The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'rave'


As America discovers rave culture, restyled into the contours of a synth-driven nu-metal, with the drug elements toned way down, and renamed as “Electronic Dance Music” or EDM, VICE UK has an open letter to America's EDM enthusiasts:

For the last 25 years, while you guys were buying Learjets and listening to Creed, Europe has been double dropping, reaching for the lasers and constantly asking strangers if they are "having a good night". You thought this made all of us homosexual, existentialist drug addicts (which may be partly true) and for years you resisted the charms of Mitsis, Ministry Of Sound and the music of Paul Oakenfold. Your party scene was content with smashing "brewskis", smoking "doobs" and blasting the music of Kid Rock and 2 Live Crew.
The letter goes on to gently offer advice, from the Americans “doing it wrong” (by insisting on having live drums and saxophones on stage and favouring hard-rock-style stage spectacle over the subtle progressions of UK club music to being in denial about the drugs thing) to the whole term “EDM”:
When I first heard the term "EDM", I wasn't sure what it stood for... What I did not expect, however, was something as blitheringly obvious as "electronic dance music". It seemed like calling a genre "guitar rock" or "trumpet ska". All dance/house/bass music is electronic. Just say it to yourself; Electronic. Dance. Music. It sounds like somebody's great aunt attempting to talk about Moby's new album, or a clueless country police chief answering questions about a rave he's trying to shut down. It makes you sound like novices, and stupid novices at that. So go think of something else to call Afrojack.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this isn't nu-metal, guys. Bush is out of the White House, you're on the way to getting all sorts of European liberties, you don't need another Woodstock '99 and no one wants to see a bunch of gurning people getting trampled to death in a circle pit. I know getting pilled up and licking each other's ears doesn't fit in with that whole "rugged induvidualism" thing, but give it a try. The kinship you'll feel with your fellow man will come in handy when you're enjoying that socialist future you're all looking forward to so much.
To be fair, the article's assumption (that EDM is essentially British/European house/garage/dubstep/club culture repackaged for a new audience without significant changes) may be incorrect. There were rave scenes in the US (in the San Francisco Bay, for example) for decades, with blue hair, fluffy leggings, glow sticks and tonnes of MDMA pills washed down with energy drinks, though those didn't spread any further than groups of Anglophilic/Europhilic enthusiasts; partly because of the cultural difference and explicit exoticism (much like the way that Britpop, UK indie and swinging-60s Mod revivalism all tend to get mashed together into one sartorially immaculate Anglophilic scene when outside of Britain), and partly because of the War On Drugs, and the fact that doing anything that may construe probable cause of drug possession in the age of Instagram could be what they call a bad life choice. What made EDM ready for crossover to the mainstream was the fact that it is not your older siblings' rave culture: its presentation and format owe more to the live rock show than the communal rave, more the high-tech adrenaline-pumping spectacle than the pharmaceutically mediated collective experience in a darkened club or a field. And it took hard-rock veterans like Skrillex, the inventor of the American form of dubstep known as “brostep”, to successfully demonstrate that softsynths on a MacBook can rock harder and kick more ass than guitars through a stack of amps.

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In his latest Poptimist column, Tom Ewing writes about recordings attributed to imaginary authors, typically at some time in an imagined past. More specifically, he writes about Science Of The Sea, a record allegedly made in 1979 by Jürgen Müller, a German oceanographer and amateur musician who was inspired to make a record of ambient electronic compositions by the hours he spent on field trips out at sea, one of whose 100 privately-pressed copies was apparently rediscovered in 2011:

Except, of course, he probably did no such thing. It seems likely that there never was an expedition, or a young biologist, or a private pressing. Science of the Sea is a 2011 record from fin to tail, and the rather lovely tale of Jürgen Müller is entirely invented. Did suspecting this make me like the record less? Certainly not. If anything, I enjoyed it more. As a small child I would sometimes be allowed to sit up with my parents and watch science documentaries, like Carl Sagan's Cosmos. I didn't understand the science, and the documentaries were broadcast late so I was on the edge of sleep in any case, but I remembered their soothing flow: The infinite turned into a kind of bedtime story. Meanwhile, on library bookshelves I would sometimes find 1950s and 60s paperbacks about modern-day scientist-adventurers like Jacques Cousteau or Thor Heyerdahl-- giving the impression of an age of clean-limbed scientific heroism I'd tantalizingly missed, one that looked very much like a Tintin comic.
So no surprise that some of what I get from Science of the Sea-- there by intention or not-- is a pang of love and loss for this imagined time. More intriguingly, though, if the record is fictional it feels like this might have been liberating for its mysterious creator. The album is full of beautifully cornball seascape touches-- flickering arpeggios and note-clouds which practically demand you start thinking about shoals of fish darting back and forth outside a bathysphere window. Sit down and make an electronic album about the ocean now and you might find yourself trying to dodge these clichés. Sit down and role-play a naive non-musician inching towards transcendence at the turn of the 1980s and you can fully embrace them.
Science Of The Sea is not the only recent example of its kind; another recent recording shedding light on an underexplored, romantic and distinctly alien corner of the modern past was the retrospective of the Endless House Foundation. The conceit of Endless House presents an experimental electronic music collective, founded in the early 1970s by an eccentric, wealthy Czech audiophile, situated in an ultra-modernistic studio/discotheque complex in the heart of the Bialowieska primeval forest in eastern Poland and informed by the breadth of European avant-garde design and architectural movements of the 20th century, it thrived for must six weeks in the summer of 1973 before collapsing under the weight of its expensive impracticality, leaving behind only some scraps of biographical information, a few ambiguous photographs of improbable architectural spaces, and the curiously pristine recordings of the resident musicians' compositions, which, it seems, prefigured everything from Kraftwerk to Detroit techno, much in the same way that Delia Derbyshire invented IDM in 1965 but neglected to tell the world about it. The fragments have remained buried until recently, when an unnamed British curator unearthed the pieces, and managed to track down the original participants, getting interviews and even a mix, from them.

Of course, it's quite possible that none of this really happened. The story of Endless House reads almost like a Wes Anderson set-piece, only set in a nebulous European avant-garde as seen from outside. Unsurprisingly, the illusion doesn't hold up well to closer examination. For one, the idea that a group of Western European playboys could cross the Iron Curtain with impunity, bringing party guests and giant modular synthesisers with them, while the governments of the Eastern Bloc, still shocked by uprisings in Prague in 1968 and Warsaw in 1970, were in ideological lockdown, seems highly unlikely. (A non-fictional recent musical retrospective of East German electronic music reveals the extent of ideological control over music in the Eastern Bloc; in the DDR, the government only started allowing the production of electronic music in 1980, and even then anything that could be interpreted as critical of industrial society was verboten, leaving room only for ostensibly harmless cosmic psychedelia.) Over and above this, this improbable bubble is populated by a cast of exotically European bons vivants with names like Walter Schnaffs and Felix Uran, who speak in a mixture of English and German, but refer to distances in miles. Nonetheless, if you can suspend disbelief, imagine that the Cold War wasn't that big a deal and that an Austrian synthesist and socialite might sing about being sixteen miles from Saint-Tropez, in an avant-garde cyber-disco about that distance from the Polish-Soviet border, it's an entertaining story, and an even more entertaining record. (The tracks, listened to on their own, work as electronic music, and do evoke the world they purport to come from.)

Meanwhile, in a recent edition of Milan art journal Mousse, there is a retrospective of the works of Scottish-Italian artist Scotty Potenza, written by someone named Nick Currie:

The colour, shape and texture of fresh ice cream is certainly visible in Potenza’s acrylic gouaches; peach, pistachio and purply-red forest berries distinguish themselves forcefully from the sodden greens and asphalt greys of the Scottish industrial landscape. His subject-matter shares this otherness: influenced by the exciting first wave of Acid House culture in the late 1980s, Potenza evinces a non-Calvinist positivity more evocative of Chicago warehouses and Ibiza raves than Glasgow tenements. A Potenza painting incarnates not what Scotland is, but what it lacks.
As 1990s rave culture has continued to experience the bearhug embrace of mainstream acceptance in the UK — its visual values, once restricted to club flyers, now inform restaurant design, public information films and TV commercials for banks and building societies — Potenza has been granted a high-profile list of public commissions. His decoration of the walls of the Home Office lobby with a mural of happy ravers, their hands linked like the figures in Matisse’s La Danse, caused short-lived (and clearly manufactured) outrage in the tabloids, but has proved peculiarly popular with the civil servants who work in the building. A major mural at Finsbury Park underground station entitled Get On One Matey! was unfortunately damaged beyond repair in the 2011 riots. The vandals, caught on CCTV, are currently serving long prison sentences.

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Free raves have returned to the English countryside, driven by pill-poppers' disaffection with highly commercialised, expensive and increasingly London-centric superclubs. The "free parties" are secretively organised using disposable pre-paid mobile phones (as they are illegal under the Criminal Justice Act, which has not been repealed), are centred around hard house and trance, and are claimed to be more responsible than the raves of yesteryear; though locals and the authorities disagree, and are planning to step up prosecutions.

"You think it would be quite heavy but it's mellow and chilled. You don't see people passed out on the floor. You don't get stupid young girls who drink too much that you get in commercial clubs. They cause the trouble, they cause the fights. You get that in Lynn way too much."
"There were five or six police on duty in south Norfolk that night," he said. "They talked to people at the rave and decided they didn't want any confrontation and let it run its course. What I'd like to see is the organisers being arrested or their equipment confiscated so they can't do it again. If the police don't want confrontation, fair enough, but why not confiscate it at the end of the rave?"
Norfolk police are investigating a number of free party organisers with a view to prosecuting them. Supt Scully dismissed claims the organisers acted responsibly. "If you get 300 cars and 600 people gathering in a site of special scientific interest, how can you say you are being responsible?," he asked. "It's insulting to the local local communities to suggest that."

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As the Brit Awards drop the "Best Dance Act" category (recently won by bubblegum girl group Sugababes), replacing it with "Best Live Act" (it looks like rock stars are the new superstar DJs), the Graun's Alexis Petridis reports the decline of dance music as a genre:

Part of the problem, whatever anybody claims, was that the dance scene was entirely bound up with drugs. That meant that it had a short shelf-life for most participants: you simply can't keep taking ecstasy every weekend for more than a few years, and when the shine comes off the ecstasy experience, then the shine invariably comes off dance music as well. That wasn't a problem, as long as there was a high turnover of new initiates, all figuratively staggering out of Margate pier at six in the morning, convinced they had just discovered the future of music. But at some point around the millennium, that simply stopped happening.

In other words, rave culture had the dynamics of a pyramid scheme.

The longest lingering big fashion movement in club culture was the cyber-kids, who congregated around Sheffield club Gatecrasher. Their look seemed to involve adopting every daft passing fad that had ever taken hold on a dancefloor at once: they wore fluorescent clothes and face paint, sprayed their hair with garish crazy colour, sucked children's dummies, carried cuddly toys. Gatecrasher's management eventually attempted to stop them coming to the club, but the damage was done. For your average 16-year-old, the choice was fairly stark: you could either dress like a rapper or one of the Strokes and be in with a chance with the opposite sex, or you could dress like an imbecile and go clubbing.

alexis petridis dance music music pyramid schemes rave 1


It turns out that DJs may not be the rock stars of the new millennium after all; dance music is in steep decline in the UK. Some factors blamed: ravers who got into it during the Acid House Summer of Love/the superclub boom of the 90s getting older (and developing a tolerance to MDMA), the kids of today being into NME Back-To-Basics '70s-Style Rock, and backlash against the cult of the superstar DJ (quite understandable, IMHO). I wonder whether this will affect the content of electronic music magazines; can we expect to see the virtual-analogue synth/groovebox reviews in Future Music displaced by reviews of guitar-performance stompboxes and tutorials on recording live bands?

Meanwhile, a scathing critique of club culture, also in the Graun:

Around the same time the south London superclub The Ministry Of Sound marketed a range of clothing while admitting that anyone who wore those clothes was unlikely to pass the dress code in the club itself. It was as if the DJs and club promoters who "ran" dance music simply assumed that audiences were too befuddled by the drug ecstasy to realise they were being ripped off.
(via Rocknerd)

commercialism dance music dj culture ministry of sound rave 9

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