Wednesday, October 3, 2012


FACT's Angus Finlayson on how dance music's neophiliac tendencies are counterbalanced by
"an ever-present appetite for the old 

"Recently, though, it feels like this habit of retrospection has gone into overdrive. House music, in particular, seems to ache for its past – although precisely which bit of it isn’t quite clear. Re-pressings of long-coveted twelves, extensive reissues of label and artist discographies, and selectors carving an identity out of the bricolage of lost classics ensure that youngsters are more clued-up than ever about every obscure corner of their lofty inheritance. The internet is central to this: the fact that a forgotten Roy Davis Jr. production is no longer consigned solely to dusty bargain bins in necrotic record stores – that it is, in fact, just one “related videos” click away – makes cultural archeology a more viable and accessible pastime than ever before.

"The effects of this shift on the creative output of the present are, frankly, mixed. Of course, the ways in which old records are revived and recontextualised can feasibly cause fresh sparks to fly, and an aesthetic focussed on the past isn’t necessarily moribund... It feels like the scales have tipped somewhat. And while I love early 90s New York house, jacking acid tracks, primitivist 808 workouts and the rest as much as the next dance music anorak, the proliferation of homages to, and watery imitations of, these styles made by young producers today is both fatiguing and depressing.

 "It’s almost as if, confronted with the genius of their forefathers at every turn, young artists are struggling to imagine novel forms for house music beyond the boundaries already drawn. Instead, intuiting the house music mantra that not every stylistic break needs to be a radical one, they settle for variations on a shrinking pool of themes, trying on past genre-configurations like so much costumery, reinforcing old, safe values rather than attempting to forge new ones....

 "My gut feeling is that house music, in the broadest sense, could do with a sturdy voltage to the chest right now."

Angus then goes on to praise Mark Fell and Vessel for going against this retro-reverential tendency.

Certainly on the reissue front it's striking that you have had in just the last month or two:

curatorial repackaging and re-presentation of the unjustly forgotten: Strut's This Ain’t Chicago anthology of early UK house  (check out compiler Richard Sen's oral history over at Neufutur magazine, an in-aptly titled publication in the case of this particular story!)

individual artists giving themselves the Legacy Treatment as regards even relatively recent output: DJ Q's The Archive, Pinch's MIA 2006-2010 (both great, by the way)

while hipstahouse seems to be going from "strength to strength"


For a more optimistic reading of dance music nostalgia check out Michaelangelo Matos's piece on "permaretro" from 2010.

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