Exploring Sound

Two artists make up the duo that is El Duo, and both improvise – electronically. As a result, every live show they play is different.

The modern musical genre called electronica – rebranded as a less exotic “electronic dance music (EDM)” by the industry since 2010 – actually owes its existence to the groundbreaking work of two icons of 20th century avant-garde classical music.

German Karlheinz Stockhausen created music in the 1950s. American John Cage published his first of six Imaginary landscapes featuring two variable-speed turntables, frequency recordings, muted piano and a cymbal in 1939. But it wasn’t until two German all-electronic bands surfaced, first Tangerine Dream (1967) and later Kraftwerk (1970), that electronica came to the attention of the musical mainstream.

First heard mainstream in 1966 as an effect in The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” from theRevolver album, electronic sounds are now so commonplace in popular music that we barely notice them. Within the modern EDM genre however, electronics don’t just embellish conventional instruments, electronically generated sounds are the only instruments.

Formed in Oakland in 2015, El Duo (comprising drummer/producer Randy Schwartz and keyboardist/synth meister Harrison Murphy) is just such an EDM group. The two met at a musician’s party while they both were college students in Santa Cruz.

“Our main goal is to be able to experiment within the music,” Schwartz says. “Each song comes out differently every time. It’s improvisation within a structure inspired by our mutual love of jazz. Everything we play is a spontaneous experiment.”

Schwartz says he’s always been “all over the map” musically, with wide-ranging influences in addition to jazz, like ’90s grunge rock, rave and trance. He adds that their process is entirely unconventional, with most of their songs occurring rather randomly.

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“We often get completely lost in the layers upon layers of spontaneous sounds,” Schwartz says, “and that’s exactly how we like it. Everything we do is experimental and in the moment. Expect to hear a broad palate of all kinds of sounds.”

EL DUO 7pm Thursday, Oct. 3. Hidden Fortress Coffee at The Press Club, 1123 Fremont St., Seaside. No cover. 901-3900, mcweekly.com/pressclub

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