James Bond movie. Then teamed up with singer Shirley Bassey, who was known for her songs in Bond films. This combination of live jazzy players and nerdy dance beats is electric.
The other thing about Propellerheads is that their best songs have a spy movie quality. In fact the song “Spybreak” makes you feel like you will definitely catch the bad guy. It was used in the film The Matrix.
If you tune in for my show this Saturday, I’ll play the legal limit (3 songs in a row) of songs from Propellerheads. See you then!
Michele Myers spins Saturdays 3-6pm on KEXP. She also produces KEXP Documentaries and hosts “Wake Up” for KEXP on WNYE 91.5FM in New York City.