Ideally, electronic musicians should be able to play their instruments live – and that’s much easier when there is more than one of you. Many of our votes were for duos or bands – maybe four or more hands gives you that crucial interplay and human interaction? There were votes for improvisation (Cobblestone Jazz), acoustic piano vs. electronics (Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto), DJs vs. laptops (The Orb, drum n’ bass vs. live drumming (London Elektricity), machines and vocals (Ellen Allien & Apparat), dual machinists (Digitalism, Hardfloor, Modeselektor, Scratch Perverts, Alter Ego), double DJs (A.Skillz & Diplo), trios (Motor) and crisps packets, vegetables and god knows what else from Mathew Herbert.
Then came the votes for the solo performers. Live laptoppers range from producers who simply mix together completed tracks in Ableton to improvisers whose notes and beats are different at every performance. It might be hard from the dancefloor to tell which is which, but when the tunes are good, does it really matter? In 2006, our voters don’t seem to think so. Votes rolled in for Vitalic, Luomo, Lindstrom, Mathew Jonson, Alex Smoke, Alex Under, Pier Bucci, Rob Acid, Isolee, Audion, Reinhart Voigt, Heartthrob, Patrick Chardronnet, Exercise One, Lawrence, Gabriel Ananda, Joris Voorn, Matias Aguayo, Tomas Andersson, Alexander Robotnick and Kate Wax. Perhaps people were voting for the music rather than any ‘performance’ as such with some of these choices, but we’ll leave you to decide who is really checking his email out in the clubs.
Finally, given that the template for live electronics has yet to be set in stone, it’s probably right that many people voted for more traditional bands and performers: Jape, Fatboy Slim and his band, Soulwax, The Bays, TV on the Radio, Amp Fiddler, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Strobe, Nightmares on Wax, Chic, Scissor Sisters, The Presets, Bugz in the Attic, My Disco, Primal Scream, Chicks on Speed, Cut Copy and Hot Chip all registered as favourites. Our number five winner is probably the most fitting band of them all, having inspired and helped along so many of today’s young electronic musicians.
That’s a lot of very different kinds of acts. Probably the only thing that unites most of them is that they play late at night in clubs. From plugging in the cables to writing the music itself, each act has had to figure out their own a unique solution to the challenge of performing, and not just overseeing, live electronic music. In the end, it's the artists that make space for spontaneity in their acts who really excite us.