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Dance music without dancefloors

The live music industry continues to exist in name only. The end of lockdown is still uncertain and the effects on the industry have been immense. The assumption was that this stagnation would have been mirrored by the music itself. No clubs, no music. That was the prediction.

But 10 months into restrictions which have banned all but a handful of sit-down events, dance music is still with us, if only through Bluetooth speakers and Twitch streams.

Bicep are set to have their new album Isles take the number one spot on the UK album charts this weekend — one signal among many that dance music is still very much alive. And that’s without the aid of the club circuit, which usually plays a key role in bringing new dance music to the front and centre.

Not being able to play out new music at events has been devastating all-round, but for some producers, lockdown has been an opportunity to create music from a new perspective. Without the pressures of touring and performing, some have found that it’s been a blessing in disguise for their creativity.

Eats Everything during his recent DJ workshop on the Virtuoso stage

“For me personally, I was inspired by the fact that I could just sit there and I don’t have to worry about what might work and what might not [in the club]. You just make music that you feel. It was liberating for me.” — Eats Everything (taken from his Artist Session, full recording available HERE)

From that perspective, the external pressure of how a track might be received in a club seems more of a limitation on creativity than anything else. While electronic dance music is, and will always be, most at home on the dancefloor, perhaps the endless search for the next ‘banger’ can be a detriment for artists.

The success of Bicep’s new album Isles suggests that detaching from that influence at the very least opens up new possibilities. In a recent interview in The Independent, Andy Ferguson, one half of the Bicep duo, says, “We’ve really thought about home-listening first on this album… It’s given us the freedom to explore different structures and feelings. It’s more about storytelling through creating these emotive elements.”

This freedom is noticeable throughout the record. It’s less punchy than their previous album. Isles gives room for the emotive elements Andy Ferguson describes. Even the biggest single from the album, Apricots, holds back from being the heavy-hitter Bicep may have intended it to be when writing it back in 2019.

Bicep — Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson (image credit: Dan Medhurst)

There is huge appetite, from artists and fans alike, to get back on the dancefloors as soon as the lights turn green. We can all sense that pent-up energy which guarantees to bring with it a new wave of heavy-hitting releases when the clubs open. But after what will be a year’s worth of introspection and experimentation, and with no dancefloors to dictate its evolution, we might be surprised by what comes out the other side.

Has lockdown helped or hindered your creative process? Tell us how its affected your music-making.