THUMP contributor Molly Hankins explores the origins of "post-EDM." From examples of artists and tracks to an in-depth look at where this era of electronic music is going, Hankins gives us the lowdown on "post-EDM."
Illustration by Joel Benjamin.
The first time I saw the term "post-EDM" was in a Facebook rant A-Trak posted in November of 2014. Apparently, after driving through Hollywood and seeing a DJ on every billboard, the Canadian producer came to the realization that EDM had reached a comical level of self-aggrandizement and cheesiness—and that the scene was due for a change. "Sometimes [...] an initial wave of flashy music can knock down the doors and more interesting music can come after," he wrote. "After that initial gateway drug of hands-in-the-air anthems, I'm seeing more and more kids getting interested in good, nuanced, forward thinking music."
The rant ends with a question: "Are we entering a post-EDM chapter?"
Nearly two years later, however you define "post-EDM," it's a label that appears to be gaining traction amongst fans. Three weeks ago, there was only one playlist using the term "post-EDM" on Spotify, but in the past 10 days, I've noticed a handful of user-generated ones popping up too. Since then, the original playlist has gone from 22 songs to 56, and from 18,000 followers to nearly 35,000. It's populated by tracks with live instrumentation and a traditional verse-chorus-verse song format, and it's not the only archive of its kind. A quick search on YouTube returns a handful of similar post-EDM playlists, most of them created within the last 90 days.
Though it's unclear who coined term, it dates at least as far back as a November 2013 article on PAPER about Rudimental, which described the drum and bass-driven group as "leading the pack of post-EDM electronic acts whose dance-oriented music is enhanced by complex electronic production but not necessarily dominated by it." A working definition of post-EDM—at least according to the PAPER article and many of the artists I spoke to for this piece—might therefore look like this: electronic music that includes live instruments and recreates the magical spontaneity of hearing a rock band playing on stage.
Crywolf, the LA-based producer born Justin Phillips, has multiple tracks on the first Spotify playlist I discovered. He's been fusing rock elements with dance music for the last five years. To write and record his debut album Cataclysm, released last fall, Phillips holed up in a remote fishing village in Iceland; he used everything from an electric guitar to drumsticks and an Ikea pot as instruments, and documented the entire process. This fall, he's touring as a one-man band—primarily in live music venues rather than clubs.
"You can only get so far with playing recordings you've made out [of] a laptop and speakers," he told THUMP. "If there's no substance to a performance, people are going to eventually get bored...