Over the past few years, electronic music has been skewered and looked down upon, especially in the live space. With the rise of the bedroom producers and superstar DJs, mediocre DJ sets have become a new norm, with artists spending all their time making music vs. actually practicing/performing it. One of the biggest misconceptions to come out of this is that electronic artists aren’t actually talented musicians. A new wave of producers and performers are putting this notion to death by creating mind-blowing live sets that encompass a vast array of instrumentation. In light of the fact, we decided to create a list of some of the top artists pushing the art of performance in the electronic space.
Lido is one of today’s most creative and innovative artists. So it’s only fitting that his live set matches his musical output. Lido takes the one man band concept to new levels with his groundbreaking live show. His set-up includes a computer with Ableton, a midi controller, keyboards, a mic, a vocoder, and a myriad of different drums. Each instrument serves as a vessel to expel his immense talent. Watching him switch from singing slow ballads while playing the keys, to pounding out drums solos is nothing short of spellbinding (see ‘Dye video below for a taste). At his Toronto show I witnessed him play the piano with a drum stick in his mouth, allowing for quick access as he frantically switched between instruments. It’s this dedication to performance that makes Lido’s live set not only one of the best in electronic music, but one of the best in all of music.
Brooklyn-based production duo Brasstracks have had a quite a year, going from SoundCloud and blog favourites to winning a Grammy for their work on Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book (they produced the stand out hit ‘No Problem’). Their “future brass” sound combines elements of future bass, trap, hip hop and R&B with their backgrounds playing trumpet, keys and drums. It should come as no surprise that their sets incorporate all of these elements in one hell of a way. When was the last time you saw someone killing the trumpet over a trap record? Needless to say Brasstracks are doing something that is massive. Check out their Band Class videos for a taste of what to expect.
It’s not uncommon to have an ensemble of musicians assist you in your production. Of course, there are those who would rather create most, if not the entire experience by themselves. Vincent Fenton, better known as French Kiwi Juice or FKJ, uses his multi-instrumentalist prowess to achieve the very sound he wants his audience to experience. At a recent live show, an initial wave of glee came upon the crowd as FKJ came on stage by himself, with all of his necessary instruments set up around him. As he transitioned seamlessly from the keyboard, to the bass, to a guitar stationed across from it, there was a bonding sense of euphoria as we sang along with him throughout the night; he even sampled the crowd’s collective voice and created a track right before us, to demonstrate his wicked improv skills.
Toronto’s electronic trap trio Keys N Krates bridge the gap between DJing and live instrumentation perfectly. Originally starting out as a hip-hop cover band, KnK have evolved greatly over the years, moving from a local attraction to international superstars. Their live experience combines Jr. Flo’s incredible turntablism with the moving keys of David Matisse and stellar drum work of Adam Tune. Whether they’re playing out their incredible original tunes or flipping massive tracks (see ‘BitterSweet Symphony’) they always amaze. Their chemistry and energy are undeniable and they continue to get better each year. I’ve personally seen them live at least 7 times and look forward to catching them another 7.
Martin Vogt, best known by his musical project Haywyre, started off his musical endeavours as early as 6 years old. Monstercat‘s musical maestro produces music at such depth, not only on a sonic level, but a philosophical one as well; one example is the theme of dichotomy/opposites in his albums Two Fold Parts 1 & 2. At the heart of Martin’s prodigious skills is his main tool of the trade, his trusty keyboard. His eclectic jazz/glitch/bass-fusion style of music is awe-inspiring to watch, especially since his live shows are broadcast with cameras. In doing so, the crowd watches exactly how Martin plays, for a deeper sense of connection between him and us. As he’s playing, he is mostly fixated on his performance, and thus doesn’t continually prompt the crowd to throw their hands up or clap along to the beat. Given how much energy he’s delivering on stage into each note, chord, or intricate solo, the crowd throws about and claps along anyways, without the need of any encouragement.
The explosive Chicago trio consisting of Jake Carpenter, Louis Kha, and Mikul Wing not only have an extensive cumulative background in music – Autograf also specializes in visual arts, which they incorporate into their music however they can. Whether creating their own artwork for their songs/projects, or even providing their own visuals to their live shows, they always make sure to capture an intense futuristic feeling, to further exemplify their future house sound. One key element that really stands out in their music is the electronic vibraphone. It gives their songs the perfect cheery touch, and in their live performance, you can feel the melody ring throughout your entire body, on the right speakers.
Canadian brother and sister duo Tennyson are well known for their forward-thinking jazz inspired creations. Despite their young age, they’ve manged to clock millions of plays online, collaborate with Mr. Carmack and perform at a slew of massive festivals. Adding to their appeal is their live set – with Tess on the drums and Luke on the keys and an Ableton controller, they bring their unique sound to life. Their performances pack the fun and youthful energy of a high school talent show whereas the music being created suggests a level of talent that is well beyond their years.
The founders of Foreign Family Collective perform live in such an enthusiastic manner – bouncing and throwing down with each drop, usually accompanied with the majestic clash of a nearby cymbal. Whether the duo’s performing on the drums themselves, or alongside a drum ensemble as they’re producing with their launchpads, each beat adds to the glittery feel of magic found in each song. Their performances fit perfectly within festivals based around a mantra of love, given that you can’t help but smile and let your body get taken over by the warm feel-good vibes all around you.
Words by Colin and ck.