Just a couple of unimportant random thoughts…
Watched this when i got home today. Have been meaning for a while as it’s been sitting on my YouTube favourites box for an age. Titled “Universal Techno”, it’s a french doc from 1996 about the rise of the techno scene. Lots of characters such as Aphex Twin, Derrick May (talking about music and cosmic alignments of the planets), Sven Vath (Talking German with French Subtitles), and lots of shots of the Berlin Love parade. Pretty nice trip down memory lane.
But then it gets a little interesting in part 4, when Mancunian techno adventurers AUTCEHRE travelled to Detroit with the film makers to speak with the black techno producers there and much their music influenced them. Unfortunately, one in particular (Mad Mike from UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE) wasn’t too keen on meeting them.
Underground Resistance made harsh techno sounds that meshed with militant black politics into a stance and position not too dissimilar to the Black Panthers or Public Enemy. But what was really interesting to hear was how Mad Mike was hyper aware on how his background and environment shaped their music.
And more importantly it was THEIR music, that they made for the people in THEIR area. They didn’t want to hear how other people were into it. As he says at the end of his (short) chat,”I do want people to know our situation, but at the same time you can’t come here and constantly take and borrow from us, and not expect us to want something back. Thank you.” He even doesn’t show his face to the camera, just to add another barrier to the people he feels are encroaching on his territory.
In our super-connected digital world where you can jack into and appropriate sounds and scenes, from Finnish freak folk to South African dubstep , this sort of thinking feels like it’s almost from another world. Even artists who produce their own music nowadays are told to use the internet and social media to propagate their music all round the world. Even the Iceland scene is constantly trying to promote itself to the whole world.
But maybe this “old world” thinking of Mad Mike, to create something that’s highly personal and linked to your surroundings has something going for it. Thanks to the internet, most of the music that’s made today, especially electronic music, often seems to have no physical grounding to where it was made from. If you listen to a dubstep artist, or a prog rock band, then you will often have no idea where they’re from or what scene they are linked to. Perhaps we’ve lost a little of that introspection that comes with making something that has links to a tight knit scene. Maybe Iceland still has a little of that something going for it, that inherently Icelandic sound, although how personal it sounds is always open to debate. I mean, can you imagine the likes of Amiina or Ólöf Arnalds covering their faces to the camera and basically saying this that this is THEIR music for THEIR community. It’s not for YOU, the puffin tourist.