Whether you attained your music taste through the 1960s or the ’90s, you might have found a major passion within the vast and entirely pleasurable stomping ground of rock music. Rock is an extremely ambiguous term in the modern-day because of its long existence and extensive evolution over that period. In its purest form, rock was born in the 1940s and ’50s with the early rhythm and blues musicians like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.
Since then, we’ve had a number of major fractures in the progression of rock music. For example, if you were around in the early 1970s, were you more of a prog-rocker or a glam-rocker? In the ’80s, were you a sucker for the synth-pop groups like OMD or The Human League? Or would you rather spin a Cure or Smiths LP and lament about how much better rock was in the heyday?
The truth is, rock is a very difficult term to define these days, and so naturally, you might wonder what I will be considering as rock and electronic today. When I say “rock lovers”, I simply refer to those who enjoy pop music of the late 20th century and alternative music of the modern-day that centralises itself on electric guitar sounds and manual drum beats.
By essential electronic albums for rock lovers, you might have started to rack your brains for electronic rock albums such as Primal Scream’s 1991 classic, Screamadelica or Radiohead’s Aphex Twin inspired tour de force Kid A. However, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to lump such albums in with “rock” and assume you already know and enjoy them if you’re an avid rock listener.
Instead, I’ve picked out five albums that dress more toward the electronic side, whereby most of the instrumentals are electronically produced or sampled from pre-existing songs. These five albums are essential for all music lovers, even if you fear or loathe electronic music.
Five essential electronic albums for rock music lovers:
Endtroducing….. – DJ Shadow
In 1996, American music producer DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) proved himself to be the Mozart of the MPC sampler in his seminal debut record, Endtroducing….. The album was most certainly one of a kind upon its release and has gone largely unrivalled and unparalleled in its field ever since. The music is solely created from samples that Davis expertly mixed together, and while some struggle to pigeonhole the genre, it sits somewhere between trip-hop, sampledelia and plunderphonics.
If you don’t have much time for electronic music because of its lack of punctuating lyrics or character, then please hold your horses and give this classic a listen. Not only will you be listening to a historical gem that served as the blueprint for countless subsequent artists in all walks of music, but you should also enjoy the unique mix of genres with samples from the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Metallica, Pink Floyd, Grandmaster Flash, Nirvana and A Tribe Called Quest.
Mezzanine – Massive Attack
In 1998, Bristol trip-hop legends Massive Attack dropped their third studio album, Mezzanine. The album is a hit-laden masterpiece wielding four breathtaking singles in ‘Risingson’, ‘Teardrop’, ‘Angel’ (feat. Elizabeth Fraser), and ‘Inertia Creeps’.
The album came as something a little darker after the group’s first two LPs, Blue Lines (1991) and Protection (1994). While remaining within the genre realms of electro, the album is a treat for any rock fans out there with its evocative lyrics and irresistible beats. The album also contains samples from The Velvet Underground, The Cure and Isaac Hayes.
Psyence Fiction – UNKLE
Two years after his breakthrough success in producing the aforementioned Endtroducing….., Josh Davis joined forces with British DJ and producer James Lavelle to release Psyence Fiction under the collaborative outfit UNKLE. The album follows the producers’ tried and mastered passion for instrumental hip-hop sample mixing, but fortunately for the rock lovers among us, they looked to move UNKLE in a more song-oriented musical direction for this album.
“My frustration was that I didn’t want to make weird instrumental hip hop records. We could’ve easily achieved that but I wanted songs,” Lavelle said of the record. “Listening to Richard Ashcroft was a revelation because I thought, ‘If I could bring that ilk of singer in with what I was hearing from Shadow I’ll crack it’.”
Lavelle indeed managed to achieve a song-orientated album with the help of collaborating rock musicians, most notably, The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft (‘Lonely Soul’), Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (‘Rabbit in Your Headlights’), Badly Drawn Boy (‘Nursery Rhyme/Breather’) and The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown (‘Be There’). This album is the essential bridge between rock and electronic music.
Moon Safari – Air
In 1998, the electronic duo Air released their seminal debut album, Moon Safari. I imagine a moon safari to be a calming yet cosmically stunning trip around the lunar landscape in some sort of space Jeep. The music within isn’t far from giving this experience too.
The French electro pair set the bar very high with this debut LP which is studded with dream-pop anthems including: ‘La Femme D’argent’, ‘All I Need’ and ‘Sexy Boy’. The album is essential for everyone, but its encyclopedic blend of genres, including jazz, rock and downtempo electro, makes it a feast for the rock lovers among us.
The Campfire Headphase – Boards of Canada
Scottish electronic duo Boards of Canada made the perfect ambient electro album for rock lovers in 2005 with The Campfire Headphase. The experimental blend of ambient, trip-hop and folktronica evokes vivid imagery despite the lack of words. If you usually shy from electronic music, you might find common ground with this record, thanks to its thumping beat drops and heavy use of acoustic guitar.
One half of the duo, Mike Sandison, once described the making of the album: “We usually imagine our music to have a visual element while we’re writing it, so we were picturing this character losing his mind at the campfire and compressing weeks of events into a few hours, in that time-stretching way that acid fucks with your perception.”