Dance and Electronic 2012: Breaking Down the Boundaries of Sound

BY Max MertensPublished Dec 14, 2012

If there's any song that summed up electronic music's renewed infatuation with hip-hop and R&B this year, it was Ryan Hemsworth's remix of Grimes' "Genesis." Featuring a looped Lil Wayne sample, and released unofficially on the Halifax producer's SoundCloud page, the rapper's distinct Southern drawl echoes in the background like a ghost. After Claire Boucher herself tweeted about the song, Hemsworth found himself in the spotlight, producing for underground rappers, releasing a barrage of remixes, high-profile mixes, and an EP of original material through taste-making collective Wedidit.

The line between electronic music and other genres hasn't so much blurred in 2012: it's been erased completely. More and more, producers like Hemsworth are working with artists without ever being in the same room together, and acts are searching all corners of the globe for futuristic sounds that often still retain one foot in the past. Montreal/Halifax electro-pop duo Purity Ring (pictured above) recently hooked up with hilariously foul-mouthed Detroit spitter Danny Brown, who added a few verses to their song "Belispeak." In describing her music as "post-internet," Grimes has name-checkcd both K-pop and Mariah Carey as major influences. How To Dress Well's Tom Krell wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to his love of '90s R. Kelly and Whitney Houston, while English singer Jessie Ware bridged the gap between UK bass and R&B.

Then there's trap. Generally identifiable by the use of 808 Roland drum machines, pitched vocal samples, and trunk-rattling bass lines, the genre has been embraced by everybody from kids on the internet to Top 40 rappers. Leading the charge is TNGHT — Montreal's Lunice and Glasgow's Hudson Mohawke — who debuted the project at this year's SXSW, before releasing a glass-shattering EP of hip-hop instrumentals that drew on their respective electronic backgrounds. And it isn't going away any time soon — Kanye West enlisted Mohawke to produce several tracks on his G.O.O.D Music compilation Cruel Summer, while Los Angeles producer/musician Flying Lotus's been known to drop the duo's "Bugg'n" during his live DJ sets.

Earlier this year, FlyLo (aka Steven Ellison) told Exclaim! that having his music recognized by mainstream artists including Kanye, Rihanna, and Usher was a surreal experience. "It's kind of crazy. I never saw that part of it coming. I just wanted the music to go places." Even if no one knows where those places are.

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