Forget about Skrillex and Diplo. There’s more to electronic music than dubstep drops and robots.
Together Boston is back for its sixth year. The week-long series of educational discussions, screenings, and performances is taking over the city to deliver music and art that challenge the way we perceive our surroundings while simultaneously creating a sense of unity. This year sees Andy Stott, East India Youth, Sea Oleena, and more take the stage in Cambridge. The best part of the festival comes not in its big name draws, but in the rising stars – especially the ones in our own backyard. Say hello to Miss Geo, André Obin, and W00DY.
Synthpop duo Miss Geo morph bedroom recordings into polished electro pop that’s guided by a constantly evolving inspiration, leading to songs like “Indifférence” which recall Crystal Castles and The Knife. On their new release Shapes, they experiment with structures, layering, and sound effects outside of the conventional pop song structure. “What happens if we scream here? What happens if we add some duck noises there? Let’s express that theme… in French!” Abby says in reference to stretching their comfort zone. “It was a relief to be able to express my feelings without the barrier of a foreign language,” adds Paz.
Meanwhile, André Obin hides away in his Somerville apartment trying to craft the perfect hook. Once he finds it, the rest follows suit. This year’s excellent Endorphin LP is a sequenced journey meant to be listened to front to back, drawing a sound that falls between the dark tones of Matthew Dear and the nostalgic glistening of M83. This is the first record where he spent three months fully immersed in the songwriting process. No commitments, no jobs, no sets; just time to paint the inside of his head with a range of possible tracks. “There are a few synthesizers on the record that I only just added to my studio late last year, so there are some new colors and textures,” he explains. “It can be an expensive endeavor but it’s usually worth it for the sake of carefully curated art.”
In June, experimental musician W00DY will release RNBW, a brand new full-length focused on the spectrum of personality, hence the “rainbow” abbreviation. Between working a part-time job and obsessively practicing her music at home, she’s finally figured out how to record bodily sounds (ie: breaths and slurps) and dark house gloom similarly to Holly Herndon or Andy Stott. “Having physical contact with hardware equipment–touching buttons, knobs, playing synth melodies–is extremely satisfying,” she says, referring to her 16-channel analogue mixer. “It feels like I’m playing an instrument.”
That’s because she is. W00DY, André Obin, Miss Geo, and the rest of the acts on Together’s bill are creating music with unconventional instruments. That also means they’re victims to electronic music’s biggest detractor: misunderstanding. “People who don’t know a lot about electronic music always think that you’re a DJ,” says W00DY. “A lot of work goes into DJing as well, but DJing, as opposed to live performance, has more of an emphasis on creating an atmosphere. It’s usually OK to talk during a DJ set, but it’s infuriating when people do that while I’m playing, especially because there are live vocals.” So when musicians look up from their board to see the audience has let loose on the dance floor, it makes for a magical connection. It’s the signal that the message in their music has been translated.
With great technology comes great responsibility – and great error. “Let’s just say that machines, while you never have to worry about them not showing up, are oddly not as reliable as humans,” says Obin. Braving the stage hoping your equipment doesn’t flake is just part of the usual routine. Most products are fickle, especially the cords that connect them. They scramble to sort through their cable spaghetti onstage and pack them up a brief hour later. “You’re always flipping a coin: will the signal make its way through the maze, or not?” says Abby of Miss Geo.
This is all part of the allure. Electronic music, be it synthpop, house beats, or experimental songs, is fueled entirely by passion and creativity. More importantly, it can’t be done without help from an audience. Miss Geo, Andre Obin, and W00DY all test our new songs during live shows. “We’ll tweak parts based on what we may discover makes an emotional connection and may have overlooked,” Abby confesses. Human response dictates technological success. Together, as the festival title implies, we make our music stronger.
As W00DY puts it, Boston is a very complicated place for music. There’s a large divide between the underground and above ground scenes. Together Boston helps bridge that gap. “It’s this weird game of ‘knowing the right people’ to play the bigger above ground spaces,” she says, “but there’s a mutual feeling of support in the underground scene which makes it a very positive and exciting movement.” “There are pockets within the community for almost every genre,” adds Obin, “and I feel a great deal of support and love from my city.”
Head out to any of Together Boston’s events to catch the next big thing – and help them craft their material in the process. Being an influencer and a supporter has never been so easy.
TOGETHER BOSTON. 5.10 – 5.17. 18+/$5-15. TOGETHERBOSTON.COM