Sometimes - when I have a real binge of listening to old dance music, meaning mostly the '90s - I am overcome with affection for the culture.
Not just the obviously beloved Nuumy strands of it, but almost the whole worldwide width of it.
Particularly the first half of the '90s, nearly all of it tickles me, in nearly all aspects - the graphic language, the clothes, the dancing....
But above all the names.
The artist aliases, the track titles, the monikers of labels, promoters, raves, clubs...
Even if the track is shit, or lost to time, just a faint after-image of a function long since exhausted... the names endure.
Quite often, more mischief and creativity and spirit seems to have gone into the goofy throwaway title given to a remix than to the rather rote remix itself.
Belgian hardcore and gabber are particularly thick seams of nomenclative delight.
But most of the genres during this era come up with the goods - wordplay, puns, jokes, unlikely references, mockalyptic bombast....
I started scribbling them down on the back of a notepad, further data in support of A Theory of Names*.
"Nightmares Are Reality"
"Trip to E-Land"
Hypp & Krimson,
"Techno Cat (Dance Like Your Dad)"
"Are Am Eye"
Edge of Motion
"The Glitch Relapse"
"Zombies in the Mist"
"Sick (Dominator Is Dead)"
"God Shave the Queen"
"Locked in Madness"
The Dead Kirks - "Mr. Kirk (Death Mix)"
"Lost and Intellect"
"The Realm of Spoo"
"Faces of the Moon"
"(Heinous Scream Version)"
"Rush Bubble Mix"
Aquastep - "Oempa Loempa"
"(Fratty Energy Version)"
"Rhyde the Rithum"
"My First Fantastic F.F."
"I Still Want Ya (the Nooshty Mix)"
Severe Damage - "Red Alert (Tremble Mix)"
"Mindcontroller (The Obscure Mix)"
"Jungle (Flappy Ears Version)"
Techno Trash Volume II - "Noise!"
"Mastercore (Brain Mix)"
"Face the Mastermind"
"God's Percussion Dream"
"The Dove (Coloured Dream)"
"Planet Jupiter (Raggae Dream)"
"Single Minded People"
Numbers & Feelings
"(Sexx Ambient Mix)"
"Explosion of a Dancemode"
"X-Plosion of a Dancemode"
"Stronger Than Steel"
"Trance? Never Heard Before"
"Victim of Hardware"
"Bash Your Brains In"
"Night of the Neon Maniacs"
Dutch Department of Techno
"Space Metal (Pt 1 and Pt 2)"
"Walk on Base"
"Lake of Dreams (Bay of Rainbow Mix)"
"Lake of Dreams (Dream of Drums)"
"Original Mix with Bats"
Force Mass Motion
The Brotherhood of Structure EP
"First Fright (Video Mix)"
Generator - Belgium Calling (Clash Mix)
Generator - Narcomaniac (Adrenochrome Mix)
D.B. Hazard - Detro Mental
Mental & Dangerous - Xtrosy (Mary Poppins Hardcore Mix)
It seems like the names and the titles - just like the record artwork and typography... the flyers.... the promo videos with their corny and dated FX.... all of this para-sonic stuff is equally as important as the music in constituting a massive surge of urge-to-newness.... that took off from the end of the '80s and carried on deep into the '90s...
An across-the-board push by the mostly-really-young to make an adventure out of their time. To jettison as much of the old and the still-lingering as they could, on all fronts - sound, dance, fashion, graphics, slang...
* A Theory of Names, aka Nameology.
I've mooted this before, based on ample empirical evidence that the shitness / non-shitness of a genre is in direct relation to the shitness / non-shitness of its artist names and track titles. (Same applies to the decline of a once-great genre - the canary in the coalmine is the enshittification of names, titles, graphics).
To me it makes sense - the names and titles would be a textual efflorescence of the music, reflecting and revealing its inner essence.
The milquetoast mildness of most postdubstep is given away at the pre-auditory stage from the aroma wafting off the artist aliases and the opaque titles they come up for their tunes.... Ditto broken beat, ditto downtempo, ditto all the other tasteful, "good music society", cosmopolitan / cosmigroovy sounds.
The you-won't-like-this-steer-clear of most contemporary music (not just dance, across the genrescape) alerts my antennae through the advance warning system of names (the album artwork is also a fairly reliable giveaway - has it ever been shitter than the present era?).
But that corny-yet-awesome spirit of the '90s survived in pockets into the 21st Century... flickering in bassline, in donk, in brostep, a little bit in deeptech.... UK drill too... and I daresay it is out there to be found even now.
The original "neophiliac" era, the 1960s - that would be the real rival. But it had older sonic forms embedded within it - blues, soul, folk, country.... Although FX, electrification, amplification, and studio tricknology increasingly come into play, the instrumental line-up is largely shared with earlier forms of popular music like jazz: drums, guitars, horns, bass. So not quite as a big a break as the digital 90s.
New Wave is another rival (especially with all the inorganic fabrics and hair-dyes... the angular graphic language and dance-moves... the quirky vocal styles and herky-jerky rhythms and melodies). But New Wave was largely based in rock's well-established instrumental template (gtr-bs-drms) and it had echoes and deliberate reach-backs to the Sixties in much of it. Rather than synths, New Wavers tended to use keyboards - 60s-style organs, Farfisa etc. So overall it doesn't match the tekno-rave era for full-bore futurism . The first half of the '90s had all these newness-enabling tools to work with (samplers, digital audio workstations).
Eighties synthpop, yes - but it is still tied to the Song, and to the impassioned human voice - to the idea of "soul" and to actual influences from soul music (think of all those fire-and-ice singer + synthesist duos).