Sunday, November 13, 2016

Stating The Obvious

It’s something that I constantly reflect on, and it bothers me, even if it doesn’t lessen my regard for the music I love. However, it’s good to think out loud occasionally. Throughout its various incarnations, house and techno have been with us for almost forty years but, apart from the obvious advances in studio technology, their blueprints have remained relatively unchanged for the last thirty. Maybe I’m taking a narrow view of things, but every time I hear of diggers digging, and twenty year old tracks by 100hz fetching thirty or more pounds on Discogs, I return to my youth and the time I first got into record buying, when ‘Rock Around The Clock” would have only been twenty odd years old, but sounded as ancient and hackneyed as it’s possible to be, next to what I was buying at the time. It could be because now I’m not listening to the music in its most advanced form, but that’s subjective. Whenever I hear what is supposed to be something “pushing techno forward” it’s either A) shite, B) the same as it ever was, or C) trying too hard. Although I like to moan I’ll still gladly accept the status quo as long as the quality control is high. I suppose this situation is what pushes DJs to try too hard themselves, to play eclectically in order to stand out. I never used to get it when reading reviews of sets by Derrick Carter, hearing about how he would fearlessly blend house and techno so that you couldn’t see the joins. I saw him many times but never really got that aspect of it. That’s not to say he didn’t, or still doesn’t. However, my most crystal clear memory of his style was the ability to effortlessly involve anything at his fingertips and spontaneously create what amounted to live re-edits with vinyl. I never found him to be eclectic, just someone who played house and didn’t mind what was thrown into the mix, unless it didn’t conform to a four-four. This sounds like I think he is limited . . .  not at all. He’s the best, most entertaining and technically proficient DJ I‘ve ever had the pleasure of dancing to, but I feel, stylistically mislabelled when he first broke through. The tech-house collectives of South London were, and still are, a similar case in point. Magazine articles would loudly proclaim their sound to be a druggy, groove-laden soup into which anything went. It was never that varied, unless it was house and techno though, just as well the church is broad. Tech-house has become a dirty word, corrupted by the Beatport generation, but in its purest form it’s still the sound of the metropolitan underground, twenty odd years after the first Wiggle. Practically every underground party which adheres to the four four blueprint takes its cues from the original tech house template . . . It’s extremely laissez faire as long as there is a flow into which anything, within reason, can go.  As has been touched on in these very pages before, starved of innovation, today’s selectors are mining the past in the same way northern soul DJs did, picking out the obscure, and reinvigorating it by simply playing it in well chosen spaces under the vinyl banner. We have entered the twilight zone, whereby the desperation for something new has given way to the repackaging of the mundane. That’s not to say that it isn’t interesting in itself; DJs playing all vinyl sets now being subject to a similar scrutiny as Youtube videos, and all that their viral reappropriation bring: picked up by tastemakers, the creation of new, self-generating communities. It’s out in the open here though and in its search for that certain je ne sais quoi, takes us full circle to the past.

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