Synth riffs splash across the soundscape and a low drone builds toward a steady beat that gets heavier as the bass drum kicks in and cymbals crash. Just as the electronic layers fully form, it happens — a saxophone brings a new dimension to the song ... Yes, a saxophone.
Boulder, Colo., duo Big Gigantic, which will perform at the Neighborhood Theatre on Nov. 29, has been setting itself apart on the EDM scene not only through its use of live instrumentation, but through horn playing that gives the music a warmer texture not found on a laptop.
"It started as adding an organic element to the music since it starts from the computer," drummer Jeremy Salken says. "I feel like having the instruments adds new life to the music. No song is ever played the same way twice, there's always something different about it, especially when there's a solo section of a song. That's the human element that you can try and perfect and get it dialed in, but it's always a variable that will change and that makes it exciting."
The majority of the band's music is created by producer/saxophonist Dominic Lalli. Salken says the group will rehearse a song a few times during pre-concert soundchecks before adding the song to their set, at which time the duo tweaks and tries things out to see what moves the crowd the most. A computer allows them to repeat sections of a rhythm or beat, while the drums and saxophone allow the two band members to explore farther reaches of the music.
There's plenty of room for improvisation in Big Gigantic's music, which combines elements of dubstep, jungle, hip-hop and trap. Salken says he'll help drive a song's beat when he needs to or sit back while a rhythm repeats so Lalli can solo.
"There are times [Lalli] makes a track and it's done," Salken says. "Or he'll make it, start messing with it and rearrange it after we play it live. We love to be able to play our instruments, play a new kind of music, get people excited about it and push the boundaries."
Like many other artists, Big Gigantic forgoes the usual, expensive studio method in favor of less expensive music production software that can be used at home or on the road. Cutting costs also enables the band to offer their music for free online.
"When we first started the band, we wanted to get our music to everybody. Hopefully, they'd then come see us live," Salken says. "That's been the concept the entire time — get the music out in any way possible — torrents, Facebook, Spotify, blogs. A lot of people only get their music on iTunes though, so even though it's free through other outlets, people still pay for it. If you could put music on iTunes for free, that would be a game-changer.
"Because we can make our music easier through [the software] Ableton, we can focus on the live show," he adds. "We're not in debt, we're self-sufficient."