Moments Of Influence: The Year Wolfgang Gartner Changed Dance Music Forever
I will never forget the first time I encountered Wolfgang Gartner. It was at all ill-fated little music festival held at an old WWII Naval fort on the shores the Chesapeake Bay just outside Baltimore. The festival which would be canceled only a few years later to be replaced by Moonrise was called Starscape. Starting in the afternoon and going all night until the early morning, the one-night festival was the place to be to see some the best jam bands and DJs in the world at that time. It was also incredibly defunct in a dozen ways and relatively unsafe but in a way that made it all the more fun. Thinking back I definitely think I saw someone die there. That is a story for another post though.
The year was 2010 and I found myself in the dance tent, no idea who was playing. Then the intro to Beethoven's 5th Symphony started to build, and when the track dropped my world was to be changed forever. Over the next several years as I started to write for this then little site, I was able to have the privilege closely following Joey Youngman, better known as Wolfgang Gartner, and the truly unbelievable music he was to release. Looking back, electronic music owes more than we know to his forward-thinking productions the early 2010's.
2010 – The Year Wolfgang Changed The World
Firepower to Space Junk
Most talented artists will see a few high prile releases during a calendar year. Especially in today's world where blogs are operating at pressional levels, and EDM has integrated smoothly into the mainstream conscious. Back in the day though it was quite a bit harder for dance music artists to drop hit after hit and be recognized for them. At the time we had no idea that Wolfgang was leading up to the release his debut album, but in hindsight it all makes sense. The first EP which really saw a progression to greatness was that ‘Firepower / Latin Fever'.
‘Firepower' was the first song where we saw Wolfgang stray outside his comfort zone to the truly bizarre. At the time I had never heard anything like the sounds that were on that track. Dozens layers, complex arrangements, and even classical instrumentation (pretty sure it was a freaking harpsichord) were just a few the pieces that made up a truly jaw-dropping tune. This was before the Pryda Snare dominated the Electro genre. This was before Complexstro was an accepted style. This was the groundbreaking forefront musical innovation. And it was only the beginning.
Next came the song that would define Wolfgang Gartner for quite some time, and also the track which introduced me to the man himself. Of course, I am talking about ‘Wolfgang's 5th Symphony'. As I noted with the release ‘Firepower' and it's harpsichord melodic breaks, Wolfgang had a love affair sorts with classical music, but to take on one the most honored pieces music literally all time takes balls. Balls and talent. Luckily he had both in spades.
After the massive success Wolfy's Fifth Symphony remix, he dropped the genre-shaping hit ‘Undertaker'. The tune is so raw and shocking that it has stood the test time. Many today's electro hits fail to hit the intensity and design found in this tune. But ‘Undertaker' would soon be followed up by a true fan favorite from Wolfgang Gartner – ‘Space Junk'.
‘Space Junk' saw a shift in Wolfgang's production style. He began to merge his signature sound bold electro arrangements with sections devoted to building tension and driving beats. ‘Space Junk' was not only forward thinking for the time but demonstrated that Wolfgang was capable more than anyone truly understood.
Push & Rise and Countless EPs
After the massive success a half dozen singles or so Wolfgang released one his most infectious vocals tracks to date. ‘Push & Rise' was a quirky little tune which relied on a vocal hook that will get stuck in your head for days at a time. Similar to Daft Punk's ‘Technologic' with fast, driving vocals, ‘Push & Rise' was an instant hit in the East Coast club community. Pulling influence from both the Baltimore and New York City producers the time, but injecting in a new brand surprising innovation, ‘Push & Rise' once again showed a surprising style from dance music's fastest rising star.
What came next was a series EP's which highlighted Wolfgang's mastery as a producer. Each EP that was released featured a new style. Ranging from the subtle to the aggressive. ‘Montezuma / Frenetica' was a club-ready 4 on the floor endeavor which merged heavy distortion with a house sound. ‘Hookshot / Clap' followed this formula but strayed farther from the house paradigm as it incorporated electro elements throughout. ‘Bounce / Get It' saw a return the catchy, repeating vocal hook that was mastered in ‘Push & Rise'. All three EPs were infectious, original and very exciting for dance music at the time.
Moving Into The Main Stage Era
What came next were three singles that would solidify Wolfgang as one the greatest producers all time. First f was his solo piece ‘Flashback'. It was one the first tracks to begin to appeal to the main stage masses festivals all over the world. As dance music began to shift from dark clubs to open-air parks in the early 2010's Wolfgang began to shape his style to fit the ever-growing audience. ‘Flashback' is a brilliant tune which relies upon a near insane tension build that is now commonplace for all big room tracks.
Next came Wolfgang's largest collaboration to date. He teamed up with the largest dance music artist in the world, Deadmau5. The two created the historic track now known as ‘Animal Rights'. The single appeared on both Wolfgang's and Mau5's forthcoming albums and has been streamed near 10 million times on Spotify. The track is a seamless combination both Wolfgang's and Deadmau5's styles.
For his final release the historic year, Wolfgang released what I consider to be one the best electronic tracks ever made – ‘Illmerica'. ‘Illmerica' is a gorgeous and forward thinking record through and through. It builds upon itself with each break, resulting in a final section that is so layered in complexity it is near impossible to appreciate in its entirety with even 10 full listens. The final synth layer is so catchy and exciting it gives the listener a sense euphoria that is hard to find in productions today.
It might be hard to believe but the tracks talked about in this article aren't even the entirety the massive catalog Wolfgang released in 2010. In the following years, Wolfy would go on to release his landmark album, Weekend In America. After a short break in production he returned with 10 Ways To Steal Homeplate in 2016.
Now, a few years later Wolfgang is releasing tracks that push the limits dance music. With a new album on the horizon, it appears Wolfy is poised to once again alter the course dance music forever. I for one, cannot wait.