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Remembering David Bowie the Electronic Music Legend

An artist who redefined the relationship between pop and the avant garde.

Today we are hugely saddened to learn of the death of recording artist, producer, actor, and cultural behemoth David Bowie, aged 69. His official social media accounts confirmed confirmed that he passed away last night, surrounded by his family, following an 18-month long battle with cancer. The news was then further confirmed by Bowie's son, the film director Duncan Jones, who simply tweeted: "Very sorry and sad to say it's true. I'll be offline for a while. Love to all."


While largely heralded as a pop or rock star, it shouldn't be forgotten just how much Bowie engaged with, and in return influenced, electronic music. Most notable in this regard is his 1977 album, Low—the first installment of his three-album "Berlin Trilogy," which saw him working alongside conceptualist Brian Eno to introduce electronic soundscapes and ambience to his already vast repertoire—bridging the gaps between avant-garde electronic music and pop. You only need listen to "Warszawa" to get a feel for how powerful this marriage was. The entire album built Eno's sweeping, post-rock instrumentals into Bowie's songwriting—making a record as vulnerable and evocative as anything either had released to that point. Another record that deserves mention in this category is, of course, Earthling (1997), which saw Bowie call on drum n'bass and industrial music for inspiration. Jittery cacophony and noise would have been a bold move for any pop mainstay, but even moreso for one who was several decades into his career at the time.

Listening to Blackstar—released just a few short days before his death—it is clear that his dedication to pushing these boundaries was still central to his work, if not from the clattering rhythms, then from the gorgeous synths that conspire so perfectly with his heartbreaking vocal performances. With its washed out, dreamlike qualities, the album's closer, "I Can't Give Everything Away," is the fitting final statement of an artist that gave to electronic music both in the boldness of his production and in the weird soul he placed at the heart of it all.