The EDM Dictionary: DJ Set (n.)

Definition

On set lists, “DJ Set” indicates that the artist(s) will be mixing pre-recorded music, not creating music or incorporating live elements (such as instruments, vocals, drum machines, etc.). This term usually appears when the artist(s) are known for performing with elements beyond the traditional DJ setup.

Explanation

You can think of the term DJ set as being the opposite of a live set, in which the artist will be performing some elements of the show live onstage. (Another term for a live set is “live PA,” or live performing artist. While this terminology is still used, Google Trends indicates that it is not as common as the term live set or liveset.) Similarly, the term “vocal set” indicates that the performer will be singing in addition to mixing a DJ set, but not incorporating other live elements.

Further Reading

In this 2010 post, the performing artist Quiet Entertainer outlines an episode in which a fan approached him after a DJ set, disappointed that he hadn’t performed in his normal live manner which incorporates performance art. Quiet Entertainer then vows to clarify on future set lists if he will be playing a DJ set instead of his normal live set (or live PA, as he calls it), to prevent confusion.

Avicii Defends Ingrosso, Digs Up Rare Tracks in New “Levels” Podcast

Avicii performing in 2012. Photo credit: Copyright Drew Ressler/rukes.com.

Avicii performing in 2012. Photo credit: Copyright Drew Ressler/rukes.com.

In the April episode of his Levels podcast, Swedish superstar Avicii has a lot to say, including a passionate defense of his friend Sebastian Ingrosso. In case you missed it, Ingrosso and Axwell (okay… Axwell Ʌ Ingrosso if you want to be official about it) set off a firestorm of criticism a few weeks ago in a New York Times profile, in which they referred to underground music as “amateur.” They later defended themselves by explaining that English is not their first language, so the word choice itself may have been… ahem… amateur. In the podcast, Avicii backs up his friends, arguing that the newspaper clearly placed the quote out of context. Avicii, a longtime fan of Ingrosso, has had his own troubles with the press before, so it’s not surprising when he tells listeners “don’t believe believe everything you hear in the press. It’s all sensationalism.”

The News

Swedish house drama aside, Avicii, a.k.a. Tim Bergling, treated us to all sorts of other tidbits in this episode. Here’s some of what we learned.

  • Tim is promising exclusives from his back catalog that “no one has heard before,” to be revealed over the next few episodes of the podcast. He started with an old bootleg of Kings Of Tomorrow‘s “Finally” at the end of this month’s show, a throwback to Avicii’s classic sound full of rich piano, catchy claps, and soulful vocals.
  • He’s developed a serious “bromance” with Martin Garrix, which is pretty adorbs if you ask me.
  • He’s working on his upcoming album, Stories, 8 hours a day. As usual, Tim will be pushing genre boundaries, announcing that the album features some songs at a slower BPM, and at least one that’s not in 4/4. I can’t wait to hear that.
  • He will be returning to perform a residency at Ushuaia Ibiza on Sundays in July and August, which he seems super excited about. (I mean, who wouldn’t be?)

The Music

I find the Levels podcast to be very hit and miss. Last month’s episode was a heaping helping of generic, big room bangers, and frankly made me consider unsubscribing. This week made up for it though, with plenty of progressive and electro house in the mix and enough variety to keep things interesting. And a handful of the songs really on this episode stood out to me:

ID – “Red Roses”

“Holy shit!” was my reaction when I hit that drop. The track starts inauspiciously enough, sounding a bit like an old western tune with a folksy stringed instrument strumming on the off-beat and a reverby electric guitar-like lead crooning away. There’s the build – “and then it hit me!” – and boom, you just got dropped into some seriously funky deep house. Someone call The M Machine because it looks like their sound’s got a new challenger. I’m left wondering who’s responsible for this creative and killer track. (Not sure what ID means? Read the definition in the EDM Dictionary.) [Update 11 May: Looks like this track is the work of Pep & Rash.]

Mike Candys & Jack Holiday – “The Drill”

I’m a sucker for a good electro house beat, and this song had me hooked from the beginning. It’s got some serious Deadmau5 influence going on, invoking most obviously “Some Chords.” Between the monotonous electric lead, the driving kick, and the thrumming bass, it’s a great, danceable track, even if it doesn’t have all the subtlety of a Deadmau5 production. And hats off to Avicii for mixing this one seamlessly into the much more ferocious “Summer” by DIMARO, whose lead synth sound is nearly identical.

Avicii & Ash – “Papa was a Rolling Stone”

One of my favorite things about Avicii is his deep respect for his musical roots and influences. This song is a perfect example of that, in which he pays serious tribute to Stevie Wonder, essentially ceding the entire break to the soulful musician as he rocks the fuck out on a talk box. The clip is excellent – it shows off Stevie’s virtuosity while incorporating the priceless reactions of the audience as well as a low-fi sound that places us in time back to the 70s. The song then segues into an acid-influenced big-room electro beat which, to be honest, pales in comparison to Stevie’s jamming. Tim calls Stevie’s performance “the definition of swag,” which is entirely accurate.

Oh, and if you’re wondering who Ash is, that would be Ash Parnouri, Avicii’s longtime manager and an industry mogul.

Check out the full track list below and catch the podcast on iTunes here.

Avicii Levels Podcast Episode 035 Track List

01. Dear David – I’ve Been Waiting
02. Eric Prydz – Generate
03. Merk & Kremont – Get Get Down
04. Martin Garrix & Tiesto – The Only Way Is Up
05. ID – Red Roses
06. MOGUAI & Joey Beltram vs Cobra Effect – The Zound (Energy Flash)
07. Valentino Khan – Deep Down Low
08. Mike Candys & Jack Holiday – The Drill
09. DIMARO – Summer
10. Firebeatz & DubVision – Invincible (Instrumental)
11. AVICII & ASH – Papa Was A Rolling Stone
12. Henrix Feat Celeda – The Underground (David Tort Digital Lab Remix)
13. Kings Of Tomorrow – Finally (Avicii Bootleg)

The EDM Dictionary: Producer (n.)

Definition

Producer (n.): In EDM, a producer is a person who creates electronic music. Unlike in other genres, such as pop and hip-hop, in which producers (i.e. “record producers”) oversee the process of making music on many levels, in dance music a producer refers to the artist who creates, or “produces”, the music. Producer is a distinct term from DJ, although producers often are DJs.

Description

A DJ is someone who plays recorded music onstage using decks; the term makes no claim about his or her ability to create music. A producer is the person who creates electronic music; the term makes no claim about his or her ability to play that music, or incorporate it into sets onstage.

Some producers, such as Nigel Good and Mikkas, are not DJs (or at least choose not to DJ), and many DJs are not producers. It is generally acknowledged that producing requires a much larger and more technical skill set than DJing.

These days, most producers are expected to DJ, and, increasingly, in order to get booked at decent gigs, DJs are expected to be producers. Because of this, almost every big-name DJ in the electronic music scene doubles as a DJ and producer. If a DJ is incapable of producing but still wants to achieve fame, he or she may hire a “ghost producer.”

Show Review: Madeon’s Adventure Tour Debut at the Warfield

On Friday night, Madeon kicked off his Adventure Tour with a highly-anticipated show at the Warfield in San Francisco, with SF natives The M Machine joining him as openers. In fact, there was so much pre-show buzz that the venue was moved from the Regency Ballroom to the Warfield in order to meet demand, according to the promoters. It was an interesting change, as the two venues are very different spaces, but in the end a welcome one, as the tiered, theater-style seating allowed much of the audience a great view of the show.

The M Machine: Hometown Heroes, Hampered as Openers

The M Machine took the stage a few minutes before 9 PM. During their hour-long set, the duo (until recently, a trio) played their best songs from their Just Like EP, including “Just Like,” “Don’t Speak,” and “Pluck Pluck,” plus some of their classic material from Metropolis parts I & II. Most of these got the remix treatment, though they did play the lush and funky “Immigrants” in its full, original glory. Among the non-M Machine tracks they played was Valentino Khan‘s “Deep Down Low.”

The show was held at the Warfield, a theater space, instead of the Regency Ballroom.

The show was held at the Warfield, a theater space, instead of the Regency Ballroom.

I had been excited to catch the guys at a rare hometown show, albeit as openers. When I saw them play at Ruby Skye on the 4th of July of last year, the audience had been sparse but passionate, freeing them to play a weird and impressively hard-hitting set. That same atmosphere did not carry over to the proscenium stage of the Warfield, unfortunately. While a certain portion of the crowd was definitely into it — even chanting “M Machine! M Machine!” at one point — the majority of people bobbed along to Eric and Swardy‘s unique brand of house music half-heartedly while waiting for Madeon to come on. Swardy seemed to acknowledge the lackluster reception at the end of the set, saying, “I know it’s early…” in a way that seemed to be part admonishment, part apology.

Madeon: His Own Secret Weapon

After a brief break to clear The M Machine’s gear, Madeon took to the stage in a leather jacket, unleashing his massive energy

Madeon's Adventure Tour rig invokes Daft Punk and Porter Robinson

Madeon’s Adventure Tour rig invokes Daft Punk and Porter Robinson

on the audience to the sounds of “You’re On” (feat. Kyan). He’s a tiny guy (and still not even drinking age!) which makes his incredible stage presence and clear enthusiasm all the more striking. Part of a DJ’s job is to lead the audience in energy, and even with a light show as elaborate as Madeon’s, if the DJ isn’t into it, the audience won’t be either. But from the second Madeon, a.k.a. Hugo Leclercq, strode on stage, it was clear that he was there with us and for us, just as excited for his tour’s debut as we were. Just moments into the show he was taking power stances, throwing his arms up into the air, leading the audience in rounds of clapping, and even throwing his arms out to the side in classic Armin van Buuren style. His intensity was on the level of the greatest of live DJs like Seven Lions and Skrillex, and like Skrillex inside his mothership, Madeon served as the beating human heart of the epic stage rig, from which all the energy in the room ultimately flowed.

Touring Under the Influence (of Daft Punk and Porter Robinson)

For the tour, which supports his brand new, #1 albumAdventure, Madeon has built a stage rig to rival the most famous setups of EDM stars like Feed Me and Sub Focus. The stage itself, all angles with diamond structure surrounding the DJ, seems to invoke Daft Punk‘s unparalleled Alive 2007 rig. In fact, it’s clear that Daft Punk is this fellow French producer’s biggest artistic influence, from his funky electro-house sound, to the live triggering that makes up the backbone of his show. There was a moment where I was sure he was going to drop “Robot Rock,” and, as the video below makes clear, some of the lighting effects on his rig seemed to be a direct homage to the androids’ Alive tour (compare to footage of Daft Punk’s live “Television Rules the Nation/Crescendolls” mashup).

The rig also strongly resembles Porter Robinson‘s Worlds setup (another influence and a close friend of Madeon’s). The main difference here is that Worlds is an artistic statement in which Porter strives to distance himself from his electro-house past, while Madeon fully embraces his sonic origins with the Adventure Tour, bringing you a stunning spectacle that is ultimately all about dance music.

A Stage Show for the Ages

IMG_8987The stage rig included what seemed to be a couple of laptops, three midi controllers (including the Novation Launchpad that helped launched his fame with his “Pop Culture” Youtube video), a keyboard, and a microphone. Madeon performs with the midi controllers tipped towards the audience, which is an awesome touch. It of course helps show off the undeniable technical ability that sets him apart from “button pusher” DJs, but I also like that it celebrates the small, beautiful wonder of midi controllers themselves: you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on building fancy stage setups, but at the end of the day, most of what’s coming out of the speakers is reproducible on that one tiny, light-up device.

Welcome to the Madeon Show

The song selection was almost all Madeo and included plenty of live exclusives. One of the age-old criticisms of DJs is that, unlike instrumentalists, they’re not creating anything onstage – just reproducing things. Madeon knocks down that criticism handily, crafting one-off remixes of his tracks using his midi controllers as a canvas. He went most wild with “Technicolor,” leaving aside the melody of the recorded version to improvise the lead onstage.

Song selections included “You’re On,” “Cut the Kid,” “Imperium,” “The City,” “Raise Your Weapon,” “Pay No Mind,” and “Finale.” (I was secretly hoping to hear him drop some Lady Gaga, whose recent album ARTPOP he contributed to but alas, it was not so.) The audience cheered loudly when he dropped “Pop Culture” itself in a deftly reproduced live mashup.

Madeon kicked off his Adventure Tour at the Warfield in San Francisco on April 10th

Madeon kicked off his Adventure Tour at the Warfield in San Francisco on April 10th

One of the best surprises of the night was when he brought the energy down low, turned to the keyboard, and started to sing over the smooth tones of a Rhodes to “Home.” It was a special moment, even if I couldn’t make out the lyrics due to a buzzing crowd.

A Show for the Ages

Madeon brought his A-game for the first night of the Adventure Tour, and I’m confident that his passion will continue to make this show come alive for all audiences over the coming months. It had everything you want in a live show: great music, spectacular visuals, high energy, and an excited crowd, plus live creations and exclusives. The tickets for this show got pricey ($52 for the most expensive seats), but if you can scrounge up the cash, I highly, highly recommend going for the experience. You will not regret it.

Below is the Snapchat story I took during the night, including The M Machine’s and Madeon’s performances. If you want to catch these stories as they happen, follow me on Snapchat at theedmist.

The EDM Dictionary: Massive (n.)

Definition

Massive (noun): In EDM, massive can refer to 1) a large-scale rave (“a massive”), typically a festival, or 2) Native Instruments’ Massive, a popular software synth used by producers.

Description

Festivals are sometimes called “massives,” referring to the massive amount of people participating in the event. One example of this is the 1Life festival, launched in 2014, which billed itself as “America’s First Gay Massive.”

Native Instruments’ Massive, part of their Komplete collection, is a venerated and powerful software synthesizer that his long been one of the most popular choices by producers in the EDM scene, along with LennarDigital’s Sylenth1. It is particularly strong at creating bass lines due to its FM capabilities.

Weekend Listening 4/10/15: Andrew Bayer, JumoDaddy, Kant, and DJ Ash

As I continue to work my way through the feast of sets from Ultra 2015, in preparation for the summer festival season, I turned this week to Andrew Bayer‘s performance at the ASOT stage. While I feel that Bayer’s recent club tracks sound largely the same, and was underwhelmed with his Do Androids Dream EP, I have to say his music really came alive in this expertly crafted Ultra set. I think it goes to show how real the art of crafting a set is. The songs you hear, and the order in which you hear them, create a flow, and subconsciously set up your expectations for what should come next. In this case, the songs from Bayer’s recent EP don’t hold much luster for me when heard on their own, or as one-offs in sets with much different flavors, but when spun together like a quilt, I can follow the patterns with pleasure. Along the way in this Ultra set, there’s some great surprises, including a throwback to Delerium‘s classic, “Silence,” several IDs, and a whole lot of Above & Beyond. The set is also a free download from the UMF2015LiveSets account on SoundCloud. Enjoy.

Speaking of Ultra, it was while rewatching Skrillex‘s excellent set with friends on Saturday that I discovered this gem of a brostep song by JumoDaddy, which Sonny mashed up with his and Kill the Noise‘s own track, “Recess.” I love how it plays with triplets in the depths of that insane drop. It turns out that this is one song of a four part EP, available for streaming on SoundCloud, themed around the four horsemen of the apocalypse. All four tracks share the same gritty, groovy sound, but “Black Horse” is definitely the best of the bunch. Excited to dig deeper into the catalog of this talented Bulgarian producer. 

I found this next one indirectly through Le7els, the Avicii podcast a few weeks back, when he played an ID remix. I couldn’t get the catchy vocals out of my head though, so googled the lyrics to find the original, which features that same insane rap over a deep house beat. It’s been running through my head nonstop for a week. I hope you love it as much as I do. I haven’t heard of Kant before, but a brief look at his SoundCloud shows some solid house tunes in his repertoire.

I’ve got another mix for you. This one I stumbled across organically on Youtube (well, as much as you can find anything organically on the internet), several songs into an autoplaying playlist that started with Swedish House Mafia‘s Miami 2 Ibiza.” I love me some vocal trance, and the sound of these tracks (many of which were new to me) took me back a few years to when I was new to the scene and basking in the melodies of trance. I was hooked from the moment Gareth Emery‘s classic “Concrete Angel” started playing (admittedly a bit abruptly, though overall I was impressed with the quality of the mix). And how can you not love a tracklist that includes Armin, Arty, Emma Hewitt, RankOne, and more? Thanks to DJ Ash for this great mix.

The EDM Dictionary: B2B (back-to-back)

Definition: In the dance music world, B2B or b2b indicates that two DJs will be performing onstage at the same time. This is indicated on lineups as “[DJ 1] b2b [DJ 2].” B2b is shorthand for “back-to-back,” so for example Feed Me b2b Kill the Noise can be read as “Feed Me back to back with Kill the Noise.” Sometimes b2b sets will be listed on lineups as “vs.” or “versus” – e.g., “Feed Me vs. Kill the Noise.”

Back to back does not mean that one DJ will be playing immediately after the other, even though in general English you would say that two events happening one after another, like baseball games, are back-to-back.

In EDM, the phrase back-to-back comes from the days when DJs played vinyl records. While one DJ would be managing the turntables, the other would be searching through their catalog of vinyl records behind the decks for the next record to play. This DJ would usually have his back to the audience, so the two performers would spend much of the show with their backs to each other. Nowadays, very few DJs, at least in large settings, spin vinyl records or even CDs. The rise of laptop-DJs and digital turntables has enabled DJs playing b2b sets to face the audience while they queue up the next track. (Unless you’re Above & Beyond caught in the rain at Ultra… but that’s a story for another day.)