Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Prodigy- Experience

I only have a few surviving albums from what we'll call "my rave phase circa 1998." I already hated on Crystal Method and Chemical Brothers, so you'd probably expect me to hate on The Prodigy as well, but I'm not going to do it. Why not? Because The Prodigy works as music. It's not just mindless droning that can only be enjoyed by intoxicated young people who are dancing (seriously, most electronic music loses its appeal when you aren't dancing to it, and as you get older it loses its appeal altogether). I will list the things The Prodigy does correctly so those of you who aspire to make electronic music can be sure to not add more trash to the genre or its many subgenres.

1. The Prodigy makes pop-length songs. If Liam Howlett can explore the depths of a texture or sonic idea in less than 5 minutes, you shouldn't need 17 to do the same thing (I'm looking at you, The Orb).

2. The Prodigy turns out short yet effective transitions. How many times have you heard an electronic song that took 12 full minutes to go from beep-beep-boop to boop-boop-beep? If that's the only idea you have for a song, you don't have enough ideas for a song. Seriously, listen to The Prodigy. If Liam wants to flip the beat upside down or add another synth line or toss in an odd sample that pulls the whole thing together, he doesn't wait for pages to fall off the calendar before he does it.

3. The Prodigy is aggressively textured. It's not just the same drum and bass sounds over and over or the same sequencer line or the same synth voices. Liam throws a lot of things into the pot. He keeps you guessing and you're never quite sure where a song will go. I don't know how many songs I've fallen in love with because I couldn't have possibly thought of them. So much electronic music is utterly predictable. If your song sounds like you sampled a beat and then just walked away for a half hour, you're doing it wrong. Keep stirring the pot. It's the right thing to do.

4. The Prodigy borrows from everywhere. One of the great things about electronic music is that you can sample anything. If you sample another electronic song and splice it into a new one, you're not a genius. On this album alone I heard samples of classic rock, reggae, hip-hop, as well as other genres and a whole slew of random movie quotes and whatnot. Electronic music has a tendency to sound soulless and robotic. If you bring in pieces from lively and soulful sources, you're more likely to break the robotic mold.

So yeah, those were the four things I thought of offhand. Experience is a great album, and not just a great rave album. The songs stand on their own and do not require lasers, knee pads, or pacifiers in order for them to be enjoyed.

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