Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Pilgrim soldier?" Well, I guess I inadvertently compacted two hymns together, “To Be A Pilgrim” (a boyhood favorite, despite being raised ferociously atheist) and “Onward Christian Soldiers”, in an attempt to evoke the puritanical crusading impulse that imbued a lot of hairshirt "pure" and/or minimal techno in the 90s. Now in German, the word for DJ booth means literally DJ pulpit. Minimal techno was Calvinist, stripping the Church of E (aka the House of God) of all its voluptuous Roman Catholic finery, its musical emaciation the equivalent of the Presbyterian move of turning an altar into a plain wooden table

Which connects, well kinda, with something I just read about the composer John Tavener (whose work I’m unfamiliar with, although long been intrigued by the fact that the Beatles signed him to Apple). Tavener is supposed to be the British equivalent of Arvo Part: minimal, ecstatic, vaguely medieval in its modern(ity/ism)-repudiating impulse towards Timelessness, a feather on the breath of god etc. Tavener made his most well-known works following his conversion to Greek Orthodox Christianity; he described one masterwork, The Protecting Veil, as "an attempt to make a lyrical ikon in sound". Mmmm, niiiice.

"Mittel Europa pleasure boy"? Unconscious but appropriate echo of the song by Visage (whose "Frequency 7" was a key tune for the first-wave Detroit techno guys, so making a cute loop through history, given the Europhile foundations of Detroit and, by extension Windsor, Ontario--and let's not forget that Hawtin actually is English). Hint of metrosexual homo-eroticism and Superpitcher/Mayer-esque ambiguity: all those slight, willowy German boys with very neat clothes and indeterminate orientations. (Whereas the homoeroticism of hardtechno is much more of the order of scouting movements, quasi-martial jugend with raw, wind-chapped knees and hard bodies; this is winter music, strenuous and sinewy). "Mittel Europa" could include Prussia (which my Berlin mate Tobias Rapp once identified as source for the disciplinarian streak running through German techno, only for me--repeating his idea elswhere--to get accused of trafficking in Germanic stereotypes by another German!). But there's nothing self-denying, anhedonic, or disciplinarian about Kompact-style microhouse. The word "micro" itself has a whole different tang to it than "minimal", there's no intimation of renunciation or austerity. "Micro" is evocative of exquisitely finessed design features that only the connoisseur appreciates, or even notices. The microhaus aesthetic is much closer to Des Esseintes, the dandy aesthete in Against Nature, than to Foucault's Discipline and Punish; closer to Italodisco's chic and subdued sensuality than to Die Krupps or EBM. Micro's decadence is a new kind that denies itself outright excess or debauchery because that would be in poor taste.

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