Traditionally, electronic and traditional music styles have been relegated to separate categories.
Producers and DJs typically produce and DJ, and bands typically play their instruments. That’s a given.
However, a growing trend in the EDM world is eschewing these barriers and looking to the future, and there is a growing number of artists that fall somewhere between both conventional categories. In what many see as the next frontier of music, this emerging group of musicians is synthesizing the traditionally disparate styles to create something bigger than the sum of each individual musical puzzle piece.
With the new combination of traditional and electronic instrumentation, it’s possible to merge the agility of a live band with the depth of a studio production, and everything in between is now fair game.
After compiling our list of favorites, here are 15 livetronica acts that blur the lines between musical realms, bending styles to create something new that’s all their own.
Papadosio is a 5-piece blend of an outfit that defies genre as they break down the barriers between jam and dance music. With a sound that’s simply incomparable to others, Papadosio treads the line between the technical skill and improvisation of a jam band and the feeling and raw power of an EDM show.
With an upcoming album being teased and an almost nonstop touring schedule, put Papadosio at the top of your “must see” list.
Deeply rooted in EDM, funk, R&B, and soul – GRiZ intermingles genres to create something that’s bigger than each disparate part. Branching out showcase a little bit of everything during his live shows, GRiZ’s signature live sax/DJ attack is a sight to behold.
Bonobo [Live Band]
While often touring as a solo DJ, Simon Green AKA Bonobo first started playing with a live band in 2004. Always one to push boundaries, he’s continuously set the standard for downtempo production since his first major release in 2000.
Typically self-producing and self-performing the instrumentals on his albums, each and every Bonobo track is rife with live instrumentation and feeling. On top of the records themselves, Bonobo live band sets can be something of myth and legend as Green and team slowly build each monumental track from the ground up in a live setting.
The Emancipator Ensemble brings the music of Doug Appling AKA Emancipator to new heights by performing live with a 4-piece band.
If Emancipator wasn’t already enough to knock your socks off, The Ensemble takes things over the top by bringing out a level of musicianship that melts faces and stirs souls alike. If you’re looking for the depth and clarity of a seasoned producer yet with the energy and feeling of a live band, look no further than the Emancipator Ensemble.
They. Kill. It.
The master of the live band sound, Pretty Lights, is a perfect conglomerate of organic instrumentation and new age production. With the release of his seminal album, A Color Map of the Sun, Pretty Lights recorded all of the sounds on the album with teams of studio musicians, pressed them to vinyl, and then sampled them back into the digital realm for the album’s final production.
Essentially, it’s a live but electronic record of sorts. Although Pretty Lights rarely tours with a live band, if you happen to catch one of those shows it will stick with you for the rest of your life.
Autograf is the Chicago, Illinois based group that’s quickly becoming known for their deep/future/tropical house blend that’s been leaving a trail of demolished dance floors in their wake.
Incorporating live keys, marimba, and other instrumentation in their live sets – Autograf is closing the gap between organic and electronic performance by bringing their instruments out of the studio and onto the stage during live shows.
Fusing hip-hop, breakbeat, dub, and downtempo – Break Science has a sound that’s all their own. Typically a duo consisting of Adam Deitch (drums) and Borahm Lee (keys, programming), Break Science has recently broken out to include several members of Lettuce for the introduction of the Break Science Live Band.
Melding the depth of Lee’s productions with Deitch’s world class drumming, Break Science is a seminal piece of the burgeoning livetronica movement.
Shpongle [Live Band]
Probably the most psychedelic artist on this list, Shpongle defies description. Seated in psychedelia, trance, Goa, and other world musics – Shpongle’s sound is an ever-changing combination of instruments, technologies, ideologies, and consciousness.
Shpongle’s music is normally performed as a Simon Posford DJ set, but Posford occasionally performs mythical-level shows with a full live band. Don’t miss the next one. Trust us.
Random Rab has been known to include a number of different instruments in his live sets, including his voice. Rab typically records and loops live bass guitar with his productions as he performs, adding a different sonic texture to his tunes as he works through performances. With a subdued sound and almost meditative outlook on music, Rab’s tunes are sure to soothe even the toughest of intellects.
With an ever-rotating cast of performers, Thievery Corporation is an amalgamation of producers, DJs, instrumentalist, lyricists, singers, and more. Their sound? Global dub meets downtempo meets hip hop.
What it really boils down to, though, is that Thievery Corporation has always been on the cutting edge of the livetronic movement. By including everything from turntables to sitars in their sets, every Thievery Corporation show is a spectacle of music and movement that you won’t witness with any other group.
SunSquabi is part of a new generation of livetronica artists. Like Papadosio, SunSquabi combines hardware and software alike to create something innovative fresh.
By adding live looping, effects, samples, and digital programming to their already impressive musical amalgam SunSquabi brings the best of both world’s out in their futuristic musical fusion.
Zoogma takes their live shows to new heights by combining the precision and intricacies of a DJ with the feeling and power of a live band. With incendiary live shows, these guys are known for blowing the lid off of each and every venue that they play.
With a high energy sound that ranges from one hundred percent original tracks to clever reworks and mashups of classics from all across the board, get some Zoogma in your life.
Your dancing soul will thank you.
Gramatik has soul, plain and simple. Fusing instrumental hip hop with blues and jazz based guitar riffs, Gramatik is blurring the line between organic and electronic music one set at a time. Often performing with other artists during sets, Gramatik has been known to team up with Russ Liquid, Gibbz, Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic, and GRiZ at times to add yet another dimension to their already impressive live attack.
Always a crowd favorite, Gramatik’s hypnotic beats and poignant style make for the perfect soundtrack to any dance party.
Brooklyn, New York based trio Exmag combines the depth and sensation of perfectly crafted studio productions with the performance feel of a live band. Fusing live guitar, keyboards, and DJing into a single dance music megalith, Exmag has taken the scene by storm ever since their first official shows together in 2013.
As they move forward, gaining more and more acclaim with each and every release, keep an eye on this group. They’re destined for big things.
BoomBox is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalists, DJs, producers, and friends Zion Godchaux and Russ Randolph. With a low-key, guitar-driven disco house sound BoomBox is one of those bands that is immediately identifiable after 10 seconds into any track.
With Randolph manning the 1’s and the 2’s and Godchaux taking up vocal and guitar duties, BoomBox shows are the very definition of a groovy dance party.
These 15 artists bend genres and push the boundaries of what music can be. By fusing the historically disconnected worlds of electronic and traditional music, this new wave of musicians is serving as a conduit to bridge the musical gap for future generations.
Think of them as musical astronauts: explorers of the untapped potential that hides in each guitar string, drum head, and computer key.
By taking the best from each world both into the studio and onto the stage, they’re creating something new as they push for the far-flung reaches of the musical stratosphere.
Musically speaking, these are exciting times. With technology making it easier to create cheap, quality home productions, we’ll continue to see the international legion of musicians grow. As they grow so will their styles as each person adds a little of their own flavor to the musical gumbo. As that gumbo stews, we’re sure to see new mixes of style and genres get tossed into the pot along with it.