Westword Music Showcase

Wave Racer's Innovative Sound Goes Beyond EDM

Wave Racer (a.k.a. Tom Purcell) has come a long way since getting a controller and a basic version of Ableton Live five years ago. Appearing at the Westword Music Showcase this Saturday, June 20, at 2:40 p.m., the prolific producer early worked with a sample-based approach to composition and made great, creative use of '70s disco and R&B records. But the limitations of using someone else's sounds eventually inspired Purcell's move into a different mode of creation: the sound design method.

“I got bored of the sampling and decided to make my own sounds...make original music based on sounds I made, rather than using samples,” explains Purcell. “I had ideas in my head, and it took a long time to turn those ideas into reality and sound design helped me to do that as well as how to make classic sounds that I can use. It takes a lot of practice and a bit of understanding of how you can make sound design work in music. I've also learned how to be a good songwriter, and how to structure and arrange songs in a way that engages the listener.”

Purcell lives in Sydney, a place where there's no shortage of great music of all kinds to check out, including fellow Australian artists like Flume, Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy and Knife Party. And Purcell is an avid music fan who, though preferring his own ideas and methods for making music, has learned a lot from artists he's seen in person and discovered through Soundcloud. Because of this, Purcell is humble about the nature of his own creations.

“I've always said my music isn't a new creation, it's just an amalgamation,” states Purcell. “It brings together old things to create a new thing. It's not like I created a new style of music making or a new approach. All I did was to take the music I've always loved and turned it into something more attached emotionally to the sounds I wanted to create.”

Listening to Purcell's music, it's easy to tell that he really has spent time aiming at creating sounds and rhythms that don't fit strictly into any established style of music. There is a freshness and playfulness to the music that is clearly coming from a particularly creative mind. For his part, Purcell doesn't seek to tell other people how to think about his compositions even if some listeners may think of his music as falling within the spectrum of EDM.

“I've never set out to create one style of music; I've just set out to make music,” explains Purcell. “EDM is its own thing and it's doing amazing things in the music world. I never set out to create EDM. I used the electronic medium because it gives me the most control. It's easy to do and easy to learn if you put your music to it. EDM is its own world and an industry. The music I make is not EDM, but it is electronic. I have difficulty ascribing a genre to my music. I leave that up to other people, and if they want to call it EDM that's fine. To them it is EDM. I let it fall into what it naturally wants to do and people can call it what they want to call it.”

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.