In a series of (most likely essay-induced) existential thoughts this week, I have found myself pondering how the dawn of the internet and the rise of social media has meant that practically all the information you could ever need is at your fingertips. Where music is concerned, you can listen to an incredibly broad spectrum of genres whenever you feel like it. If you were wondering what you might think of a new album, a quick google search would swiftly find a review and if you felt like splashing the cash on gig tickets, simply watch a quick video to check out what an average set is like. Music is accessible, but increasingly more predictable.
The point I am demonstrating is that with such a capacity of information at our disposal, it has never been harder for artists to produce something truly innovative. In many ways, we have become so acclimatised to anything and everything that one might argue we are simply un-shockable! Therefore, this week, perhaps rather ironically, I thought I would do a bit of research into some artists who truly are doing something a bit unusual and attempting to change people’s perceptions.
If you were walking along the street and bumped into Cameron Carpenter, your initial thought would probably link him to the world of German techno music coupled gracefully with an Art-Pop edge reminiscent of Matty Healy. Coupled with a mohawk and snazzy bejewelled boots, he oozes a carefree edge that is instantly intriguing.
However, dive beneath the surface and he is something quite different to what you may have assumed. Carpenter is a classically trained organist who studied at the Julliard and tours with his own electronic travelling organ. By increasing the portability of the organ, he champions it as a solo instrument, moving around the keys with prodigious skill and mastery. In his refusal to alter who he is, continuing to work mainly within the classical repertory, many have labelled him the Rock Star of the Organ; however, I would argue more simply that the key to his charm is the unashamed individuality he has maintained in a genre dominated by traditionalists. One of my particular favourite arrangements of his is a version of ‘Pure Imagination’ which is simply so lovely and unexpected you can’t help but smile. His 2016 album, All You Need Is Bach, is a brilliant listen as he brings his own unique flair to such staple repertoire of the organ.
The next artists who I believe stand out for their eccentricity are Bang on a Can All-Stars, an ensemble formed back in 1987 in an effort to showcase contemporary music to allow its founding members a wider scope for their more eclectic creative interests.
Modern music has long been ascribed the label of dull and pretentious, so it was only on listening to ‘Bang on a Can’ that my original ambivalence towards the genre began to waver. When playing live, these guys create a simply electric atmosphere, choosing also to be inventive with their repertoire. When watching them this summer they chose not to shy away from more contentious topics, playing a work called ‘Workers Union’ by Louis Andriessen, a piece almost entirely improvised apart from the rhythms and loosely written for a group of ‘loud instruments’.
Finally, I come to a band who in many ways are in fact incredibly derivative of what has come before. There are echoes of Punk and Brit-pop quite clearly evident in their music, and their strong political views could be seen as rather abrasive. However, Cabbage – the Manchester-based, new indie-rock band on the block – seem to be doing something no one else is daring to do at this point in time. That is being outspoken within their art and saying something with their music rather than bellowing it to screaming crowds at the end of a gig.
With a set of songs whose subject matter ranges from trains to dinner ladies to ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade,’ here we have a band not afraid of raising eyebrows and causing a stir. Not to mention, playing live they are a tight unit that have been confounding critics by continuously selling out gigs. If you are looking for the next big thing, be sure to check them out.
As you can see, there is quite clearly a vast array of interesting music being produced and that is worth a listen, it simply takes a little more digging to locate. Moreover, given the predominance of populist genres in music today, it is left to us as listeners to give these artists more of a voice, and to keep a keener eye out for those who try to break down musical boundaries.
Frankly, in the society we live in currently, there has arguably never been a more important time to celebrate the absurd, embrace the bizarre and relish the individual. This week, if you have a spare second I challenge you to listen to something outside of your comfort zone – it may well surprise you.
Originally published on https://www.varsity.co.uk