Already prolific on the New York City Scene for her dance, choreography and films, Andrea Ward has been working on being a quadruple threat by recently displaying her talent for music. Already a multi-instrumentalist and singer, Ward has released a series of tracks in the run up to the release of her debut album, Ribbon of Water, due out in late January. Inspired by Nordic folk and experimental pop artists like Bjork and Glass Animals, her sound is rich and genre-neutral. But is it electronic?
The first tracks Ward released in 2021, “My Only Life” and “Keep Me Awake,” are pretty clearly mostly acoustic, save for some sound design on the layered vocals and the engineering. A cross between jazzy and esoteric in nature, Ward’s songwriting makes her work both modern and timeless at the same time. As we get into her more recent tracks, “Game,” “Algorithm” and “Awake at Night,” which just released late last month, more elements of what many would call electronica seem to appear. The overlapping vocals are there, and the highly technical engineering, but also the melody appears to have been born of the digital world. Or is it?
The answer is no, those pingy, glockenspiel-like melodies are acoustic too. The more hippie-ish among us may already recognize that the melodies are made by the tongue drum, or hand pan, played by the eternally versatile Ward herself. This beautiful and deceptive instrument, along with the sound design and expertly honed ambient work is what gives ward’s newest tracks their electronic vibe, but are they actually electronic?
While certainly not EDM, artists like Ward and her predecessors like Bjork are definitely able to come up with a vibe that has the underpinnings of ambient electronica. It’s a balance that’s being struck more and more as the Burner set of hippies goes more rave. The tongue drum is one of those crossover tools that, while acoustic, bridges the gap between analog tribal folk and ambient, celestial EDM. It’s all frequency, after all, to loosely quote Bjork, so who cares what the source is? If it resonates with audiences and is true to the artist’s heart, the source is irrelevant.
To that end, the videos that Ward has made to go with these tracks are equally stunning and use a number of media to get the message across. As a filmmaker and dancer, all this art is in Ward and the videos really bring her message together in an even more resonant way. “Awake at Night” is a simple performance video but beautifully shot, while “Game” is an ensemble piece with decadent choreography that not only bridges her worlds of film, music and dance but the worlds of individual people as the three dancers go through the same motions from entirely different perspectives. The video for “Algorithm” is likely the most stark, as Ward uses her dance, mirrors and water to force even more perspective, both visually and emotionally.
As lines continue to blur in art between analog and digital, AI and human-made, artists like Andrea Ward are ahead of the curve because they work with all different media and method without worrying about how they’ll be classified. EDM, electronic or not, work like this speaks to listeners and viewers and feelers on so many levels. It’s both digital and organic, and that’s exactly how it should be.