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An electronica revolution

CAITLIN MORRIS
summit daily news

There is a revolution happening in the world of electronic music. Electronic artists have taken the genre to a new level by blending live instrumentation with synthesizers, song samples and computer generated soundscapes – to the point they have created a whole new genre of music called live electronica or trance fusion.

A handful of these electronic music innovators will be visiting Summit County this month. Telepath, EOTO featuring the percussionists Jason Hann and Michael Travis from the String Cheese Incident, and Signal Path are just three of the artists that will be play in Breckenridge at three20south in February.

Transfusion artists like these have helped to change the image of electronic music that so many conjure – canned, droning, machine generated beats – to a more authentic musical experience, where the artist is actually creating and performing dance music live. These artists are not just pressing play on their laptops but using their computers like another instrument.

“When a lot of people see a computer on the stage they say, ‘oh they’re not really playing music.’ (But) the computer is the electric guitar of our generation. When Bob Dylan switched to electric guitar the fans hated it, but there were some that really embraced it,” Hann said.

Each transfusion artist brings a little something different to the table in the way they use technology to recreate their music live. However, they all have one thing in common. They all mimic DJ dance music, covering styles like dubstep, drum and bass, house, glitch hop, and down tempo.

Having formed in 2006, Telepath is one of the newer players on the live electronica scene. They are a three-piece band comprised of founding member Michael Cristie on keyboards, Curt Heiny on bass guitar and laptop and Mike B on drums. Telepath has worked very hard to use electronics to bring a more organic experience.

“It has a lot of world influences in it,” Heiny said of Telepath’s music, “We are really conscious about having all the samples be real instruments played by real people.”

The 20 some other instruments that the concert-goer hears during Telepath’s live performance were written by Cristie and recorded specifically for Telepath.

“When you hear the sitar part live, it was a sitar that was actually played on the album,” Heiny said. “It’s not a sampled sound or a fake or stock sound in some music program that you can buy; it’s an actual sitar line played by someone that we recorded.”

Telepath is in the midst of its winter tour and will be playing five dates in Colorado. For three of those dates, Telepath will joined by Juno What?!, which features members of the band The Motet. JunoWhat?! will be opening for Telepath in Denver in exchange for a the headlining spot in Breckenridge.

“Everyone in the scene is bringing something different,” Damon Metzner, of Signal Path said.

The danciest of the three bands, Signal Path uses pre-recorded bass lines, sparse drum kits and atmospheric pieces, which they combine with live drums and guitar to create melodic glitch hop, drum and bass beat heavy dance music.

Metzner said that he loves the element of the live drums because it allows them to “breathe” with the energy of the room. He continued to explain how they are able to blend their live performance with pre-produced pieces of music.

“What’s happening live is Ryan [Burnett] is manipulating the skeleton of the song structure with the laptop. We are able to manipulate that any way that we want – glitch it out, loop different sections if the crowd is responding to a different piece of the set and then improvise on top of it. That is when the live instruments come out,” he said.

Signal Path has come full-circle as a band, having began its carrier as a two-man band in 2001 in Montana. It ballooned into a five-piece band and toured until 2005. Its last performance was at Bonaroo 2005, where it performed in front of a crowd of 20,000. The band went on hiatus until fall of 2009, when it reemerged as a duo, featuring Metzner on guitar and Burnett on drums.

“We started doing these Saturday fly-out dates on the weekends, so we were literally working around the clock,” Metzner said.

Signal Path had so much success playing these weekend gigs that the musicians are now embarking on a national tour in support of their new album “Clash.”

EOTO has taken electronic a step further by eliminating any pre-recorded music and creating every piece of every song on the spot. A program called Ableton Live has allowed EOTO to manipulate its music in an infinite number of ways so that no live performance is the same. Ableton Live is a loop-based music sequencer that, unlike its predecessors, is meant to be played like another instrument and allow artists to record, loop and play back music during a live performance. This is what has allowed EOTO to play completely improvised electronic dance music.

“In Ableton you could just leave the recording running right from the beginning, record one part while it’s still playing, then record another part, and another part,” Hann said. “It’s so flexible. The way that it’s set up, it lends itself to being able to throw so much out there and manipulate it.”

Abletons capabilities allow Hann and Travis to cater each set to the crowd’s reaction. The band will go in and out of different dance styles including dubstep, drum and bass, house and downtemp depending on how the audience is responding.

“If we see the crowd reacting to a particular style, we stay in that mode to feel like we’re really holding on to them. The key is to switch to something else before everyone gets bored of it,” Hann said of EOTO’s live performance. “You want to take them to another place but hold their attention so that they’ll follow you on the journey.”


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