Whilst talking about his relationship with childhood friend and fellow electronic music producer James Blake, McAndrews stated that they had been making music together ever since they had met whilst both were attending the same school in the London Borough of Enfield, along with Blake’s current touring drummer Ben Assiter. They both played in a band called The Scene, which McAndrews described as which “pretty embarrassing – although if I had my way, it would have been a lot worse”.
Their tradition of collaboration continued throughout them attending university , leading to McAndrews’ contribution of the looping riff of Blake’s ‘Lindisfarne’ from his self-titled debut album, and later the two jointly created a dual release of ‘Pembroke’ and ‘Lock In The Lion’ in 2010.
However, For Years represents the first opportunity for McAndrews to step out of the shadow of his childhood friend, and expand his name as one of the forefront producers of melodic and somewhat etherial post-dubstep music. This ability to create emotional rich music is especially displayed on ‘Wait’, which features samples of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O. However, the culmination of Airhead’s abilities are perfectly executed on ‘Autumn’, which sees the looping of “there’s a slight possibility / that I’m not who I want to be” … “and I lost it all / and I lost it all / and I lost it all” over a melodic acoustic guitar riff. The track expresses a painful self-doubt and introspection, which Airhead may not have managed to refine previously. For Years is an extremely promising debut album for McAndrews.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Thom Yorke (of a small band called Radiohead) and Nigel Godrich (Radiohead’s long-time producer) who together make up two-fifths of IDM (intelligent dance music) quintet Atoms For Peace criticised the current state of electronic dance music, with Yorke stating that:
“They [mainstream EDM producers] wash the surface off and they’ve cleaned it up and Auto-Tuned it. It’s like, “Fuck you!”
Godrich continued to state that David Guetta and Calvin Harris are the “the Marks & Spencer” electronic dance music, and mainstream artists such as these representing a “distillation of the DJ thing”.
These comments specifically remind me of the assertions made by James Blake in an interview with The Boston Phoenix in 2011, in which he stated that modern dubstep (which, it should be pointed out, is a subgenre of electronic dance music) has:
“come over to the US, and certain producers — who I can’t even be bothered naming — have definitely hit upon a sort of frat-boy market where there’s this macho-ism being reflected in the sounds and the way the music makes you feel. And to me, that is a million miles away from where dubstep started. It’s a million miles away from the ethos of it… that is a direct misrepresentation of the sound as far as I’m concerned.”
In my own mind, Godrich and Yorke and James Blake are all talking about the same phenomenon – the misrepresentation of a sound that has been meticulously crafted by underground DJs and producers into something that is limp and gauche at the same time. The music that producers such as Skrillex and Calvin Harris produce are different versions of the same thing. They create music which is completely lacking in the emotion and depth of feeling and thought that the music had been crafted into, into radio and chart-friendly, but fundamentally pointless two and a half minute songs.