Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DJBroadcast piece about electronic dance music journalism by Dan Cole + quotes from Mixmag's Duncan Dick, Resident Advisor's Ryan Keeling, and Energy Flash's Simon Reynolds.

The latter opines that:

The main thing I’ve noticed since the rise of internet-only magazines and blogging is that the ‘journalism’ element has largely dropped out. By which I mean that it is quite rare you come across a reported story. There’s loads of high-powered, intellectual, vividly written writing about dance records, but you rarely get the sense that the writer is drawing on experiences of going to clubs or raves. You get a lot of pattern-recognition: writers competing to detect the emergence of a new subgenre. Or you get producers treated as auteurs, their work explicable in terms of intent and concept and technique. There’s surprising little sense that this is physical music,  [whose] meaning and impact is determined by the dancefloor. It’s very cerebral, considering that it’s body music first and foremost."

This he attributed partly to the way that "Internet writing as a whole tends to become informationalized and ‘meta.’ You see this in writing about politics, there’s a lot of opinions and conjecture, articles about the ‘optics’ of political events, but very little reporting in online political journalism. The online outlets can’t afford to do that kind of reporting, but they are parasitic on it to some extent. So basically they are analyzing data flows, opinion patterns. And music journalism of all kinds, not just dance music journalism, is going the same way, for economic reasons it is dispensing with a reported, out-in-the-world dimension. Indeed most of the writing is criticism rather than journalism."

But he would like to point out that his claim in the article to have been one of the pioneers of this cerebralized dance critique, alongside such as Kodwo Eshun and Philip Sherburne, was meant to be ambivalent, since in retrospect he finds the juiciest bits of E-Flash or the hardcore continuum series to be those aspects grounded in observation, eye-witness account, personal experience (as well as interviewing those who were there and directly involved in scenes/places/moments that he could not access for reasons of geographical or historical remoteness). So ironically, it's the more traditional reporterly elements, (sometimes also shading into the participant-observer tradition in anthropology and cultural studies) that read the best to him now. That, and the messianic mission-statement / manifesto "believer's eye" prosody.


Out-takes from the SR contributions to the DJBroadcast feature:

 "What’s missing is that observational element – how people are moving to the music, the behavior and vibe it’s catalyzing, the rituals, the clothes, the drugs.  Instead the writing mostly takes the form of taxonomy (analyzing a track or a producer in terms of its relation to genre, what styles are being mixed up) and close description of tracks...

"Some of my favorite dance writers in the Nineties, like Tony Marcus and Bethan Cole at Mixmag, what they did  was smart and analytical but there was a very strong sense of it based on being out in the clubs. Almost a “gonzo” aspect: the writer living that lifestyle, the hedonism, the all-night adventures...."

"I think ideally you should have both the being-there and the deep reflection aspects: a sense of what goes down when the music drops in terms of crowd-response and atmosphere, as well as precise and vivid description of the music, and more speculative elements of theorizing in terms of the music’s relationship to the wider culture, society, etc. Of all the aspects, the genre-tracking aspect is probably the least juicy element for me, these days...."

"The “informational” aspect is made worse because so many people do interviews by email, so there’s not even that basic contact between two human bodies in the same physical space. You get the interviewee responding with these well-written, well-thought-out answers that break down their influences and so forth.  Again, that is caused by economic factors: if you’re a badly paid freelancer, it’s much more cost-effective, because much less labor-intensive, to do email interviews because you avoid the trip to the location, the transcription time, etc. And it’s more convenient for artists and publicists, the replying can be slotted into gaps in the schedule. But it means the results are airless because there’s been no actual encounter. The artist is able to control what they say, how much they reveal, and how they come across to much greater extent...."

"[Today's electronic dance music criticism] is often very good in terms of the writing, the thinking. More than indie rock, it seems to be what draws the intellectuals these days! But to continue the previous comment, I do think that the journalistic aspect needs to be brought back...."

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