To explain minimal music to a public that cannot distinguish between techno and house is a bit like trying to force-feed chili peppers to a two-year-old. To be fair, the advent of contemporary hipsters and their slightly more refined taste in media has advanced the public’s understanding of electronic music to a point where anyone with an ugly Christmas sweater and big glasses could probably give you a crude, working definition of house music. Yet to our surprise, their hipster radars have stopped short of what we might call the richest, most compelling form of music.
We are surprised, because hipsters are very visual people, and understanding minimal is akin to understanding the principles of good visual communication: It requires a basic understanding of Gestalt psychology. And like the designers of the Modernist era, minimal does away with all but the most basic elements of a given piece of music to achieve its purpose with the utmost efficiency and restraint. Minimal is to music as Swiss typography is to design: clean and succinct, yet rich and humanistic. In minimal, nothing is accidental, and the best artists meticulously craft the most tedious intricacies in their soundscape, teasing out of a computer what seems possible only through a real instrument.
If you don’t believe us, listen to “Miss You” by Anders Trentemøller, a Danish producer whose 2006 album The Last Resort still dominates our top plays on iTunes. ResidentAdvisor.net, our version of Pitchfork, describes the album as “electronic Romanticism.” If you haven’t heard Trentemøller yet, tune into WRCT on 88.3 FM at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday during WRCT’s Massive Music Weekend to listen to a full half hour of nothing but Trentemøller.
“But what about Gold Panda?” you might ask. “Aren’t they clean and succinct and meticulously crafted?”
No. Go outside, smoke your cigarette, and think about what you just said.