Dylan Waters’ debut brings together ideas from political thinkers worldwide

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Dylan Waters’ debut brings together ideas from political thinkers worldwide

Dylan Waters
Words by Anna Rose

The most striking element about Electronica Philosophica, the debut album from Melbourne experimental electronic artist Dylan Waters, is his incorporation of spoken word.

The voices of Jordan Peterson, Malcolm X, John Lennon and Brian Cox embellish the melodies. But these are not, shall we say, people who are traditionally leftist or who hold values that mainstream society might currently be pushing for – and there’s a reason for that.

“I think what these people are talking about is the older leftist focus which is really more economic and structural issues that have always been prevalent in society,” says Waters. “The modern left has stepped away from caring about the economy and environment and moved further into more social issues – that’s what I see happening.”

When Waters discusses his views and opinions, even in music, it’s always possible that he’ll receive criticism from people who don’t hold similar opinions, sometimes to the extreme. “I have a friend who is a political activist and though he listened to the album and liked it, I said ‘you should show some of your activists friends then, they might get pumped by that sort of thing,’ he said ‘I can’t – if I show them anything with Jordan Peterson’s name in it, they’ll refuse to listen to it, they’ll more than likely shun me from the group.’ I was absolutely amazed to hear that.”

It’s a bizarre transformation we’re watching, but it’s been captured to some degree by Waters in his music. Citing Steve Reich as one of his musical influences, Waters has encapsulated a kind of worldly confusion in his sound, much like the minimalist composer. So why electronica? Why does this genre help Waters shape his socio-political stances? “It’s doesn’t necessarily give me the best position to do that,” he reasons, “but I feel like electronica is the folk music of modern times.

“Back in the 1960s if you wanted to contribute to the political conversation via music, you’d have to get a band together, write streams of lyrics, get signed by a record company, and if you were successful in all those things, your voice would enter the political arena.

“Modern electronic music is something you can do all on your own – you can create your own vision without any obstruction.”

Much like the multifaceted themes of speech he’s chosen to incorporate in this album, the titles contain multiple meanings and pushes you to think on certain areas. Words like ‘revolution’, ‘humanity’, ‘propaganda’, and ‘authority’; to some degree, in composing this music, Waters has given these words, these areas, their own sound. ‘Revolution’ sounds different to ‘cosmos’ and so on. “I’ll tinker with different voices to see what goes and what doesn’t – it’s about being a good fit.

“There’s a huge number of figures I would have loved to put on this album, but not all of them speak musically, or charismatically. Music is a key element.

“I’m obviously interested in the message they’re giving but I also want them to be the sort of person that speaks in a musical way, so it’s made more powerful by the music as opposed to more clumsy.”

Now Waters’ has said that, it’s easy to understand his choices – scientist Brian Cox, a very personable guy, Jordan Peterson with his wonderful Canadian lilt. “He’s got the most musical speech on the album, I think,” says Waters. “The way he speaks is really amenable to go on top of music.

“I love him talking because he’s thinking live – he’s not reciting something he decided upon years ago, he’s always thinking real time, no matter who he’s talking to. You can hear that thinking – it’s so refreshing compared to the last few decades of political talk we’ve heard where it sounds like a bunch of Lego bits have been put together long before you hear them and carries very little meaning.”

Electronica Philosophica is out now. Check it out via streaming services.