Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Resident Advisor hosts a three-way colloquy on the State of the Dancetronic Nation between Peter Chambers, Philip Sherburne and Ronan Fitzgerald, each staking out a distinct position on the way forward over the course of a long (three chunky replies each) and highly detailed discussion.

Stances and supporting quotage:

(resilient, keep-the-faithful, "aw quit griping, learn to float on the 'datasea'")

"...people have unreasonable expectations of innovation from house and techno. House/techno is genre music. It's not just that we have we flicked through all the plug-ins, running through all combinations until the mature style has stabilised and congealed. House is now (and was almost always) a stable genre/code that anyone can engage with, and as with other genres, it's much more about playing between the rules than trying to break all of them all the time (and getting disappointed when that doesn't happen)... House isn't a feeling, it's a formula—and that's alright."

"As I once said about Redshape... 'The future of the past never sounded more contemporary.'"

(discursively shagged,browned off a la John Peel in 1985 saying "I don't even like the records I like")

"It seemed records that might have merely joined the dots in another year were the dots in 2008. The raging debates about these ubiquitous DJ tools then made the dots burn onto your retina".

"... Ultimately 2008 was a year in which—to me—there was very little to say about dance music, even the stuff you liked. If talking about dance music matters, then it was a year when sermons from the mount seemed more sickly than ever. Perhaps a coherent dance discourse is increasingly impossible and irrelevant, as an online world which allows users to inform themselves finally seems to have stabilized? In 2009 there may be even fewer stories to tell. For the vast majority of fans, this probably doesn't matter in the slightest."

(Trying to strike an optimistic note but increasingly listening to anything but house and techno)

"DeepChord. Deepgroove. Enliven Deep Acoustics. DJ Rasoul's "Untitled Deepness." Patrice Scott's "Deep Again." Tony Lionni's "Deep Sea Diver." Jay Haze's "Lost in Deep Space." FLSK's "Esencia Deep." (Both same tempo, same key.) Rick Wade's The Good, the Bad and the Deep. Sinan Baymak's "Deep Morning," for Deeper Shades. Deep Vibes, of course. Radio Slave's "8 Bit Romance Deepest Slave Remix" for Florian Meindl, a track that's nothing but self-conscious about being spacy and deep. If anything was certain in 2008, it's that people seemed really interested in tags like these, which only makes a track title from DJ Sprinkles's Midtown 120 Blues all the more intriguing: "House Music Is Controllable Desire You Can Own." 2008, it seems, was all about owning—and controlling—desire."

(in a side bar)
"The self-professedly "deep" stuff in 2008 often tended towards an unapologetic revival of Afro-American house tropes... But there was also a tinge of minstrelsy visible in the prevalence of preacher-man vocals (Layo & Bushwacka's MLK-sampling "Now's the Time," Âme's use of Last Poets in their Fabric mix)…. maybe this is very politically correct and American of me—I find it odd when white folks (no matter how good their music) are picking names like "the Chocolettes" or slathering their music in black American a cappellas and nobody brings up the subject of race."

"I quite liked the approach of the Kann label... they reminded me a little of the bright, brittle tech-house of the Force Tracks label, but with a bit more cheek.. Are they reinventing house music? No. But with minimal adjustments (no pun intended), they've put their own subtle touch on it."

"If other music is saying more to me than house and techno right now, then why is that, and what exactly is the message?... I'm feeling less partisan than I used to, partly out of a feeling that the party (no pun intended, though the double meaning fits perfectly) let me down. I think Brian Eno's concept of "scenius" is useful here. Dance music always follows a dialectic between individual genius and collective inspiration, or "scenius," and for my money, the post-minimal scenius isn't terribly inspiring at the moment. To generalize wildly, what I'm hearing from the more functionalist end of the club-music spectrum is increasingly workmanlike, increasingly professionalized."

It's fascinating to read this debate (the above quotes being just a fraction of the whole discussion) in complete knowledge that I will never, ever hear any of the 742 tracks mentioned, some of them described in loving and vivid detail. No really, it is enjoyable just to read about them, I'm happy to know they exist, they're out there in the world, rocking bodies in small intimate clubs in Europe and beyond... I just don't feel the need myself to take it any further than this screen in front of me.

Yes, a high-powered and eloquent conversation, although they do lose me a bit when they get to wrangling over the question of "new-old deep house", a term that makes my very soul droop and wither.

Hewing to the more abstract contours of the issues under discussion, Aaron at Airport Through the Trees ratchets the intensity back up again.