Maybe Electronic Music Isn’t So Bad After All
Living in a small town can be rough. Despite the obvious setbacks, e.g. everything closes at 10 PM and there’s an abundance of people who actually watch The 700 Club, you’re also provided with the unique opportunity to carve out your very own little niche in an otherwise desolate cultural landscape. Ventura County is full of hidden gems, largely due to the fact that there isn’t a whole lot to do besides making music and eating Del Taco. I myself am a regular at 3am. A chili cheese fry aficionado of sorts.
Enter Ryan Holmberg. Ryan has been an active and evolutionary member of the Ventura County music scene for years. He started playing music after he received his first guitar on his 13th birthday and has continued growing as a musician ever since. I was fortunate enough to know Ryan while he began bringing his music to the public in 2009, when he put out his first acoustic EP. I have vivid memories of us drawing “album artwork” on my living room floor, and my mother kicking Ryan out of my house due to a mild case of the shingles. Since those early days, Ryan has contributed to a handful of bands and is now trailblazing a solo electronic project. His new album, Marilyn, is a heady exploration into instruments I can’t pronounce and content anyone can connect with.
Electronic music tends to be polarizing: either you appreciate the extreme technical prowess it requires to manipulate sound in such a way, or you hear nothing but noise. “Marilyn” softens hearts of even the toughest critics by blending a healthy balance of quirky experimental beats with discernible pop-ish elements which keep Ryan’s advanced sound grounded in something we can wrap our heads around. With the evident influence of The Postal Service, James Blake, and Radiohead, Ryan exercises refined range in a sometimes-pigeonholed genre.
As with any good story, Ryan’s journey to making electronic music started with drugs. Specifically, while he was lying flat on the floor on mushrooms while listening to Give Up by The Postal Service.
“I noticed a lot of things I never did before; I found a new appreciation. I guess that’s what happens when you listen to music on drugs.”
Ryan dove face first into learning the intricacies of making electronic music by teaching himself how to operate an artillery of instruments and programs. He also made a keen effort to understand what makes the genre what it is and how to take it to the next level.
“Once I realized I liked electronic music, there was a whole new genre that I’ve never even listened to and so many artists. There’s so much stuff to listen to from the past. I had to educate myself. I had to get an idea of what people are doing to not accidentally copy someone because a lot of it has already been done. A lot of artists pride themselves on originality. Maybe its not a conscious effort, but they try to do something new.”
It takes impressive dexterity to manipulate growing pains into something salvageable. With relentless tenacity, Ryan forged his sound into something distinctive and eloquent.
“A good amount of the sounds on my record were blatant accidents,” says Ryan. “Weird freaks of nature that happened to occur. That’s [the sound] that I eventually went with because I’ve never heard it before. When you’re writing an acoustic song, there isn’t much that can go wrong. There’s more room for error with electronic music.
“I saw a quote the other day somewhere on social media: I guess for a producer, a song is never finished. It just gets to a point where they decide they’re not gonna perfect it anymore. Everyone has a different point. I’ve been working on this for a year, and I’m really picky. It was a lot of trial and error. I made a bunch of different songs, 15 songs, and decided to release eight of them.”
Marilyn drops February 20th, 2016. Follow Ryan on Soundcloud to hear all of his electronic endeavors, including (but not limited to) “Appreciation” and his banger of a single “Not My Problem” featuring the ever-sultry Noah Stanley.
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