There are numerous British experimental musical groups out there that have helped to pave the way for newer styles of music. Many Americans look towards British bands in general to bring defining new musical styles to the United States. A great example of this is the original British Invasion band, The Beatles. Since then, British experimental musical groups have helped to act like tastemakers to the general US population.
What Defines Experimental?
While some like to apply the definition of experimental to bands in certain genres like electronica, jazz or rock, the label applies to any band that does something "different." In the United States, a great example of this is the Mars Volta. The Mars Volta are known for taking several music styles - from post punk to jazz to noise and atmosphere - and merging them together into one cohesive sound. These types of bands push the limits of what we expect to hear to another level and create something both unique and representative.
Often, experimental refers to a band that uses electronics in a different manner than others have before. For this reason, "electronic" bands are often referred to as some of the most experimental. Additionally, many alternative and experimental bands are known for other elements in their live performances such as pulsing lights.
A Short List of British Experimental Musical Groups
if you're looking to find a few British artists that have really pushed the envelope towards experimental, a few great bands to look towards include:
- Zoviet France: Don't let their name fool you - Zoviet France hails from Northeast England. The band is known for their industrial, ambient sound and switching members. Many critics credit the band with having a large role in the creation of the dark ambient genre of electronic music. They are also known for their unique album packaging such as tar paper and foil.
- Polar Bear: This popular post-jazz band features Seb Rochford, Pete Wareham, Mark Lockheart, Leafcutter John and Tom Herbert. The band's overall sound is one part experimental, another part jazz and another part electric noise. They are also frequently referred to as a drum and bass band - highlighting a genre that is largely based on drum loops and a jazz background.
- Radiohead: Merging rock and electric music, Radiohead is perhaps one of the most popular British experimental musical groups of all time. The band religiously draws insurmountable crowds to their soldout shows and are known for creating an experience at live events. Led by singer Thom Yorke (who has also gone on to release his own experimental solo album), the band draws on mixed influences to present listeners with a varied listening experience. Peter Selway and Jonny Greenwood have also gone on to release their own experimental rock albums - much to critical appeal.
- Clinic: This Liverpool-based band is known for their post-punk polarized sound. The band uses older vintage instruments to help create a more pronounced and powerful dynamic for their tracks.
- Caribou: Born in London, Daniel Victor Snaith is better known to his fans as Caribou. On his electronic-based albums, Snaith combines multiple layers of electronic sound to assault listeners with. Live shows feature a trance-light performance for artist and fan alike - topped off with pulsing lights and atmospheric noises.
- Kaiser Chiefs: This band is more alternative than experimental but feature numerous elements in their riffling music that complements the attitude of experimental fare. The band is largely known since their percussionist is also their lead vocalist - an experimental and difficult task to many.
A Final Thought
For fans of experimental music, Britain is definitely a country to look towards. With so many on-the-radar bands, it's easy to find your next favorite that pushes the envelope.