Beatmaking's Influence in Retro Music Forms; MGMT's "Electric Feel" Demonstrates Elements Beatmakers Regularly Highlight
|By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)|
In my own self-imposed MusicStudy, I regularly come across contemporary music from music traditions outside of hip hop/rap that feature elements that you could easily imagine being heard in a beat. One such case is a song I used to listen to a lot last year, called "Electric Feel," by MGMT.
The first thing that stands about MGMT's "Electric Feel" is the drumwork. The song opens with an 8-bar, in-your-face drum framework that includes a drum pattern wherein the kick doubles up, landing often on the "2" and the "4." The snare, which is a slim shade of a standard rock snare sound, smacks on the "2" but drops out on the "4" (because of this snare pattern, I'm led to believe that at least some of the drumwork was electronically produced). After the intro drumwork, the core groove begins and the drum framework switches up to what could best be described as a tribal drumming phrase, with a steady, "marching-beat" kick pattern. When the "tribal drums" come in, the velocity of the hi-hat seems to dissipate. I'm not sure if there was an intentional velocity change by MGMT, or if this was a sonic feature created in the final mix; whatever the case, it works...I know, because I often drop out my hi-hats at certain parts within my beats. Main reason? I've always found that it creates an interesting sonic composite.
The next thing that grabs me about MGMT's "Electric Feel" is its core groove: A simple 3-note, mid-pitched pattern with a rubbery—not dark or heavy-bottomed—bass line. The guitar and bass strum together in a declarative manner, yet the tone is casual, almost understated. I think this is the reason why there's so much room to experiment with several different drum frameworks throughout the entire song.
Finally, for the changes (different movements), MGMT works in an array of light-handed keyboard fare. One keyboard phrase is a chromatic glowing of synth-pop tones that dance across the top of the core groove; another keyboard phrase sounds like a syncopated ping pong, dripping across tightly wound harp strings. It would appear that MGMT knows that it's the 2-bar core groove that's driving the song, so rather than smother it, they opt for more delicate phrasing for the changes. A decision that no doubt makes the otherwise understated rhythm of "Electric Feel" soar.
The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
MGMT - "Electric Feel"