The Glitch Mob on EDM’s Minimalism Movement Heading Into 2023
In recent years, EDM has enjoyed its own ‘Rock & Roll era’ — for better or for worse. Raves have become a performance of grand exhibition, where how many lasers you bring seems as important as the music itself. 20 years ago, however, it wasn’t about the lasers or the strobes. It was about good music and gathering at some arcane location — usually a warehouse.
There’s something pure about those early days. Producers and promoters alike are once again grasping for that raw energy rave culture was originally founded on — rooted in community and counterculture. This attention to ‘minimalism’ has been felt and heard by both mainstream and underground artists across the globe.
“Back in the day, it didn’t matter what room you were in,” Josh Mayer, otherwise known as Ooah, one-third of The Glitch Mob, said in an exclusive interview with MP3 MAG. “It didn’t matter how many lights there were. It was grimy. It was underground, for real. It was all about the tunes.”
Much of that raw, underground energy has been lost during EDM’s initiation into popular culture. According to Edward Ma, otherwise known as edIT of The Glitch Mob, it has been replaced by what he refers to as the “EDM production arms race.” From Excision’s dazzling laser show to Tales of Us’s massive 3D robot-human hybrids, today’s EDM superstars are giving us some of the most intricate, explosive production ever seen in a live setting — period. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a very different experience than what raves were originally designed to be.
The Glitch Mob may be returning to the underground with Ctrl Alt Reality, but just a few years ago, they were also known to have some of the most elaborate live production this side of AV sets — led by their iconic “Blade” stage design.
“The goal with the Blade was always to create our own custom instrument that allowed us to say what we wanted to say on stage, and to create something that nobody else had even attempted to build, per se,” Ma said. “Essentially, we just wanted to see how far we could push our limits.”
To say that the Blade pushed the limits of live production is an understatement. To this day, no one has recreated that delicate balance between stage prop and live instrument that the Blade embodied. In many ways, the Blade represents EDM’s ascension towards a mainstream focus on resplendent presentation and expensive investments.
But, before the Blade, The Glitch Mob was just three DJs behind a laptop. Although they had a massive vision for their live performances long before they saw the financial fruits of their creative labor, there was one thing standing in the way of their artistic vision: money.
“A lot of the time, it comes down to money,” Mayer said. “If you have the money to do all the big stuff, you can make a crazy show and become a massive artist if your music is good enough. You can pay for huge production and high-level collabs. You can do a lot of things, but that’s just one way to look at it, right?”
So, The Glitch Mob spent years climbing the production ladder, slowly investing more time and money to their live performance. Eventually, the Blade was born. But something unexpected happened.
The Blade, which was once an innovative instrument for creative freedom, eventually became the stark opposite: a strange production parade that overshadowed the music. The Glitch Mob officially crossed the finish line in the EDM production arms race, but the first-place medal didn’t quite sit right in their trophy case.
So, they decided to start over. “This new endeavor of ours is getting back to the spirit of rave culture, which is really about the music first. That’s it,” Mayer said. Thus, Ctrl Alt Reality was born — a victory lap of minimalist production and pure musical intention.
Ctrl Alt Reality is a callback to the raw energy of warehouse raves and wild break beats. The album pushes the reset button on both the music and the live production while trailblazing a clear footpath on the other side of a massive summit. This sort of descent is something very few artists get to experience. Maybe that’s because the climb to the top is so difficult, it’s hard to justify coming back down.
But that’s exactly what The Glitch Mob is doing in their post-Blade era: they’re trading the rock star status for a more intimate relationship with the music. One without the distraction of shiny performance gimmicks and flashy presentation. Going forward, the music will speak for itself.
“If you want to see like a theatrical show, that’s just not where we’re at right now,” Mayer said. “We’ve done all that stuff. It was dope, but we feel like it had run its course for us. It was time to find something new. That’s where Ctrl Alt Reality came from.”
The Glitch Mob isn’t alone. There’s a movement towards minimalism rising up in the rave community, led by entities like DEF, Brownies & Lemonade and Offbeat. Warehouses are back in style, baby. It’s time the music takes center stage.
“It’s about the tunes,” Ma said. “It’s about that feeling we had at the very first raves we went to — the excitement, the rawness, the people. That’s what Ctrl Alt Reality is all about. We’re returning to our roots. We’re returning to the underground.”
Catch An-Ten-Nae alongside Glitch Mob, Mystic Grizzly, Josh Teed and more at Jungle Dreaming, which will take place March 17-20 in Costa Rica. Find more info at: jungledreaming.com.