Using the latest technology to blow minds and move bodies, making impossible sounds come to life with the click of a button: electronic music has always looked toward the future. It encompasses the unpredictable rhythms of intelligent dance music (or IDM), the placid soundscapes of ambient, the quirky hooks of synth-pop, the genre-bending hybrids of experimental electronica, and much more. The story of electronic music actually begins in the ’40s and ’50s, when classical composers first began to use forbiddingly expensive and complicated electronic devices to create new sounds and textures, a radical development that continues to reverberate in classical music today. But electronic music crossed over into the popular consciousness in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when electronic instruments suddenly got a lot cheaper (though not necessarily easier to use).

In the ‘70s, the electronic innovations came quickly. The German band Kraftwerk conjured robotic hooks and shimmering melodies out of drum machines and synthesizers, laying the foundations for both synth-pop and electronic dance music. Producer Brian Eno reinvented the idea of “background music” as ambient music, which provided a sometimes relaxing and sometimes eerie soundtrack to everyday life. By the early ‘80s, electronic music had also transformed the mainstream, radically altering rock and pop, changing the sound of dance music with R&B and disco, and providing the early foundation for hip-hop. But it was the rave era that would launch the next true wave of innovative electronic musicians. The rise of house and techno gave birth to a generation of IDM producers like Aphex Twin and ambient explorers like The Orb, artists who took electronic music out of clubs and remade it into an adventurous soundtrack for everyday life. In the 21st century, the scope of electronic music has only grown more diverse, taking in everything from the indie dance of Cut Copy to the avant-garde techno of Ricardo Villalobos, as electronic artists continue to rewrite the musical rulebook using circuit boards and keyboards.



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    The Underground
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    New in Electronic
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