What would it take to sound “new”?



I think the neoliberal apocalypse would need all-inclusive Creativity Spaces (currently called Maker Spaces) where, in theory, innovation might still be possible.

Anyway, what would it take to sound new? First definition of “new” in the OED: “That has not previously existed, differs from what existed in the past, etc.” So all sound is new…

…unless you believe in repetition, which I don’t.

But in the spirit of the original question:

First time: Richard D. James Album

Last time: Sarah Belle Reid performance at Moogfest


Indeed. I worked in a truly special video store ~2005-2007, and what strikes me as unreal now isn’t that we were allowed to put on a worn VHS copy of Color of Pomegranates at 7pm on a Friday, but that patrons would come in and actually want to talk about it.


I miss regularly being schooled by record store peeps. My friend Ed was a total sage when I was 19-20 and practicing above the local record shop. “Oh, you think Tortoise is revolutionary? Check out Steve Reich.” “You like Gastr del Sol? Have you heard this Faust/Tony Conrad collaboration? John Fahey?” He also said “Oh, your band sounds like the Munich/Hausmusik scene, have you heard those bands?”

So many pivotal moments from listening to Ed at Ground Zero. The online community is good for dialogue, but there’s something magical about that record shop experience when you build a relationship with someone who really knows what’ll bend your ear.


Maybe not replying to anything in particular, but I can’t help to ramble a little since “New” as a concept occupies my mind a lot, as does “Art Vs Craft”. Not that I have come to any radically new or interesting conclusions. Its seems when and where art pushes ahead exploring new ground, craft stays at home, woodshedding, perfecting something and achieving mastery. Modernism has put New on the piedestal. However, in life I don’t want everything new. I want a lot of things to be homely, worn in, recognizeable. I want my family members to be the same, smell the same. And sometimes I want some of my music to stay the same too. Maybe that’s ok.

Still, when creating, I find it the most rewarding when I take risks, lose my way, venture into the unknown. Putting sounds in new company. As James Webb Young put it in his book on ideas “…an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.” (he might have referenced someone else, Pareto?) Nothing revolutionary about it, but quite a democratic view on our ability to come up with something “new”. Overall, changing out an ingredient for something else in a recipe can be interesting. In a new context, maybe it isn’t all new. But the recognizeable is still given a new spin. It becomes fresh again.

Last, I’m thinking, that the perceived “newness” of something depends a lot on myself being open and willing to hear something new or different. To let my early judgement and prejudice rest etc. Or have the patience and interest to take on a new genre and really hear it.

Oh, well. Thinking out loud. Cheers!


Love this.

And sometimes there are shiny nuggets of new, found in the midst of all that woodshedding. New to you or new to everyone. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter which.


the bleeding edge:
critical: Settings>Speed>0.25

but really, and I guess this is more my own personal nostalgia-newness:

  1. probably “Roundabout” by Yes and “Tom Sawyer” by Rush, which I discovered in high school ~30 years after they were released.

those kinda led me to The Mars Volta (seems like @tsintsi shared them as a vector, too). I saw them 6 times in a short period and obsessively read interviews and studied who they listened to, and that subsequently led me to all sorts of things like Captain Beefheart, Philip Glass, TV on the Radio (very early in their rise to indie fame), Celia Cruz (pretty mainstream for a Latin artist but was “new” for me being from a very white part of Ohio) to Bowie’s Eno-era stuff. I had a similar profound reaction when “Everything in its Right Place” by Radiohead really clicked with me after seeing a live video.

  1. The Kid by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. already mentioned, but the combination of synths sounding like nature along with very genuine, human emotion in her voice and lyrics is something hard for me to articulate. I have trouble not crying when I hear “To Feel Your Best”, even if it is just in the background at work. “Says” by Nils Frahm is the next most recent one I can think of.
mini nostalgia

In between 1. and 2. I got into James Blake’s self-titled album and Bloom by Beach House around the same time, and was in a particularly dark-but-hopeful emotional state that I felt like made me really absorb things from and project things onto those albums.

I think it is really interesting to consider what specifically ‘grabs’ us with newness. for some, it seems like it is conceptual reimaginings of music itself, which can intellectually rattle us (personally or as a collective). for me, I often seem to latch onto things that have elements of familiarity but with some added/“new” emotional connection, which is complicated because the context in which we hear something can completely change how we interpret it. I think @ehg & others were getting at the same sort of thing. this might not sound like "new"ness to everyone, but if we’re talking about what has a profound effect on us, sometimes I don’t really care about whether a new technical trail has been blazed or if a song/album is simply opening things up for me personally (which might require that emotional/human/vulnerable aspect, like Bon Iver above), which can happen in far more subtle ways.

I am definitely susceptible to be changed by things highly emotional/highly effected.

I think I like how complicated this discussion is!


Milton Babbitt said that nothing gets old as quickly as a new sound.


Wow! What a fascinating topic. The example that springs to mind that had most impact on my life as a teenage was hearing RATM for the first time. It changed everything, and while obviously drinking heavily from different musical genres and traditions really did sound NEW.

I came to the party late, and think this was the first thing I saw / heard of the band:

Here’s another time my mind was blown and lead to a 5 year diversion into chiptune:

And this one was an incredible moment of “Wait, what?!”

Anyhow, this all makes me think of André Gide’s quote "Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again."


Ill never ever forget the first time i heard OK Computer. I listened about 20 times in a row, each time closer to the speakers. An experience that’s never been repeated as fully for me
Beta Band 3 EP’s felt genuinely new

Funny thing is Post Punk sounded “new” to me, Joy Division slayed me. Television. Bowie

But really the whole experience of music, listening or making, is a joy in my life i could not be without

Oh and pavement. Not new but god i loved them :slight_smile:


Some of the times I remember being jolted by new sounds:

  • First time hearing sequencers and synths in pop in late 70s (I feel love, Kraftwerk, etc)
  • Drums with very short panned Digital delays around 1980 ish (Joy Division etc)
  • When the experimental music of Glenn Branca crept into the downtown noise rock of Sonic Youth, Swans, Live Skull, etc.
  • 80s Midwest dance music taking back disco (Chicago House, Detroit Techno)
  • The advent of sample heavy music (from Hank Shocklee’s Bomb Squad, MARRS, Plunderphonic, KLF, Steinski and Mass Media, etc).
  • Coil’s weird organic use of digital to sound more raw, real and weird than anything before or since. GODS!
  • Radiohead as the last innovative band in rock.
  • Autotune abused beyond rational limits for pop (Cher, Kanye, etc).

But rarely am I jolted by new sounds these days. (There are exceptions tho, thank you Hip Hop). I often lament how there is a lot of regurgitating of the past (please leave my childhood alone and create your own). A lot of innovation cycles are spent on perfect emulations of legendary old tech. It feels like a hall of mirrors.

I have my own ideas about what it would take to sound new and shocking now, and am working on these ideas. Oddly when I talk about what I’m doing people scratch their heads - so I no longer talk about them, or the tools I’m using (and the tools I’m using are very new but get no love here or anywhere else - guess they’re defacto secret weapons, sitting in broad day light waiting for TB-303 style abuse). But my ideas also come out of the distinctly queer cultural mindset of me and my friends.

Technology plays a role in ‘new’ sounds. But subcultural use of new or old tech in new ways is more important. Look at underground scenes for innovation. The tools are just a means to an end, and innovation is about people using tech and not the machines alone.

Watch culture and marginalized people if you want to hear something “new.”


I believe the only way to sound new is to sound like you.

…Your voice and/or your words and/or your ideas…

That’s all we’re missing.


I like that a lot.

And “newness” is probably something organic just like our genes. It can’t arrive from nothing. When we (are young) and experience something “totally new” it’s most likely because we are not familiar with where that music was coming from. The roots are hidded to us.

It’s easy to try too hard to sound new, most likely it will sound gimmicky.

Thinking about it, I guess I’m no longer looking as much for new stuff as befriending “voices” whose sound/story/melodies I can relate to. I can appreciate their artistry by understanding where they’re coming from.


Old sounds(or anything really) in fresh contexts can be new sounding and depending on how far you wanna roll with that idea…its infinite really. Otherwise whats really new? Im more into ancient myself.(trying to remember epic quote from Julian Copes Modern Antiquarian.

As far as something fresh sounding electronic stuff unfortunately too little is appealing to me these days…

Autechre are obviously still the big Cahoonas…They r implementing spectral and fft in some pretty incredible ways…and what they r doing with AE live is monumental 2 say the least. AFX is also still sounding pretty fresh compared to whats out there.

Other than those ole frogies the boys at PC music are recontextualising bubble gum pop with experimental electronica that only re-affirms that there is defo something up with the brits and awesome cutting edge tunage.


Yes, and hopefully people acknowledge the influence of these individuals and groups, though I keep seeing that not happen. I do my damndest though.

Also yes, absolutely. I believe so, too.

I listen to Adventures in Sound and Music, which is curated by the editors and writers at WIRE magazine, for ideas and exposure to mid-level newness. Mid-level is that music which has reached a level of recognition beyond the underground but still isn’t being played on the Starbucks Spotify playlist.
Two artists I’ve heard on the most recent show that have “new” sounds are Gazelle Twin and James Ferraro.

It’s my current opinion that “new” is new technology, or unconventional uses of old technology. Others have mentioned this to varying degrees.

[EDIT]: I also want to say that music like Dubstep/“Brostep” was, for a while there, doing deeply innovative things with sound design, the likes of which I hadn’t heard before. It’s too bad I don’t really like the music. But I don’t think my disliking the music makes it less innovative.


i think new is happening always but the way we measure time makes it all blur. i don’t think it’s about one individual or group being the first to do something groundbreaking. we need each other to grow together, and we drag along genre and sound and technique that is always morphing into new things. we are only new together… i think music grows and changes with history and humanity…


Sonic… I love that game.

Edit: but that trailer is annoying. Grap all those rings, you crappy player person!!



See also


yes I love this! makes me think also of the subtle fashion/design/lifestyle trend changes which happen that sometimes feel like everyone just woke up one day and had the same thought. we’re all blowing in one breeze…


Oh - and there may have been other matters at work here - but two rather obvious records from the early 1990 that led me to dancefloor based epiphanies:

One of them sounds a bit cheesy now, but at the time there was something about the sheer brutality of these, a kind of hard and cynical repetition that had very little interest in ‘musicality’ that was new to me. They leapt out as WTF moments even in an already pretty crazy environment. Like the sounds had no aspirations beyond doing a specific job. Which they did particularly well.

Nostalgia is clearly at work here.


and a warning from history- a tangent, I admit…
(its a very short prose poem by Brecht)