Electronic music has a particular connotation: It evokes images of neon-colored festivals, rambunctious bacchanals and nocturnal excitement. But electronic music is an expansive genre with many sounds and styles. Today, we travel deep into the realm of electronic music and fix our gaze past the chattering festivities — peering instead upon the easygoing, blasé sounds in the distance.
Inside the calm recesses of this land, we stumble upon our destination. Here, the ways of music are old, but the sounds are born anew constantly. To the ears, the music has the character of innovation superimposed upon relaxation — and most of all, this music has soul. Draw yourself close to the music, so that you can listen to its whispers: this music is meant to be heard by the heart.
There’s a chill in the air, but you’ve never felt better. You feel like you’ve been here before, but you can’t quite place it — was it all a dream? A distant memory from a past life? You shrug — it doesn’t matter; you’re enjoying the groove. Large, bubbly funk chords intersect with groovy classic house vibes, skipping nonchalantly — yet somehow deliberately — above the waves of sound in Pat Lok’s signature style. It’s not quite old school, yet it lacks that futuristic sound present in so much of electronic music today: no bells or whistles or lasers.
Yet it’s that same plainness, that peculiar normalcy, that gives Pat Lok’s music a timeless charm. Neither should you mistake the mundane nature of the music for a lack of creativity — within the mundane springs capricious, heartfelt moments of intrigue that drive the tune into uncharted territory. The nightclub has four walls and boxes its patrons; but the music of Pat Lok is open-air and freeform. It dances and dances, enticing you to give chase even as you look away. There’s something about this quiet, curious dance that inexplicably draws the ear.
Is it nostalgia? Perhaps it is too terse to pin the feeling of this music into one emotion, or word. This soul is wistful, hopeful, bitter-cold, but most of all, warm — warm enough to wrap you in its homely folds on a cold night.
You’re drawn in by the waist, spinning in this slow dance under the stars. You shuffle your feet uncertainly and shift side-to-side. Indiginis’ music is gentle but reserved. The beat has a futuristic, spacey feel, and it somehow straddles an impossible space between fast-paced and relaxed. But it is never frantic — instead, it is passionate and deliberate. It is mysterious — not in a dark sort of way, but in a secretive, sensitive way, as if it is hiding its soul. Or perhaps it is shielding its weathered heart from uncouth eyes. You listen, you hear every word of its musical tale, but you can’t help but wonder if there’s something left untold, if there’s more than meets the ear. You never ask.
This music is bursting with feeling and sensitivity, yearning to escape and explode from its bulging seams, but it cannot. It comes at you with open arms, and draws your body into its weak embrace. It draws — scratches — its bow across your heartstrings, playing a throbbing tune that begs to be acknowledged. It longs for your touch — but it fears it as well. It restrains itself at the brink, in a state of demure melancholy, but in the subtle echoes of its thoughts, you hear a skyward soaring and a sigh of hope. A teardrop descends, tracing cuts on its face.
A dusty upright player piano plays nonchalantly in the dark hall. It is not quite that concert-hall elegance you expect from the piano, but rather a playful, jazzy ragtime sound. Despite the emptiness of the hall, you step closer — and find yourself swing-dancing alongside the music. Røse’s music does not hesitate. It flaunts its body provocatively at you, waving its arms and drawing you inward. But even that freshness of spirit never lapses out of control: The quick music still lands precisely, jumping and tiptoeing deftly about the floor, tap-tapping an upbeat rhythm.
Now the scene explodes with the gilded extravagance of yesteryear, reminiscent of the grand balls and masquerades of old, but the big-band ensemble has since been replaced with a cadre of electronic sounds, of kicks and snareclaps and synths juxtaposed among pianos and violins. Perhaps, to parody that name “big room house,” this is “ballroom house”; it retains the liberating spirit of house music while incorporating a superficial hint of haute couture. Do take care, however, to not listen too intently to that thread of formality: Though the pianos may feel slightly classical, the musical soul is young and unrestrained. Hear that soul, take its outstretched hand, and join the dance.
Everything draws to a close: the day as the sun sets, and the summer as the crickets die. Shrouded in fog, you hear a muffled, veiled song from beyond. Macklin’s tunes are fading, but remember still an inward strength of spirit. The music, while orderly, is dreamlike — it is almost idyllic, but it is also wayward, and the chords glide uncertainly between resolution and tension in a daze. The curious harmonies are no mistake — while it is not the sprightly, erratic capriciousness of Pat Lok, it is an itinerant search for the right sound — never reached, only imagined.
This feeling is nostalgia, but it cuts deeper than nostalgia. It longs for resolution that can never be found. It is a weary apathy; it is a throbbing ache. All music is evanescent and disappears from the ears at its end, but very little music is aware of its own evanescence, expressed in haunting tones reckoning and pleading in the face of mortality. It sounds as though it is at the end of contemplation, weary of life — yet it manages to stay upbeat. You never lose that hope within, yet you never lose that feeling of dull, wistful yearning next to it. An entire world of emotion contained within sound — such is its beauty.
Contact Trenton Chang at tchang97 ‘at’ stanford.edu.