When was the first time you realized you loved something so much that you became obsessed with it? From my own observations, I noticed that everyone who is obsessed with music usually began their obsessions from an early age, with their tastes initially influenced by their parents or their caretakers.
I was mainly exposed to rock music and classical compositions during my childhood. Me and my father would listen to progressive rock music together. The lengthy songs, most of them instrumental and repetitive, didn’t really bug the 8-year-old me. I remember my father’s excitement whenever he showed me his prized, 9-string guitar and how happy he was whenever he strummed its dulcet, firm strings with a look of immense satisfaction on his face.
He was particularly obsessed with The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and U2 and he would play their songs at home all the time, to the point where I became tired of it. That was when I realized I wanted to explore and discover different kinds of music, as a way of ‘competing’ with his taste and to also resist being totally influenced by his taste.
My quest to explore different music began in the early 2000s. Being a teenager in that era was completely different to how it is today. We were at a transitional era where the world was gradually shifting from analog to digital. It usually took 3 to 5 minutes — or more — just to connect to the internet (remember the sound?). This is the era where we had to stay glued to the TV to catch our favorite music videos and artists. I remember spending hours watching MTV and being captivated by the sounds, images, and the artists’ personas on the screen.
In the mid-2000s, the internet evolved and changed everything. Its rise signaled a global shift which would later conduct how we live our lives. Social media websites would pop up here and there throughout these years, along with many peer-to-peer file sharing sites (which were technically illegal). Discovering new music in that era was fun because the internet made it easier to find even the obscurest things. Some people even became protective of their discoveries. This was also the time where I began to explore electronic music, which I still listen to and obsess about today.
In my teenage years, I became exposed to the myriad of electronic music that my older sister had on her iPod. I assumed she got most of her music from her then-boyfriend, who was a DJ in London. Three of my elder siblings lived there for years and I usually visited them when I could.
I later found out that there were so many different types of electronic music: house, techno, electro, minimal tech house, ambient, downtempo, trip hop, IDM, etc. I was particularly struck by the works of Aphex Twin, Bent, Burial, and Roisin Murphy, and began to look for more music similar to theirs. At the same time, I also dove deeper into my older sister’s collection on her iTunes and took some of the files for my own collection. I liked Chicks on Speed a lot when I was 15, particularly “Euro Trash Girl”, even though I didn’t really understand what the ‘speed’ in their name really meant.
From 2006 to 2010, I went to Kuala Lumpur and to London for university. Discovering new music became even easier during this time thanks to the loads of file sharing services popping up (again, even though they were illegal). But that convenience pushed me to explore further. As an introvert, I preferred to use personalized services such as Limewire and Soulseek to get my music. I also enjoyed being connected with my friends through Last.FM and reading the artist history pages on Allmusic.com. Streaming platforms such as Pandora and Spotify were still in their infancy and it would take another decade for them to become global.
The creative people that I became friends with during that time encouraged me to dive deeper into the world of electronic music. Three particular songs I discovered during that time made big impressions on me, and still resonates with me to this day:
1. Burial – “Archangel”
Burial’s music has touched people and has opened them up to difficult emotions, hurting them in meaningful ways,” said a line from a Pitchfork review on Burial’s debut album Untrue, which this song opens. I totally agree with that statement because it accurately describes how I feel when I listen to this album. “Archangel” itself is a beautiful, dark track which masterfully blends skittering beats with lovelorn vocals and sentimental lyrics. I also love how he tweaked strings sounds and made them sound like synths.
2. Ellen Allien & Apparat – “Way Out“
A collaboration between one of the best techno DJs of the 1990s and one of the most phenomenal IDM artists of the 2000s. At the time, collaborations between artists of different musical backgrounds were rare. Taken from their 2006 collaborative album Orchestra of Bubbles, “Way Out” is a song that perfectly stacks electronic beats, strings and guitar sounds with Allien’s hypnotizing voice, creating captivating, complex layers as a result.
3. Broadcast – “America’s Boy”
I will forever be a fangirl of Broadcast and Trish Keenan (rest in peace, Trish <3). Listening to Broadcast’s albums is like gazing at abstract paintings that move your soul. Despite the mind-bending synths and experimental sounds going on in their music, their beats generally keep their pace. On “America’s Boy”, from their Tender Buttons album, I can tell that the drums and the lyrics are talking about American soldiers, even though the band doesn’t directly point to this in the song.
I’ve also compiled a playlist of electronic music tracks released between 2000 to 2010 that immediately come off the top of my mind. This process involved digging through my memories to identify which songs really meant a lot to me, and I hope that they can mean something to you too.
I’m turning 32 in 2021. That got me thinking: am I going to end up like my father and listen to the same songs over and over as I grow older? I hope not.
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