Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nostalgia For An Age Yet To Come

I’ve just come back from an afternoon of watching my kids fall on their arses at the Franconville Patinoire and been more impressed by the sound system in there than their primal efforts. The huge space was rocking in the middle of the afternoon to a dodgy commercial mix which numbered beefed up versions of Leo Sayer’s disco smash ‘Thunder In My Heart’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, amongst its contributions. I have to say that, for an hour, the sound that filled the ice arena was pretty infectious, not least because the sound was so crisp and driving. We were lucky because there weren’t many people skating so there was little ambient noise, the stargazing equivalent of looking up into the night sky in the Atacama Desert and having zero light pollution. And it got me thinking about having a Function One soundsystem installed there and inviting the Downwards crew to play an impromptu gig, completely unannounced, to combat the league of beach-based libidinous funk which has been pervasive over the past three or four years.

But this is clearly the ramblings of a madman. What brought everything into even sharper focus was that I had just started reading Simon Reynolds’ ‘Retromania’ at the time and was busy ploughing through the introductory chapter’s footnote, entitled ‘The Retroscape’ which is 50%, more or less, of said premier part. It informatively documents how, from the turn of the 21st century, the music business has become consumed with recycling itself and it becomes very evident - long before you realise that it’s not the minor players who are the prime movers, but many of the innovators and consummate artists – that the state of affairs that has been reached is not really because of “Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past” but that ideas have dried up and cash cows have to be milked. Nothing that wasn’t really already known I’m sure you’ll agree, but I’d rather have read it with the techno lawyer Norman Nodge blasting out of the speakers than Bonny Tyler.

Which brings us around full circle to the recent boom in what has tentatively been described as “outsider house”. Lo-fi reworkings of old dance mania tracks and tropical hot dog-inflected surf-influenced analogue dance tracks may not be everybody’s cup of tea, one glance at the comments which accompany Ron Morelli’s RA podcast should be enough to verify this, but it’s an interesting, if not inevitable route to go down. All of this is because it’s two steps forward, one step back and then one sideways with electronic music. Are its best days behind it? Probably not, but it’s debatable as to whether any more genuine innovation that isn’t a result of cross-pollination is going to make its presence felt. The early standards are still belted out in sets the world over and are still held in such reverence that to not have the same high regard for them is deemed treasonable. Yet the early standard of rock offer such a contrast to what was produced twenty years later, enough to mark out those who were still peddling such sounds as visibly retro. This is nothing new and no doubt Reynolds’ book deals with it in much more exhaustive detail, but its something that I can’t escape and that which bothers me on a daily basis.

Military fighter design reached its apex in the mid-sixties. Has there been anything to surpass the Mig 25 Foxbat, or the slightly later to the table Grumman F14 Tomcat? The answer of course is yes, but not as much as one would rightly expect given the passage of time. Is Madteo’s album ‘Noi No’ actually any good? Only time will tell.

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