Saturday, February 05, 2005

Won't post the whole murphy interview just yet as the magazine it's in is still on the shelves, but here is the most relevant portion:

Of course, all these comparisons and reference points only underscore the point I earlier made in reference to “Losing My Edge”: the poignancy of living in a “late” era of culture, the insurmountable-seeming challenge of competing with the accumulated brilliance of the past and creating any kind of sensation of new-ness. “Yeah, that is kind of tattooed on my stomach,” says Murphy . He acknowledges that “great influences do not a great record make”. And yet despite all the odds, the LCD album is a great record.

When I mention the American literary critic Harold Bloom’s concept of “anxiety of influence”--which argues that “strong” artists suffer from an acute sense of anguish that everything has been done before, and that makes them struggle against their predecessors in a desperate Oedipal attempt to achieve originality--Murphy flips out. “It's hilarious that you say this--I mention Bloom's anxiety theory pretty regularly in interviews! This is the shit I've been screaming about for years. Learning and progress has always been based on learning from the past. Real originality never comes from trying to defeat the past right out of the gate. It's a spark of an individual idea caused by the love/hate relationship between a "listener" and the "sound". I love music, and it inspired me at first to copy it, then to be ashamed of copying it, then to make music in "modes" (genres) while trying to pretend they were original, then finally making music with a purpose--which for me was dance music. It made people dance. It was no longer just music to make you look cool and feel like you were part of something you admire. I don't feel like I'm in any danger of making ‘retro’ music, but at the same time, there are things about the ways various people who've come before me did things that I prefer greatly to the way ‘modern’ things are done. I use a computer. I edit and do all sorts of modern shit, but there are things I consciously do that were done in songs I love from before me.”


That seems to be a really good defence of the recombinant approach.

I think Ronan maybe right, the worst phase of retro-dance may be over, in fact that's why i originally compared the state-of-now to the rock Nineties, ie. the Sixties-cannibalizing Eighties being over... The comparisons of Tiefschwarz and LCD to PJ Harvey and Pavement weren't idly chosen, those seem to me to be paradigm examples of 90s artists doing really interesting stuff, Yet you could still imagine the "shrug factor" coming into play, someone inclined to be hostile/sceptical saying "ah, but she's just like Patti Smith really" or (bit later) "she's just reworking blues rock" (which she was of course, brilliantly) or "she's the female Nick Cave". Similarly with Pavement, "oh they're just a Fall rip off/Faust rip-off". The difference between rock and dance, though, is that rock has expressive content, so even if the music is kinda neo-conservative, there might be lyrical innovation going on. That doesn't really apply to dance, which is more functional (although you might say "expressive content" applies and operates on the collective level, the entire scene or genre maybe).

It's perspectival too: what seems revolutionary to a scene insider, can be a bit "big deal!" to someone less engaged, let alone the fully disengaged. The first example of this syndrome I can recall is speed garage, when some of the people who'd been won over by jungle were like, "but isn't this just, like, house music?".

So in the case of Tiefscharwz, the music is on the one hand fabulously clever and interesting, but i can still see how a sceptical outsider would have the shruggy response.

I guess approaching a lot of this stuff I have the head of a critic, which might be a professional liability (except I suspect i thought like this long before I did it as a job/vocation/mission), which is a kind of split response: on the one hand 1/ is this enjoyable/exciting? 2/ what can I claim for this?

Hitherto with dance music the two principal angles of claim-age have been "underground" (and/or drug culture) and "musical progression".

Which brings me to what I thought was the sharpest point Ronan brought up , in re. undergroundism and progressivism as key underpinning concepts of the dance culture and also being really rockist, he tartly suggested that:

"surely this ultra boring alignment with rock is why techno, in the strictest sense of the genre, is completely and utterly dead?" *

Touche, and you could say the same about drum'n'bass too (with the obvious renegade factions going against the bosh-bosh grain excepted). I had to ponder this one for a few minutes. I think he's right, undergroudism and progressivism pursued singlemindedly and to the exclusion of any other criteria leads to a dead end. But the phases of music I think of most fondly in the history of dance (hardcore, 2step) would have had the progress, the undergroundism, but also a strong element of poppiness, fun, rampant hedonism, and a bit of humour too. (Grime actually has a combination of all these, but it's lost the danceability). And i do think that if it's given up on those founding concepts altogether, "dance" does have a kind of rhetoric deficit -- if all it claim for itself is that it's good for dancing, well, there's loads of musics you can dance too, aren't there?

* is it actually dead? i regularly get emails from little promoters in places like Leicester and Middlesborough -- god knows why! -- announcing strange little hardtechno events, the DJs have names like Dave Techno, and the flyers always end with the words "Caution! Nuts Inside". There's obviously still a tiny sub-underground of bangin' slammin' music made by and for pill-popping loons, perhaps a la my alternate heavy-metal analogy, these are like the tribes of grindcore and thrash and deathmetal who refuse to die.

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