Killingmysoul is declaring war upon electronic dance music. Yes, I mean that literally – the third track from his/her (I haven't been able to contact Killingmysoul to ascertain gender, age, info, etc.) EP "Open Our Eyes" is titled "الجهاد" – that's "Jihad", for those of you who speak English.
You know "Jihad", as in "Holy War", the second most used word on Fox News. (Right behind "Benghazi!") Jihad is a word so problematic, you'd sooner start tossing around racial epithets and homophobic slurs. In a post 9/11 world, calling a song "Jihad" is just… wrong. Right? Well, maybe.
In Arabic, Jihad is a noun that translates to "struggle" – so the definition really falls into the context of what phrase we're using it within. Maybe I'm right, and maybe I'm wrong, but I think Killingmysoul is embracing the duality of what jihad means. I think it speaks to isolation, a lack of connections, and being marginalized, despite overwhelming talent.
I mean this in the nicest way, but money and connections are really two of the more essential elements of how the modern electronic music business operates. It's hard to be successful outside of New York or Los Angeles, perhaps Miami, Chicago, Tokyo, London and Paris come to mind too – but the gist of the financial situation really remains the same. Unless you're in or near a major OEC city, it's hard to be someone huge. (Ta-Ku emerging from Perth was an outlier, and Perth, W.A. is by no means a small city. Shit just sorta gets lost on the West Coast of Australia, like airplanes and stuff… Too soon?)
Killingmysoul hails from Tomsk, Russia. If you don't know where that is, you're in the same boat I was in just moments ago. I found it on Google Maps, and then zoomed out. And zoomed out again. And zoomed out… again. And again… and holy shit that fucking city is literally in the middle of nowhere.
If you're in the middle of nowhere, it's hard to be connected – especially because in a place like Tomsk, Russia, because you're also economically isolated. Tours don't go through Tomsk, Russia. You won't soon be opening for any big name DJ's in Tomsk. The chief known export of Tomsk is crazy Russian kids who free-climb skyscrapers and radio towers and post their death defying antics on YouTube.
So I type my next sentence knowing full well the gravity of what I'm typing: Killingmysoul is probably the most purely talented and innovative electronic music producer since Burial.(Pause. Take a breath. Try not to blow up the comments just yet.)
In my personal opinion, the best electronic artists are the ones who define their own sound. I know a Daft Punk or JUSTICE song when I hear it, and not just because it's French House. I can tell you the difference between the two. I know when Pharrell produced a song, because it has that "Neptunes" kind of sound. Dr. Dre has his sound, and you just know it when you hear the booming west coast, made-in-LA-by-Dre layers, and rolling, isolated pianos.
Russia (and parts of Eastern Europe) never really lost their late 90s rave culture. There was a kind of trance and dirty rave music being made in the late 90s that really never left these far corners of the globe. Sure, they're connected to the internet, but browsing through "VK Soundcloud" (as I like to call it), I find a ton of music that is clearly (CLEARLY) 90s rave music inspired. Killingmysoul has the 90s rave sound, but it's dark, much more "volatage regulated Moog", and then mixed up with booming American rap drum kits.
Mind you, I peruse through Russia's undercurrent of Soundcloud producers – a lot. I find a diverse array of stuff that comes across sonically as unique and ravey. Big, expansive, witch-inspired artists really are everywhere across VK (Russia's version of Facebook). Trap-inspired music has saturated Russia as much as it has saturated everywhere else in the world.
Similarly, Russia also has its fair share of super-dark, epic-heavy, overtly-fuzzy, chopped-and-screwed, witch-inspired, hot-analog, tubed-amp… musical mud. I mean, it's cool for a second, don't get me wrong, but doing witch right is just hard to do. There are so many pitfalls in producing witchy music, that doing it wrong is 100 times more likely than doing it right. Too often, it's a wall of sound, fuzzy noise, and… hey, where did that melody go?
Where other producers fail miserably, Killingmysoul puts all other producers on a poster. It's analogous to LeBron James driving down the court and cringing for whoever is about to be underneath him on the Sportscenter Top 10 highlight reel.
It's just really damn good, super dark, yet very listenable music, and it makes you want to dance. It's energetic, despite its heaviness and distorted nature. Killingmysoul has a defined, unique and instantly-recognizable sound. There isn't anything else in electronic music right now with this level of polish, refinement, and individuality.
The "jihad" Killingmysoul is referring to? Perhaps it's a struggle, or maybe it's a war – but it is spoken clearly through the music. I spent fully, my entire working day today, blasting Killingmysoul as loud as my monitors and subwoofer would allow. The little nuances, like drum switches, and oscillation at just the right moments are so mature, so interesting, and just… really refreshing. I listen to a ton of electronic music, and no one else I've heard takes huge sonic risks like this.
Even more compelling, is just how diverse the songs are, without deviating from the central theme of everything. Killingmysoul has no problem switching gears between airy, light and melodic vocals, before jumping into gun pops, sweeping industrial synthesizers, and rave keyboards. This is what I kept expecting witch house to mature into, and it never came to fruition before now. Back in the early 80s, they would have said, "That's so punk" – because that's truly what this is.
Everything on Killingmysoul's Soundcloud page is a bastardization of EDM. It extends middle fingers to trap, dubstep, drum and bass, house, glitch, trance, and every other popular form of "dance music", and wails instead with pure energy. It's a producer sitting in the middle of Russia, isolated, and without any real reason not to take huge risks. Since there's really nothing to lose, and everything to gain by making a song like "Black Sea"; The drums are speed metal, double kicks, the guitars are hot-Fender Strat with the distortion turned sky high, and the airy pads have the reverb turned up to 11. Why 11? Because 11 is louder than 10 – duh.
The originals by Killingmysoul are one thing, but the remixes truly show the shift of how clean and boring some of the songs they remixed truly are. Take the bootleg remix of Birdy Nam Nam's "Jaded Future", a song that I feel takes few artistic risks in original form. It is completely transformed into an expansive, analog rave banger, complete with witch-pitch downs, and wild, errant shifts in drumming. Once you listen to the remix, you'll never want to listen to the original again. It's such a harsh juxtaposition, it makes me really question why Owsla is known for being such an innovative label, when their artists get out-shined, and "out-punked" with such force.
Or, take the left-field remix of metalcore band, Bring Me The Horizon. If you're not a metalcore fan, and you think cheesy screamo music sucks – welcome to the club. Yet, somehow, Killingmysoul makes me fall in love with this remix. The build is a low sub-bass, with the scratched, reverb heavy vocals, before it jumps into an expansive, beautiful, Russian rave symphony. It makes me question what I think about how metalcore should or could sound, and when you start challenging basic tenets of musical-genre constraints, you're doing something huge.
This is something truly different, in the "once in a generation" sense. This is Punk Dance Music, being born. PDM, if you will. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the same thing happened with pop and rock music, that Killingmysoul is currently doing to EDM. Metaphorically speaking, this is a "fuck your squeaky clean Electric Daisy Carnival four on the floor bullshit". It's anti-establishment, but done with such a high degree of finish and perfection, that you can't help but respect the overwhelming raw talent behind it. "Young" from the "Open Our Eyes" EP features a wandering female vocal that you might find in mainstream house, but goes for the anti-drop. It has the trap style snares that other trap producers use, but it shifts drum timing, rather than opting for a big sound explosion on the other end. It tails off, rather building to a meme-crescendo. It breaks all the rules, and ends up being better for it.
Perhaps it speaks to me, because I've just become really jaded by EDM. I despise how clean, homogeneous and formulaic it is. I despise the hashtag popularity contests. I despise the fact that I hear the same remixes, of the same things, over and over. I despise the pop-melodic safeness of it all. I despise DJ's who humblebrag on Twitter about how fantastic they are, or how they're innovating, or how great their fans are. EDM culture really turned me off after a while, and I know I'm not alone in this feeling.
Punk music, in its heyday, attracted people like me – people with mohawks, too many tattoos, non-traditional sensibilities, and an urge to say, "Fuck you" to the formulaic, pop bullshit that had become so common. It was music that you had to play loud, in small clubs, and get raucous to. It wasn't "raging, bro", with a fist pump. Punk was a flailing catharsis; just a pure release of raw energy.
The Dead Kennedy's, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, Black Flag, The Damned, The Clash and many others – they are truly the fore-bearers of Killingmysoul. They came along and challenged conventional music of their era with distortion, raw noise, and anti-formulaic songwriting. They signed to teeny-tiny labels, and played even smaller shows. That's where Killingmysoul is right now – their label literally has 37 likes on Facebook, as of this writing. To say they're obscure would be an understatement.
EDM boomed. It's everywhere, and like other booms before it, EDM is seeing the fringe begin the rebellion against the mainstream. It was bound to happen eventually. Any time you see the fringes being marginalized in society, it's only a matter of time before they coalesce and organize into something more powerful than the sum of their parts. Before, it was the basement clubs seeing if they could get rowdier than Madison Square Garden. Today, it's producers in the middle of Russia metaphorically "playing louder" than any artist can at Ultra, Electric Forest, or EDC.
Everything is cyclical in music. Punk was bound to arrive again, but given the times, it's going to be electronic this time around. PDM has arrived, and Killingmysoul is carrying the torch for anyone who wishes to follow. It's truly a great time to be a fan of electronic music. If you're like me, and you'd rather get fucked with a chainsaw than listen to cheesy EDM tunes at an overblown corporate rave/festival, there is now an alternative that is wholly fucking awesome. The basement PDM parties are coming, and they'll be led by the periphery.
I can't wait.