“Goth, industrial, the hard-edged experimental fringe of post-punk: it’s hard not to be continually amazed at the cavernous drum sounds, strafing synths and insane reverbs to be found on those sorts of records, if only on an occluded B-side instrumental or on one album track from an otherwise terrible album. But the sonic is only part of it—probably the biggest draw to that kind of music, as with the doom stuff, is the presence, sometimes a surfeit, of content, of story. I’m talking about records rich with verbal and visual allusions, a suggestion and maybe even a promise of meaning. Of course there can be presence, and weight, in absence—on first encounter the blank, wordless presentation of, say, an SND record is every bit as seductive and absorbing as a Christian Death lyric sheet—but I suppose I’d become a little bit jaded with that less-is-more approach, with minimalism as a way of life, and I wanted a return to filigree and shadow.
“What, I wondered, had happened to overreaching? I suddenly felt nauseated by the dance culture I hitherto considered myself a part of, one whose sense of its own forward-thinking masks a top-to-bottom conservatism and a fear of the mildest idiosyncrasy, let alone unabashed personal expression. There’s no risk or transgression, not right now, in calling your track “B15587” or, you know, “Wad,” however good the music might be. Nobody grills a house or dubstep producer on what their music is actually about, because we know from the outset it’s not about anything, and nor do we expect it to be. But after a while you begin to crave content, don’t you? At this point in my life I want to be provoked, I want to be romanced, I want to be made to feel stupid and confused all over again.
“I think—no, I know—it was Greil Marcus, in one of his frightfully earnest essays about punk, who wrote of music that could change the way a person performs his or her commute, and connect that act to every other, thereby calling the person’s entire way of life into question. I’m not yet immodest enough to suggest that Blackest records do that, not by a long stretch, but that’s the aim, the ambition and it’s the only one that really matters. When I listen to so much contemporary music, not least house and techno, I feel it couldn’t be further from that—it’s cosy, it’s ordered, it’s unsurprising, and it seeks to reassure the listener rather than unsettle or disconcert them. Too many engineers and not enough artists are making music today, as I never tire of complaining.
“But all that said, dance music—better to call it body music, lest the wallflowers and armchair enthusiasts feel excluded—remains of the utmost importance to me. My interest in virtually everything else is refracted through that. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to hear a new club record that has something novel to say, or at least says something familiar in a novel-seeming way—but that happens once, at best two or three times a year. 4/4 techno as a functional party music is timeless and inexhaustible—it quite simply works—but seems rare that it’s actually challenging or dangerous. I mean, does it tell us anything of the way we live or the way we ought to live?”
Blackest Ever Black Label founder Kiran Sande on some of the issues within dance music that drove him to start up the label in the first place.
“Despite being known for techno, you’ve talked about your love of other types of music, from post-punk, to hip hop and electro. With people today ransacking the internet for different sounds to make music, are we moving away from the puritanical idea of what electronic music is?
“Well if that’s the case, it’s a shame that many internet portals are playing minimal, uninspired, ketamine-house music then. Most of the music I get is from the artists themselves. I’m not even sure if their stuff makes it to Beatport. But there are some incredible artists out there on the edge of the genre, like Mazzula for example.”
You know, I’ve sometimes had very similar discussions in the last 6 months with friends and other people within Iceland’s electronic scene that have run along the lines to the quotes above (Though not quite as eloquent). As I said in my review of 20112, while there were some high points, overall I was just finding a lot of electronic music in Iceland to either be lacking something, or that it wasn’t playing enough stuff that was occurring outside these shores that was really interesting me a lot…
(To be Continued…)