Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Next Wave Is Permanently In Our Midst

Another unfocussed ramble, partly inspired by a line I remember reading somewhere a long time ago attributed to Terry Farley (maybe). The subject of which was a lament on the behalf of house music and the lack of fresh blood coming up through the ranks. Of course this wasn't ever going to be an issue, but did things turn out exactly as the person who expressed the worries in question hoped for? Probably not, but did it really matter? Again, we can only speculate. The fact of the matter is though that whoever was worried enough to vent their feelings regarding the supposed lack of talent on its way up was almost certainly ploughing a very narrow furrow of typical music-related conservatism.

This is something that we are all afflicted by, never more so than when slagging off current trends and then remembering what it was like when watching Top Of The Pops and having your mum say that " . . . they all sound the same . . ." It's incredible how this outlook continues to be perpetuated by stealth and how conservative a lot of edm has always been. This is particularly true of house, whose often inoffensive outlook invites such comparisons much easier and quicker than its siblings. Maybe its apparent lack of intellectual rigour which can be put down, in part at least, to its relatively happy-go-lucky mindset - an obvious disco trait. This could be a reason. Far more likely though is its seeming lack of progression and evolution. How ironic that progressive house is anything but, having lifted its sobriquet from rock in order to describe its pompous ambience. How prog came to be synonymous with pomp though is anyone's guess.

What really interests the cognoscenti these days is techno, dubstep (which my Mac automatically rewrites as dustup) and its offshoots, funky, grime, two-step, etc. These show evolution and mutation. They aren't standing still but they can all be traced back to house. One of the most depressing sounds one can listen to at the moment is Derrick Carter on the ones and twos. Not because he's crap, he isn't. He's still, for me at least, peerless on the ones and twos. There are parts of his recent Essential Mix, for example, that completely blow me away, a purple patch about a quarter of the way through when he plays a record with a Bobby McFerrin sample that's as good as I've ever heard him. However, for the most part he plays the same as he did ten years ago. It's a cliche to say a DJ changed your life, but hearing DC on one of his first European tours, at a Soma party, (English party organisers in Paris, not the Glaswegian label), in a warehouse in the Parisian banlieu was one of those moments. He played an absolutely scorching set during a scorching night. The pills were top notch and my memories are crystal-clear. Derrick Carter became my favourite ever DJ that night, which is why it makes me sad that he hasn't pushed the boat out a bit more and remained true to his original spirit of relative eclecticism.

The only magazine I still buy is The Wire but, essential as it is, house is never featured in its pages. Meanwhile, it seems, one only has to sneeze in the British electronic urban underground to make the cover. What's keeping it away? Detroit is often referenced, but rarely, if ever, Chicago or New York, unless it's part of a nostalgia fest designed to contribute to an explanation of some new young producer's technique. House will always be with us, and there are many current takes on it which deserve their own front page but, although it gets its fair share of historical referencing, its current mutations are often dismissed as club fodder and drug-induced, decadent posturing. Until now, that is. I'm not sure why the current crop of (mostly) British artists have managed to stand out from the crowd, but it may have something to do with the current crystallisation of multiple strands of polymorphous permutations all having congealed to form one of the most fertile periods in dance music so far. You've heard it all before, but not quite like this, and it's all new.

To be continued.

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