I am actually tempted to go out and buy a copy of Spin for the first time since late 2000 when I was tempted out of another hiatus from the magazine by an article in this issue regarding UK garage by, of course, Simon Reynolds (no offense to him but it does seem a bit silly that there were so few writers covering dance music with any intelligence back then and only a few more now that I have to keep bringing him up any time I write about dance music!).
The reason for the temptation? Apparently, rave is back, and not just the bullshit circa-1999-trance-pop that passes for popular music these days. Of course, it could just be other bullshit. But how could I put it down? All the things I could say about Skrillex I could also say about Rufige Cru, right? Nasty drug noise. Lumpen teens. Tasteless. Blah blah blah. I like "Terminator". Really, all the defenses of the 'nuum against the complaints of the Chicago and Detroit folks could easily be turned around and used to defend "brostep" against 'nuum purists. I wonder if anyone appreciates the irony.
As for me, I'm still stuck in my prison of tastefulness, enjoying the records I enjoy but staring longingly out the window all the same.
Maybe I will have more to say when I read the article, but some random ramblin' shit, voila:
1. It's not getting old, it's getting experienced. Seriously, how many thousands of dance records have I heard at this point?
2. Is music the only realm of human endeavor that values youth and inexperience over age? Or am I being ageist against myself? I can hear some kid saying "you just don't understand". But rather, it's really the opposite. I understand so my mind is closed a bit more.
3. "Dumb" noise is just as conservative amongst kids as tasteful chords are amongst adults. Listening to the Smiths alone on a Sunday evening is just as isolating for me now as it was 15 years ago but the nature of that isolation has changed a bit, hasn't it?
4. Just as before in, say 1994, I'm guessing that nu-rave is isolated from and unaware of ye olde Detroit and Chicago traditions. On the one hand, I don't care. I could get all sad imagining that none of "the kids" care about "Strings of Life" but "Strings" is older than the kids themselves. And fuck it, they need their own anthems. On the other hand, I can't help but feeling that dance music in America has suffered because of it. Whatever directions the 'nuum has traveled in, it always seems to be the same core community, people, geography, etc. In America, trends come and go and that's about it. I'm reminded of, forgive me, a quote from The Big Lebowski: "Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos". Which is not to say anything about UK Junglists or whatever, it's just: American teens like dance music. Why? That "why" only makes sense if the music is part of a culture instead of just stuff.
4a. US rave kids isolation from Detroit and Chicago creates two problems: (1) unlike in the UK, the template of the native innovations was never expanded upon enough domestically to become an actual, vital musical discourse and those that are partial to those original sounds are completely stuck in their own ghetto where they (we) have to choose either fealty or (usually empty) innovation, folk culture or Vegas; (2), that ghetto is the ghetto of tastefulness that is so imprisoning. It's the endless repetition of pieties from the original and old audience for those records and also the perpetual re-discovery of "the classics" by those hipsters who are refugees from the "lumpen" culture for all the wrong reasons. The former are undervalued, I think, because of the schisms of the 90s between "proper" techno and rave, and also, between Americans who got into dance music as an American music versus those who got into via Europe and who therefore feel that purism as an insult to their early rave memories. The latter are overvalued, of course; torpid elitism, an unwillingness to belong or to participate directly before or without the mediating factors of social and critical acceptance; this is the stuff that kills culture. The American techno/house legacy in 1999 was dead because nobody gave a shit. Now, it's because of the unending stream of reissues of marginal crap.
4b. Again I want to mention the irony. Skrillex is probably not "real" rave to ravers who still probably feel hurt for hearing that "rave" is not real techno back in 1994.
4c. So yeah, I guess I am in the purist camp but not happy about it, as said above.
4d. The thing that really sucks about the split from binaries to multitudes is that entryism doesn't really exist any more, does it, as an option for trying to infect pop discourse with something other, or vice versa. I guess what I am getting at is that, as opposed to tensions existing within a genre, which could just as easily be called a narrative or a history, each tension just creates a new scene. There's no "conscious" side of "dumb party music" to keep it honest, nor a real hedonistic edge to the "proper" parties to keep them fun. Rather that creating an imbalance of meaning, meaning is flattened. Of course it's easy to say "brostep" lacks one, but the preservationist house and techno culture, with little new blood except for dribbles of chin-scratching connoisseurs, reverent all, by trying to hold on to old systems of meaning, only consigns itself to irrelevance. I guess I am part of the problem but Deadmau5 isn't the solution.
Music and "music" and etc: