Thursday, 22 October 2009

Little Boots + Why Synths are Valid - Little Boots Week

Day four of Little Boots Week. Today we challenge the question sometimes put forward that electronic music is not as valid or real as other forms of instrumentation. To answer this question, and it being Little Boots Week at Breaking More Waves, we are of course going to use Little Boots as part of our argument.

Let’s take the purists view. Such a purist (or shall we say music snob) will argue that electronic music isn’t ‘real’, that the very fact that synths derive their name from the word synthetic says it all. But what do they mean by that ? We guess that they mean that the sounds aren’t natural, that they are created from computers rather than humans. Yet paradoxically these are often the same snobs who will see nothing wrong with putting a guitar sound through an effects pedal, which surely is not a human instrument in this context? And what exactly is natural and who decided that a guitar is any more natural than a synth? Answers on a postcard (or the comments box below) please.

Second they will argue that synths lack authenticity that can only be obtained from so called ‘real’ instruments, as described above. We would argue that the majority of those who listen to music don’t care about authenticity, they just want a tune or song that appeals to them and that moves them in some way. This year for the first time in our lives we witnessed Kraftwerk play at Bestival. Their incredible performance was intensely potent, far more so than virtually any guitar band we have seen play this year. Last year Little Boots played one of our favourite shows at the ICA in London, we left the show texting many of our friends with the message “I love Little Boots.” At the time they probably thought that there was some kind of strange midnight fetish going on in the Breaking More Waves household, but the reality was that we had witnessed a concert by an electronic artist who had left us feeling exhilarated and alive to the wonders of modern electronic music.

The fans of so called ‘real’ music will also argue that in the live arena much of synthesised music is pre-programmed and not played truly live. That it is just someone pressing a few buttons, and that doesn’t take any talent. Now in this case we would agree with the argument, but if you take our experiences of Kraftwerk at Bestival, in essence it was just some old men standing still at some laptops pressing a few buttons, but it was still deliriously good and exciting. It was even better when robots were doing it. Talent doesn’t always matter in the live arena. Otherwise everyone would like the ‘talent’ that the X Factor knocks out every year. Coming back to Little Boots, when she auditioned for X Factor, she didn’t even get past the first round of production auditions, yet we know who we would prefer to listen to if it came to a choice between her and John and Edward.

Finally, music snobs will argue that synth artists are lazy, simply pressing a few buttons to create a hit song. This unfortunately is far from the truth. Hit songs, whatever the form, are created out of hard graft and creativity. If you don’t believe us go and ask Victoria Hesketh how much work she has put in to secure the degree of success she has had this year.

Music snobs be gone. Synths are as valid an instrument as any other. This is why Breaking More Waves draws no distinction between any instrument.

Tomorrow, in our final article in Little Boots Week we bring you a review of the electro pop girl herself, live from a headlining show in Brighton, but for now here’s a short feature showing Little Boots live synth pop sounding top notch.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I wonder what your purist #1 ("synth sounds aren't 'natural' ") would make of the passage in Ravel's Bolero 3 bars after figure 8. You listen and you think "what an odd instrument", whereas what you're hearing is a synthesised virtual instrument. He has the horn playing the tune (with celeste doubling) then adds extra harmonics with piccolos at the twelfth and seventeenth, exactly as though he were playing with a yet-to-be-invented analogue synthesiser.