"My purpose was simple: to catch the feel, the pulse of rock, as I had lived through it. What I was after was guts, and flash, and energy, and speed" - NIK COHN -
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "When the music was new and had no rules" -LUNA C
"a detailed trip through some of the year's defining tracks in electronic
and dance music - from reductionist garage and construction-site
ambient to junglist collage and quicklime grime" - mix by Rory Gibb who does the Hyperstasific column for Quietus
Gibbs introduces his mix / recap of highlights with this:
"This is a glorious muddle," said tQ's Luke Turner in his introduction
to the Quietus' albums of 2012 list, referring to the current scattered
state of popular music. Indeed it is, to the point that tracking any
overarching narratives or strong trajectories in dance and electronic
music this year felt exhausting and ultimately fruitless... While there have been few concrete trends, 2012 has instead been notable
for a hugely varied diaspora of great quality music unhindered by genre
yeah there's no doubt there's plenty of good stuff to listen while we wait for Something to Happen....
"anchored in raw, percussive 4/4 from both recent times and back in the
day, with a bias towards tracks with head-wrecking edits, jagged hooks,
off-kilter programming and eerie, abstract breakdowns... an undeniable, steamrolling
It starts with the idea that "we've reached peak dubstep, folks"..(And after Bieber and Muse have hijacked the rhythmic undercarriage and bolted What They Do on top -- and not uneffectively, either, although in Bieber's case the song and the substructure seem to bear no real relation to each other beyond adjacence for the duration of the single-- that would be seem to be a logical and inevitable development). And then Phil points to how that's left a gap in the aesthetic-ideological market that's yet to be filled: "a vacuum in
electronic dance music's whirling vortex, contributing to a nagging sense of
rudderlessness throughout the year."
"Despite the rise of trap, there
wasn't really anything to take dubstep's place as dance music's Next Big Thing.
And it didn't feel like there was anything new on the horizon — at least, not a
"scenius"-level newness, a collective movement towards something
greater than the humdrum now. Everything kept getting bigger, but behind the
breathless boosterism of overground and underground alike, there was a sense of
spinning wheels. Economists have a word for this: "Stagflation."
Ah, stagflation. Now this was a term that I really wanted to work into Retromania , in the conclusion chapter when I wheel out the concept of hyperstasis. Partly in hopes of tightening the rather loose economic/finance-capital analogies I'd made, but also simply because it's such an ugly word. But in the end I went with the trope of "ever accelerating circles."
"Legacy genres like house, techno, drum and bass,
and trance soldiered on, as they must. No slight to them; just as Japandroids
proved the enduring pleasures of back-to-basics rock’n’roll, there was no
shortage of if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it classicism in dance music,
particularly in that nameless space between underground and overground."
I love this term "legacy genre", and the more general use of "legacy" as an adjectival noun, which I've seen cropping up increasingly in the last year or so. One of those vague but evocative terms that does the job in an open-ended sort of way. Perhaps it has some business world or media world usage I'm unaware of, to do with branding or marketing or something like that ... but the idea I get from its use in a music context is "established, time-honoured, with a history behind it". A history that then becomes capable of being revisited. So the transition from emergent genre to legacy genre is the very threshold at which retro becomes possible, in all its permutations (commemorative releases, oral histories, reissues, revivals, homages etc).
In between though there must be a stage of reasonable duration where the genre is neither unknown nor over-familiar but is in its prime: freshly accepted, but still surprising, still growing. Perhaps that corresponds to what some call the Imperial Phase (usually with an artist not a genre: when a group or performer is at at the top of the world AND the top of their game, creatively -- just runnin' tings). "Legacy" is a nice way of saying "old news". Which is a way of saying, "something you can't be an early adopter with, because you're too late, mate". For journalists, "legacy" also means: hard to get an assignment to write about in magazines, apart from specialist publications. ("What's the story, here? "Techno, Still Pretty Good"?!?!) Perhaps when a genre reaches the legacy phase, it has a history behind it - but it can no longer make history. Its normalisation -- its acceptance -- is both its triumph and its downfall, because it's just part of the landscape now.
(Is there a subtle difference between "legacy" and "heritage"? Legacy perhaps leaves open some kind of functionality in the present ("a living legacy"), an ongoing state of relative vitality, the mature refinement and perfection of the already-formulated. "Heritage" just seems to suggest a museum culture, a style of music to be documented, studied, memorialized preserved - propped up with reverence. Perhaps they correspond to stages of life.... emergent / childhood-teenage imperial / young adulthood-thirtysomething legacy / middle age heritage / old age )
Back to the Phil S piece: somewhat contradicting the "rudderlessness" accusation made at the start of the article, he tacks to a more positive view of hyperstasis as a roil of endlessly morphing nano-generic possibility - the Harper position, basically, but really a glass half-full view of the exact same condition seen as glass half-empty by such as moi:
"Outside the EDM bubble, deep in the
underground — the realm of boutique labels, small-cap rooms, and idiosyncratic
festivals — lo-fi textures, counterintuitive structures, and
a general disregard for convention resulted in some of the year's most exciting
electronic and dance music. Genres mattered less and less. House and techno
and the broken beats of what we've settled on calling "bass music" ... kept getting more and more
tangled up. There was no one sound that felt new, just a steady stream of
short, sharp shocks that pulled the rug out from under dancers' feet, and
forced them to think and move in new ways."
that one's kind of fun, in a Todd Terry manque kind of way
and this is sort of Brooklyn bleep
not sure about these
yeah i've heard the Bones Breaks EPs cited as an under-acknowledged step on the path towards jungle, but seems like they had a good ways to go before getting there - the real BREAKthrough was yet to come (SUAD? urban shakedown?)
certainly there were hell of a lot of those records made.... i picked up a bunch, retrospectively, but even at their moment of salience they must have been very DJ-toolsy, valuable grist for the mix-mill at a certain season around the cusp of Eighties / Nineties, but not something you'd really play outside that context, all the way through... and certainly not half-a-decade after the moment's passed. or now indeed.
the added charm now is the patina of age, and how that's exposed just how underproduced they were, even more starkly apparent compared with today's digital-audio-workstationed tracks... the effect really is similar to how mid-60s garage punk must have seemed to most people looking back from inside the 24 track studio = norm mentality of early 70s
and then this one, i saw in the youtube side-bar, and include just for the title
(with a little help from Glenn
O'Brien, interviewing him for, er, Interview magazine, in June 1978 )
Eno: “The other thing I’m interested
in doing now is robot reggae. I’d like to get together with some reggae
musicians and deliberately try to subtract the feel from what they’re doing so
that they play in a kind of really stiff white way.”
is a step in that direction. Some of it is quite abstract.”
Eno: "That’s right. Again there’s an
incredibly extreme and interesting and sophisticated use of electronics that
nobody seems to notice... "
Did you see that? "Dub is a step"? That is three
letters and two spaces from DUBSTEP. So Eno prophesies the sound-concept of
dubstep, and Glenn O'Brien near-as-dammit NAMES THE YET-TO-EXIST GENRE. In
Bow down ye to the mighty Eno...
(In the Interview interview he says he is planning to make a dub album, just one of countless things he talked about doing that he never got around to, because he was too busy doing other amazing things)
Here's some things from an album he started but never finished, Music For Healing, with Robert Fripp -- bits of which eventually surfaced on the The Essential Fripp and Eno collection in the mid-90s.
should say dude + his mate Max in the case of "Reblop"
heard this next one for the first time in a long time - in Luxembourg of all places - and just fell
mein host's flat in Lux is also where i reheard Re: ECM
had to go buy it, and, hardly surprising, it sounds about 1000 better as CD than as a MP3 (Marky F has also been singing its praises in my ear-hole at Incubate, after the Raime set, now I remember)
(people who complained about Re; ECM being "too background-y" are inane in the membrane)
made me finally buy this one too -- yes, rather late in the day, but I "had" it already of course -- as a crappy emp(t)ee free
and then had to get the new one and all (nice write-up by mikey P there)
that'll take a bit of digesting that will
it's audio trickle, as Woebot termed the mnml /microhaus aesthetic a while back and disparagingly so to boot -- but as tricklers go, Villalobos is one of the few very where the trickle actually has an organic, natural-world feel .. an as-if-analogue grain... and reading the Re: ECM sleevenote that seems to be the game-plan, the goal... to achieve that kind of 'breathing' sound
to get synths and digitalia to actually trickle, that takes some doing
"It's been an intriguing year for fans of dancefloor music especially:
where previously it was possible to pick out definite wider trends
running through club floors, what's been most striking about 2012 has
been its almost total lack of anything concrete to hang on to.
Instead the most exciting music has come from the margins. Certain
common tendencies have seen a lot of activity - the crossover region
where noise and techno overlap has continued to produce some fascinating
music - but individual artists working within those regions tend to be
ploughing their own distinct furrow rather than engaging with any larger
narrative. Which is great; at the moment these regions (tentatively
approached by people discussing 'outsider dance', 'technoise' and so
forth) feel fragile and fertile enough that they're best allowed to find
their own paths." -- Rory Gibbs on the year in dance over at Quietus
a scene based around borderzones and solitary trajectories seems a bit entropic to me... at once congested but lacking the heft of converged energy....
still Rory's right about that Container album, ruff - this isn't even the fiercest track on it but it's all that's on YouTube
looking at this column and also the FACT albums of the year, i'm struck by the sort of unconscious collective decision not to even cursorily inspect EDM (or the bro-y / wobbly sectors of dubstep)... same total blanking towards all that electrohouse/digimax stuff out there... it is assumed, i presume, to be beneath consideration ... but (being massively popular and all!) it would appear to be THE "definite wider trend", the "anything concrete" that Rory says is absent
made me wonder, is anybody listening to it (EDM/electrohouse/bro) and assessing it critically, or is this a scene without a discourse around it? (meaning serious in-depth writing rather than online likes and chitchat and YouTube comments)
weeeeeeell there is this magazine that I saw in Target the other week - Elektro - launched earlier this year
Has artists like Swedish House Mafia. Tiesto, Guetta, on the cover... inside acts like Boys Noize, Zedd, Bassnectar, Martin Solveig
yes the covers are quite shuddersome...
Gingerly picking one up I scanned through and did not recognise a single byline -- nobody in the electronic music journalism field, or the blogosphere that i'd come across before, anyway -- suggesting perhaps they are recruiting young ... from the generation that's embraced EDM and that doesn't, perhaps, know or care much about the history that informs the kind of writing done in FACT/Resident Advisor
I was going to say "an American Mixmag" but Mixmag always had (when I read it, which is 90s, anyway) a bunch of good writers (and a couple of great ones: Bethan Cole, Tony Marcus), these were informed, knowledgeable, scene-insider folk... so maybe the proper analogy is with that magazine that Ministry started (called Ministry? i forget, which is my brain doing its job). I.e. shrewd investors spotting a gap in the suddenly swelling market.
A random swatch of text from the Elektro website, picked because it's one of the few convergences with FACT/Hyperspecific/etc world...
"Coming soon on Hot Flush Recordings (December 10th) is UK producer,
Scuba’s new track “Hardbody.” This brand new production is a deep-house
single that showcases Scuba’s ability to create clean and effective
dance tracks. “Hardbody” focuses on Scuba’s layering, bringing together
multiple electronic effects, resulting in a dancefloor banger that is
built for the sound systems of the world’s biggest dance clubs. With
this impressive production, Scuba is set for big things in the dance
perhaps unfair to judge this (presumably this is more news item, than a review? ) against the FACT and RA's of the world....
next time I'm in Target I'll take a proper look...
(i suppose it's interesting that it takes print form at all -- given that its target market probably are totally digitalized and smartphone / PC / tablet oriented )
through life to arrive safely at death”
·“I was born
for the fast life”
·“I go for
broke, a lesson I can’t afford/but FWIW I’m ready to pay”
·“If I got
one life to live, I’m gonna party till I’m dead/What the hell is a life worth living, if it’s not on the edge”
keep my balance, I’m twisted, so just in case I fall/written on my tombstone
should be ‘women, weed, and alcohol’”
in this moment, freeze the hands of time/cause I feel inner peace, when I’m
outta my mind”
at a certain point, Luda says something like, so hold tight cuz me and Usher gonna break some rules
and i'm thinking, what could be more normative and allowed than "women, weed and alcohol" (okay weed is technically illegal, still, in most states, but for how much longer, and it's still absolutely conformist in social-youth terms... )
but i'm also thinking what could be more regulated and regular than this regulation-issue slice trance-electro-house whatever whereas the records Ludacris made in the very early 2000s seemed genuinely strange and alarming particularly this one
but also this
this decline in mainstream black pop.... the disappearance of the "blackness", in many ways ... is one of the most intriguing stories of the last 6 years (like, what is the "meaning" of the Rihanna voice... this black-not-black achey-yearn-y hollow-inside vocality that is ubiquitous) now this tune approaches the numbness/excess/burnout theme from a much more ambivalent and critical / doubting angle -- in the club or on the radio, it can work superficially as a "Rest of My Life" type banger, but the stealth bomb lyrics interrogate the idea that "i am free because i'm overdoing it -- and it is SO much more interesting and potent in terms of music and mood... genuinely voluptuous in its melancholy decadence, like a crunk Associates.