When musicians break out of their comfort zones and experiment with their sound, it can often result in some of the most influential recordings ever released. Surely, a lot of today’s most prominent artists would not exist without having been inspired by pieces of music that, at the time, were considered to be controversial and unexpected. There are countless examples of these sudden changes in direction, but for the sake of pointing out some of the most significant ones, here’s a brief list of five musical experiments that yielded incredible results.
1. David Bowie
David Bowie was the king of changing personas at the drop of a hat, but his biggest change in direction was surely the album Low. As the first album in the “Berlin Trilogy,” with the other two being Heroes and Lodger, Low saw Bowie heading in a more avant-garde direction. It was one of his first collaborations with Brian Eno, an artist that attracted Bowie at the time through his minimalist recording style and ambient soundscapes. Bowie also developed an interest in the German music scene, and fell in love with bands like Kraftwerk and Neu!. After finally meeting with Eno, the two worked together with producer Tony Visconti to produce an album composed of electronic fragments and otherworldly compositions. It was Bowie’s first experiment with electronic and ambient music, and he used the opportunity to write some of his most personal songs ever (he was still struggling with addiction, at the time).
2. Tom Waits
At the time of Tom Waits’s debut, who would have thought that he’d go from this:
…to this, ten years later:
He literally went from romantically singing the line “falling in love just makes me blue” to shouting the threat “I’m gonna whittle you into kindlin'” in a throaty, cigarette-damaged voice. All you have to do is listen to Closing Time and Swordfishtrombones back-to-back to fully understand the drastic change Tom Waits made in his songwriting. Over time, his voice devolved into a hellish growl, he began using experimental instrumentation,…