Bondax & Friends : The Most Defining Electronic Album of the Past Decade
It’s more challenging to see through the mire of electronica than with any other scene. With an incomparably vast and unbalanced ratio of high-profile artists in comparison to its lower ranks, the inklings of electronica’s underground are known only to those truly invested in its course. An emergent discussion of electronic music tends to take a turn towards the world’s at-this-moment powerhouse festival DJ’s, while leaving out the rest of its foundation.
And that’s a problem.
Undoubtedly, the same can be said for other movements. Hip-hop’s mainstream is a blockading front of a much more in-depth, complex, and talented collection of artists and music. Even small-scale stylings noted for their independence and traditional craft like reggae and indie possess these screens of all-too-popular big names accounting for far too large of the market share.
The reason is simple: Most people are lazy and don’t want to put any work into finding the right music for their tastes, and instead fall ass backwards into whatever is handed to them.
And yet, something about the electronic scene in particular seems to have developed a following not wholesomely unwilling, but seemingly less motivated to explore its underbelly.
I don’t know about you, but my favorite music is usually the lesser-known. It’s not because I’m a hipster. It’s not because I’m a snob. It’s not because I’m a critic. It’s because there is so much more of it. And it’s because in addition to the present, smaller artists with the talent and tendency to take risks represent the past and future of music, while big names oftentimes are designated but a small sliver of the now until, especially in the modern scene, the world craves something new. My favorite concerts to attend are the smaller acts – the nobodies – the artists who must experiment, innovate, and deliver or drown. And though that mindset exists as does a grandiose subset of electronic nobodies, a core fanbase of electronica’s lower-class is far too inconsistent to be viable for the artists, where small-scale rappers, acoustic vocalists, cello players, and everyone in between have far better luck unearthing their niche audience.
Talent is easy to observe when an artist explores a traditional route like instrumentation, lyricism, and vocals, but because electronica is more widely accessible to create and has a shorter history, people oftentimes mistake talent for classic ineptitude. Like with all genres, less capable artists exist, but audiences often struggle to differentiate between the good and the bad when it comes to electronic production and performance.
It’s a shame, because electronic music’s lower ranks bubble and occasionally explode with some of the most creative and important artists in the world.
One of the driving forces behind the scene’s struggles so to speak, is that we are living in a time of electronica in-between. While stylings like hip-hop and grime, R&B and neo-soul, punk-revival and indie are leading the way, they’re doing so in large favor to the utilization of electronic methods. The same electronic methods that guided the course of music’s entirety just a half-decade ago.
It was a golden era, the early 2010’s, that began with the rise of Disclosure and collapsed underneath the mayhem attached to three years of Harlem Shake memes. In its place, the rest of music has taken ahold of the world’s attention and with it, the artists of that special run. Today, many of the artists responsible for driving the early 2010’s electronica explosion find themselves working as overqualified producers. The result is pristine, innovative, experimental music across every genre’s mainstream, except for electronica itself where stagnation of popular artists has shriveled its sound and range.
But forever and always, some of the most important artists, ideas, and innovations of the recent golden era have been immortalized in the work of a single album: Bondax & Friends. The perfect representation of our generation’s most exciting moment in electronic history, the album is nothing but defining.
For those new to the 25-track collection from a swatch of diverse artists, pour yourself a glass of wine. For Bondax & Friends veterans, you know the drill: do the same, and press Play.
Kiddos of the audience: keep in mind that this album came just before the globalized normalcy of streaming services and was better downloaded illegally as a set of MP3s from YouTube. Today, it’s almost impossible to find in whole, having been dissolved by streaming services, record labels, and artists themselves who have yanked their now-ancient tracks. But, if you can make it happen, most possible by scrambling through SoundCloud or finding an acceptable quality YouTube Playlist, it’s worth every ounce of effort.
You see, though driven by the immensity of top-tier artists, the early 2010’s electronic push was better defined by a ridiculously large collection of smaller artists. Kind of similar to the modern-day hip-hop spectrum – guided by the hands of some of the world’s biggest names but bubbling over with an incalculable number of kids with SoundCloud accounts – some good, but most bad – the electronic scene saw a similarly massive influx of creatives, so many of which rightfully earned their 15 minutes of fame.
That broad-strokes immensity can be seen in the playbill for Bondax & Friends. Though globally respected and boasting a sizable audience, Bondax saw the virtue of good, innovative music as more valuable than their ability to only collaborate with names that would draw a bigger audience.
It was 2014 and the world was still coming down from the high of Latch and about to experience its subsequent tremor, Omen. But it wasn’t just Disclosure and Sam Smith; Slow Magic was molding the early Dreamwave scene into its established form with what to this day remains his masterpiece, How To Run Away; Arca was in the middle stages of introducing the world to his haunting, wildly experimental and uncomfortable texture; Darius & Crayon were getting us all on the dancefloor, Tourist was getting us in tune with our proud sensitivities, Kygo and KAYTRANADA were just breaking ground, and electrofunk was gaining serious momentum. No matter which direction you turned, a new producer or DJ was doing something never heard before. Music’s biggest names lined up to work with the modern composers. The world revolved around electronica, and electronica revolved around London.
And from London came Bondax & Friends, with a multicultural swatch of diverse creatives in tow. First came vocals from Bo Saris whose powerful high-tones and bubbly delivery welcomed the listener to the album and have since earned him a high-profile R&B career. Parisian producer Stwo stepped in and took our hand for a down-tempo, mellowist undertaking to widen the sonic breadth of the project. Brit, Karma Kid delivered a bold hip-hop cut. Toronto’s Shagabond showed his early clean-cut and layered genius. DJ Cam Quartet brought a little something for the electro-jazz fans. Manchester producer combined with Italian crooner, Mark Borgazzi for what might be the suavest track ever recorded (and our personal favorite from the project).
There are further features from Alina Baraz, Speelburg, and Darianna Everett; appearances from Reva Devito, iamnobodi, Kartell, Darius, Ali Jameson, Kahwe, Dürerstuben, Jerome LOL, Camo & Krooked, French Kiwi Juice, and Duke Dumot; remixes from Esta, Bodhi, and 5eya; and then of course, behind it all, there is Bondax.
But what’s most impressive about Bondax & Friends is not that it glides seamlessly for almost two hours; it’s not that it incorporates a global scale of artists and utilizes what at the time were excusive tracks; it’s not that it brought together electronica’s entire range in a way innovative, clean, and representational; it’s not that it showed what the future of what the mega-genre would hold or that it helped launch the careers of a dozen other influential artists; and it’s not that it captured and exhibits to this day the sound of a key epoch in music history. What’s most impressive about Bondax & Friends is that Bondax themselves brought all of this talent together and joined them rather than lead them. Their influence obviously dictates the album, but their stamp on it is not complete. They are after all friends, and there is so much about that sentiment that could be used in music today.