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80 years of electronic music, heard in a selection of 55 tracks by Bleep
August 31, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

A bit over a year ago, Warp Record's digital music shop, Bleep.com, presented their guide to recorded* electronic music, spanning from 1930 to 2010 (also as a Facebook timeline, which apparently kicked the whole thing off). The overview of recorded electronic music was presented as a selection of 55 tracks, almost five and a half hours in full. Part of this presentation was a (now expired) promotional deal to purchase the collection of songs as a lot, but you can still read about each piece of music on Bleep and hear 49 of the tracks in a playlist on Grooveshark. There's more to hear and read below the fold.

The selection starts with what is "[a]rgued to be first piece of the purely electronic music written expressly for live performance on the Ondes Martenot, an instrument closely related to the Theremin," then transitions through the years of sampling, soundtracks and experimental music, takes to the dance floor in the 1980s, and goes on from there.

* The full history of electronic instruments go all the way back to 1759 for the 'Clavecin Électrique', or the Electronic Harpsichord, and earlier still for the elusive Denis d’or. The history of audio recordings has a separate timeline. And of course, there are many other notable moments in the history of electronic music that weren't captured in the selection of a mere 55 songs.

A couple additional notes, as you read and/or listen to the playlist:

The Grooveshark playlist is missing the following 6 tracks, linked here from YouTube:
#32 LFO - LFO (Leeds Warehouse Mix)
#36 Autechre - Flutter
#42 Boards of Canada - Roygbiv (fan-made vid)
#43 Aphex Twin - Windowlicker (and if you haven't seen it: the 10:35 long NSFW video)
#50 Skream - Midnight Request Line
#52 Burial - Archangel

Here's a post about Charanjit Singh's pre-Acid House use of the TR-303 and TR-808, in India in the album Ten Ragas To a Disco Beat (YT playlist).

This Divine site clearly states that Love Reaction was made in two versions, one modeled on Tainted Love, unlike the Bleep description which claims it is unclear which came first. Here is the "calypso" version of Love Reaction, which can be found on the Shoot your Shot compilation that came out a decade after the original Love Reaction, so it's unclear if this is the other original version or a later re-make.

You can hear some of the early (1975 and before) tracks played alongside contemporary (experimental) electronic music in Bleep Podcast #055 with Margot Didsbury, who is currently the head buyer for Bleep.com. This podcast comes from NTS (Nuts to Soup) community radio, and has a great college radio vibe. The Bleep podcasts, now up to #086, come from a variety of sources and feature different hosts, so the music presented is in no way homogeneous.
posted by filthy light thief (26 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite

 
How can any list of electronic music leave out Synergy / Larry Fast? That seems like a pretty glaring omission.
posted by hippybear at 11:36 AM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


What an amazing post, all the way down to the tags. Thank you for this. My Labor Day weekend will now be filled with electronic sounds.

(Well...moreso than the world is filled with them already.)
posted by LooseFilter at 12:07 PM on August 31, 2013


Awese selection. Warp pretty much were electronic music during the 90s.
posted by Artw at 12:10 PM on August 31, 2013


Didn't see any Wendy Carlos either, but anything that mentions the Ondes Martenot gets a few points...er, bleeps...from me.
posted by foonly at 12:11 PM on August 31, 2013


Tough leaving out Dick Hyman and Plastic Cow. No Daphne Derbyshire? No Pete Namlook? But Warp made sure to get in a few of their guys. :/
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:12 PM on August 31, 2013


How can any list of electronic music leave out Synergy / Larry Fast? That seems like a pretty glaring omission.

so a little Phobos + Deimos
posted by philip-random at 12:13 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Excellent post, as always. I know what I'll be listening to this weekend.
posted by immlass at 12:24 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't rely on any commercial entity, let alone a record label, to put out a truly comprehensive and objective history or best-of anything. For that, I'd rely on academic resources, and there are quite a few for this particular musical idiom. This list is pretty good, though, and I don't have to do my own research to start listening.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:25 PM on August 31, 2013


This list mostly contains academy approved electronic music and glosses over a lot of popular stuff. For example, there is no melodic trance or brostep even though those genres practially define "electronic music" to casual listeners of their eras.
posted by scose at 1:10 PM on August 31, 2013


I agree, it's far from inclusive/conclusive, and it is definitely a list that is shaped by being presented by a music shop, but their special deal is over, so all you are left with is a list of music and brief descriptions of why Bleep thought the tracks were critical for their eras, and a playlist to check out. Of course, you can still buy the tracks individually or on their respective albums, compilations, etc.

I would be interested to read and hear other comparable lists of key tracks. I've been thinking of making a playlist post from tracks mentioned in Simon Reynold's Energy Flash (re-issued and expanded on Soft Skull last year), but until I get obsessive like that, there's the Energy Flash Discography/Bibliography, which expands the 2008 edition. It would have been super awesome if he posted again to that blog with expansions to the 2012 version, but the list is nothing to sneeze at.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:28 PM on August 31, 2013


Since there's a lot of love for Warp Records in this thread, I feel obligated to link to perhaps my favorite DJ mix of all time, Eraserhead's Warp Records Memorial Mix:

percussionlab.com/sets/eraserhead/the_warp_record_memorial_mix

If you're remotely curious, click the link, and bask in the glory of that tracklist.
posted by interim_descriptor at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Warp pretty much were electronic music during the 90s.

Well, aside from anything that was actually popular.
posted by empath at 2:06 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great post, but I've got to question any list like this that doesn't include any Kraftwerk (other than what Afrika Bambaataa sampled)
posted by jonathanhughes at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, I don't think you need to question it too hard. They were selling a compilation; obvious exclusions like that are probably attributed to licensing issues, rather than poor judgment.
posted by neuromodulator at 3:48 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ahhh, good point!
posted by jonathanhughes at 4:26 PM on August 31, 2013


A real shame that Thad Cahill's Telharmonium was never properly recorded. The Mark II version at 200 tons might be the heaviest musical instrument ever constructed so far.
posted by ovvl at 5:41 PM on August 31, 2013


A bunch of good stuff, but I also wondered at the lack of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, or Tomita.
posted by bouvin at 6:45 PM on August 31, 2013


Another, now-defunct podcast, bleep43.com, explores some of the less-known gamut. Enjoy some of its 213 'casts while you can.

Alas, Paul Sheeky's crafted history at Triptree Productions is gone. About 2/3 of it can still be found at Internet Archive.
posted by Twang at 8:02 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Pauline Oliveiros?
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 8:57 PM on August 31, 2013


Cool, although there's an overemphasis on the UK at the end. One track from either of Wiley, Skream, Burial, or James Blake would have suffice. I suppose any retrospective will have some bias towards the popular sound of the present.
posted by ageispolis at 11:51 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Throbbing Gristle was there. I guess I am satisfied. Just.

Of course there are going to be some missing (No Gary Numan? No Delia Derbyshire? - although the BBC Radiophonic Workshop do get a nod). It does seem very thin between the '50s and early '80s.
posted by Mezentian at 12:29 AM on September 1, 2013


Glad I bought it when it was available.

+ it reminds me to Ishkur's guide to electronic music (outdated but awesome)
posted by bdz at 2:20 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh and Bleep has an almost similar new release: Guide to British Independent Music
posted by bdz at 2:27 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


bdz: it reminds me to Ishkur's guide to electronic music (outdated but awesome)

As noted on Wikipedia, the first version was made in a few weeks, and the whole thing is largely the creation of a single music fan. In other words, it's good, but by no means definitive, just like Bleep's list.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2013


Twang: Alas, Paul Sheeky's crafted history at Triptree Productions is gone. About 2/3 of it can still be found at Internet Archive.

Oh wow, thanks for this! But it isn't gone, it just moved, and he has 17 parts now, reaching up to the mid-1980s.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:32 AM on September 1, 2013


Ooh, I just found Tone Generation podcasts from Ian Helliwell (also on Blip.TV and iTunes podcasts).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:32 AM on September 3, 2013


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