Reinier Zonneveld live

Techno to the button: the live artists [Magazine Featured]

We’re at that time of year when social media feeds are flooded with lineups and timetables of the most diverse festivals, parties and gigs. How wonderful. Surely you’ve noticed that, in some of them, next to the artist’s name appears the designation ‘live’.

When this happens it means that the artist is not going to do a DJ set but a live performance. This different way of delivering music to crowds is not new and dates back to the early days of electronic dance music. In an almost cyclical fashion, we are now seeing the emergence of more names in this still-limited group of artists. We give you a brief definition of this type of performance and introduce some of its players in the techno world. The selection of artists presented is not the result of a ranking or voting, but rather a listing of some of the most outstanding artists in the scene.

Live music in its broadest definition is music that is heard in person while it is being performed. By this almost dictionary definition, it seems to include any festival, party or concert you go to, and does not distinguish between a DJ and a live set. The shortest way to distinguish is to say that a DJ set is when the artist mixes pre-recorded music, and a live set is when the artist creates music spontaneously. Both are incredible experiences, and whether you prefer one or the other depends on the taste of the audience, not the value of one to the detriment of the other. So let us delve deeper. In a DJ set, the set-up is usually composed of turntables or CDJs, a mixer, a computer and controllers. Using pre-recorded music the artist spreads his art offering a fluid sonic journey, playing with effects and mixes. In a live set, the list of equipment is endless. Imagine an orchestra, but operated by only one artist, or sometimes duos. Some of the most common equipment are drum machines, synthesizers, sequencers, effect pedals, and laptops. It is a powerful combination of the artist’s creativity, software and hardware.

If live performances were only found in the most underground and hidden environments in the past, nowadays this type of performance is increasingly being discussed. Today it is possible to see the indication ‘live’ on the flyers of the most famous festivals in the world, a sign that this restricted niche is getting the deserved spotlight. There are many artists practising live sets. Many do not do it exclusively and offer DJ sets or live sets depending on the occasion or type of event. Others are solely live artists. These exist in all genres of the dance music spectrum, but let’s now look at our dark friend techno.


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Image Credit: Cooper Seykens