Break the Circle (Praxis Newsletter 7, 1995)


Things have come full circle – after just under a decade. Like it’s supposed to be, isn’t it – the second half of a decade dawns and the new style emerges slowly, to gain momentum until the end of the decade, then to be commercialised, but at the same time spawning new underground pockets in other territories. Ca. 1995 there is bound to be conservatism on a large scale and little guerrilla groups in the underground laboratories preparing for the next upheaval. The domination of House and the return of Electro are signs of a wrapping up, not a mere conservatism, but also a return to a pre-Trance authenticity that may be tainted by nostalgia. It doesn’t seem possible to return to this almost aggressive negation of content and opening up of interpretation by the minds and bodies of the dancer, a – then – new freedom. This is the 90’s and let’s be frank, there is nothing but trouble. While House is originally coming from black & gay ghettos and truly hedonistic, the wrapping up often is done by straight whiteboy producers, who don’t have the funk. It can only become interesting in these domains if there is a transgression of the borders of the genre, as styles these genres are for mummies.

I know you will expect me to oppose Hardcore to House, but I won’t. Hardcore is not a style. The most phuturistic style in ’95 is Jungle. Hardcore comes in later, and I’ll talk about it later.
Like in all fairly defined styles, there is a lot of bandwagon/uninventive/shit Jungle, but the point that’s important here is that in Jungle the available technology is brought to full use, which is simply not the case in House or Acid or Trance or traditional Techno or Gabber, which doesn’t mean that there can’t be good tracks, but by excluding a lot of possibilities these styles are self-limiting and thereby getting old. While Acid insists on the combination of drummachines and analogue synths (late 70’s/early 80’s technology), Jungle is more and more embracing different soundsources, and is centred around the latest sampling technology. This spirit of exploration leads to new discoveries & excitement. Here again we find a sound that’s popular and very experimental at the same time, that puts technology at new uses, a sound that’s dark, heavy, noisy & groovy.

Any discussion on this level will be faced with contradiction, but we shouldn’t be afraid of that. The music we’re talking about is multidimensional, the experience of this music can’t be pinned down, there are countless points of view, and we refuse to adhere to one single one. There is a number of articles in the new issue of Alien Underground looking at different aspects from different sides. Historical, aesthetic, psycho-social. There are dangers in theory, but that’s a challenge – and more than anything we mustn’t leave the reflection, discussion and theory of what we are doing to people who don’t know the score, be they academics or journalists.

Let’s go beyond what any of the styles and genres offer, and take the idea of openmindedness serious. There are millions of sounds in the universe, not just the ones produced by a 909 or a 303. Purism is reactionary. Too many people are looking for a little family in life, some tiny little gospel they can believe in, some pathetic system that by its nature excludes the richness, the passion and experience of life, and therefore creativity. Even though the music of rave culture in the broadest sense has been and is incredibly complex, rich and creative, it has been denied an intelligent reflection; on the one hand its anti intellectualism has reduced its program to pathetic slogans like “Love – Peace – Unity” – the NICE form of fascism (nothing New since “Ein Volk – ein Reich – ein Führer”) – on the other hand so called intelligent techno has only served as a sad excuse for white boy elitism. For reasons I could never understand, beautiful music always gets labeled as ‘dark’.

Capitalism on the one hand allows small businesses to form and the available technology allows to create, realise, promote and distribute just about any idea that might come to any one’s mind. On the other hand this (supposed) freedom gets counterbalanced by the laws of the market and the state. Control. There are too many interests by forces small and big to just let people do what they want. But it’s also a mind game: Control is what you believe to be… Believe the hype of normalcy and out comes shit music, or a boring life. At least in music we should know, after the electronic revolution, anything is possible. And this should be a signal to life. And that’s dangerous! Because it short-circuits Control and opens up the Pirate Dimension.

Hardcore is such a sonic weapon, but only as long as it doesn’t play by the rules, not even its own rules (this is where Jungle, Gabber etc. fail). It could be anything that’s not laid back, mind numbing or otherwise reflecting, celebrating, complementing the status quo. Hardcore is even the wrong word (but not completely, since it also refers to a secret complicity with co-conspirators – something that is miles apart from the ‘Tribal’ structures that mostly after a short time start replicating the hierarchical structures of dominant society). So maybe we should find a word, but just as a disguise.

People keep complaining that there are no records which is a joke; if anything there are too many and the worthwhile stuff often gets buried under the avalanche of releases by hundreds of labels putting out stuff in the domains of Trip Hop, Electro, House, Trance, Acid, Techno, Jungle, Gabber, Hardcore, Industrial, Ambient = all labels invented to be a guide for the customer; but no label can stand for quality anymore and if you’re interested in good new electronic music and noise you are almost doomed to go through piles and piles of releases. The helpless reaction of many is to stick to one or two styles and not bother about the rest, but you’ll lose out like that. Others become collectors of particular record labels or artists (say you collected all records produced by Mover, Atom Heart, Biochip C and Walker under all their pseudonyms you’d have about 500 records – made by 4 people). So the process becomes time-consuming, something for trainspotters & fanatics.

But this diversity and complexity of the current productions is ultimately a good thing, even if some people will miss the unity of a singular movement, but nearly everyone seems to wonder where it’s all going and what’s going to happen next. One indicator where things are moving is the availability of cheaper hard-disk-recording software. New versions of Digitrax and Cubase Audio are coming out you won’t need a hardware piece to run, which basically means that pirate copies will be everywhere in homestudios within a few months and not only largely digitise the underground productions, but also more and more turn the computer into a workstation where it’s not only possible to create whole tracks, but combine them with images, text and video. The next generation of the techno underground will have the pleasure of facing completely new challenges.

Originally appeared in Praxis Newsletter 7, Oct.1995
Reprinted in Break/Flow
French translation in TNT


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  • By Fivezonez2 on May 10, 2012 at 7:59 am


    Fantastic blog post, saw on…

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