March 07, 2004


Nick Gutterbreakz definitely NOT talking bollocks: 'Remember when acts like LFO and Orbital were taking instrumental techno into the pop charts in the early '90s? Surely that was the template on which modern pop should have been based. And when Garage invaded the charts a few years ago, it seemed to be speaking a new language. So what happened?Our technology has evolved, but the methods of conveying ideas and emotions have remained static. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Girls Aloud as much as the next man, but there's always that sense of unease....shouldn't pop have evolved beyond all that by now?'

'If anything above resonates with you, please let me know...' Well, it certainly resonates with me. Not wishing to revive the whole Poptimism/ Popsceptic debate, but many of my reservations about current Pop revolve around its retreat from any modernist impulse, its apparent contentedness to rejig the same few elements ad infinitum. Incidentally, I don't have a problem with electronica being used to perform 'traditional song-based material'; what I want is a new way of performing it. The Junior Boys, of course, remain the exemplars of what can be done to make new combinations of Song and electronica.

What Nick says echoes Simon's remarks on the exhaustion of Dance. Sometimes I wonder if Pop as such - 'beat music' in the widest sense - hasn't reached some kind of terminus. Is it possible for it to produce what-the-fuck affects any more, or must we now be satisfied with low-intensity rehashes forever? The speed of musical development between 1963 and 1982 was incredible and unprecedented. For those of us who grew up in that period, its mutational acceleration produced a hunger for the novel, and a sense of dissatisfaction with retroism of any stripe. As I've often said, in 1979, 1966 was much further away than it is now. Pop - Eppy's Pop 1, chartpop - abandoned modernism sometime in the eighties. What modernist drive it had came from the incursions and influence of Dance. But if Dance has been Pop's Modernity for the last two decades, what are we to make of a situation in which Dance has itself gone postmodern? (cf what Simon says about 'all the period sounds being juggled and obscure archival sources coming in and out of favour, [so that] it's at the point of there being a 'record collection dance' just like there's been 'record collection rock' since the Jesus & Mary Chain. Retro-Dance to match Matt's Retro-Rock TM.) Where will the impulse for renewal come from, or are we stuck on a Postmodern (not so)merry-go-round?

btw I'm intrigued by what Nick writes about Four Tet and folktronica (it reminded me of Robin's speculations about a new sampladelia in this by now legendary post; by pure coincidence, I heard the Four Tet album today. I like it, but it doesn't really live up to Nick's intriguing description. Or at least, it doesn't compete with the album that his description inspired me to imagine. It's partly the problem of beats. There's something tired about sample-based music which still holds everything together with a metric beat, especially a generic 'hip hop' beat. Robin's comments on beatlessness make me wonder if losing the beat isn't the most radical step that could be taken; needless to say, I would have found such a possibility unthinkable and heretical in the beatplexed ecstasy of 94. But now, now, the possibilities of escaping 50 years of 'beat music' are fascinating...

Posted by mark at March 7, 2004 08:58 PM | TrackBack

It's ironic in the light of this, my dear pal, that you've taken such strong issue with HipHop in the charts.

If you're looking for the encroachment of post-dance riddimology (synths and all) into pop that's where you'll find it. I'm not talking abouit anything as "sophisticated" as Timbatunes, but tracks/tack like the Fatman Scoop one or Ludacris's "Stand Up" (seems to be everyone's pet-hate????!!!!!)

There's loads of weird bleepy sonically strange HipHop out there: Banner/YingYang/Jkwon/LilJon.

Posted by: Matt Ingram at March 8, 2004 09:03 AM

regarding this death of beat/dance music meme

be interested to know how this relates to the ongoing mutations of black atlantian rhythm culture. . .don't really perceive much jadedness there, but a continued ability to excite/surprise and move

while beat culture generally is certainly not as exciting as 10 years ago say, i wonder how much of the disenchantment with it is 30 something jadedness/the drug dont work anymore/blah. . .its obviously both, but teenagers are the real barometer, whose sensory systems havent had a good 20 odd years of polyrhythmic pummelling. . .i suppose we could just be in some kind of suspension before some new rhythmic spasm. . .grime is a good example of that. . .while its not dance music as such [well it is for me actually], you can feel a massive rhythmic charge trapped in its half speed tension bursting to get out. . .

blah blah blah

on a beatless tip, eduard artemiev's[or something like that] soundtracks to stalker and solaris are quite blissful

blah blah blah

Posted by: steve_hyperdub at March 8, 2004 09:13 AM

maybe you should get someone to do you a copy of wiley's devil/beatless mixes. particularly eskimo and igloo. you also need to hear the new stuff coming out of the ruff sqwad camp, the productions of rapid and dirty danger which i suspect you'd like a great deal. there's stuff out there but it won't necessarily seek you out. you have to be prepared to look under a few rocks.

Posted by: luke at March 8, 2004 11:55 AM

plus the devils mixes of roll deep regular and ground zero

are you sayin that rapid and dirty danger are doing beatless riddims? would be interested to hear that if they are.

generally grime is fully of danceable if disjointed, scuttling rhythmic innovation. . .plenty of reason to be cheerful about beats

Posted by: steve_hyperdub at March 8, 2004 01:09 PM

The thing with those beatless mixes is that the bass has enough punch to fill a room, enough density to not need a beat. if you hark back to jungle, we all heard the beats but it was the bassline we really *felt*. In any case, i think the charts are pretty good right now as far as interesting production etc goes, so i'm not looking much too far away from the mainstream for musical satisfaction (and by mainstream, i mean east london mainstream; ie the charts, dancehall and the pirates). so glad simon's giving props to ying yang/usher/lil jon, because i'm hearing everything in this music that i'd like to be hearing in techno and pleanty of stuff i *am* hearing, slightly interpolated, in grime. i still love techno/house and always will, but it really doesn't have the same cultural currency a good bashment dance or great hip-hop banger you can hear from every car window for miles does for me right now.

Posted by: Dave S at March 8, 2004 01:19 PM

no, that wasn't very clear. i don't mean they're doing beatless mixes but i think mark would enjoy their latest stuff. actually mark, email me your address and i'll send you a ruff squad tape.

Posted by: luke at March 8, 2004 02:11 PM

you don't hear grime from car stereos though. very rarely at any rate. that's a shame. maybe because the audience is fairly young compared with the twostep audience.

Posted by: luke at March 8, 2004 04:31 PM

The thing about teenagers cuts both ways viz they're not jaded because they don't know any better and are therefore satisfied with lower-intensity hits! :-)

I'm with Simon on grime; surely it ain't 'Dance' music. Part of its USP is its mechanoid rhtymic flatness. As Robin memorably put it, grimebeats are both _more_ metronomic and _less_ regular than previous breakbeats.

One thing it's worth teasing apart is the difference between rhythm and beats. I'm not interested in unrhythmic music under any circumstances! Robin's stuff on 'swelling' is a start to thinking this through.

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 8, 2004 09:23 PM

no idea what Robin's stuff on 'swelling' is. . .hope its not too painful. . .but this is a relevant quote on rhythmic hydrodynamics

“there is indeed such a thing as measure, cadenced rhythm, relating to the coursing of a river between its banks or to the form of a striated space; but there is also a rhythm without measure, which relates to the up swell of a flow, in other words, to the manner in which a fluid occupies a smooth space.”(ATP 364)

i think the idea of swollen rhythm resonates very strongly with mr.finneys thoughts on rhythmic danger. . tensors-not-beats

but i'm confused now exactly what 'dance music' is

Posted by: steve_hyperdub at March 8, 2004 09:52 PM

Yeh, well it was partly to do with what he was saying here ( about 'beatlessness. Not beatless in the sense of floaty new age muzak, but pulsed rather than punctual, sharply articulated rhythm; often achieved by Gavin Bryars in works where he manages to create a rhythm without locking in to any pop/rock tradition. I’m not swearing off beats, but I sense an imminent Zone of Fruitless Intensification ( ©Blissblog ) apropos of beatz-culture in general, and a soft pulsing is more fittingly somnambulous.' The idea of swelling/ pulsing as opposed to punctual beats...
What is Dance music? aha, that's about as fraught as the 'what is Pop?' question, but I should have thought that danceability is a necessary if not sufficient condition. Grime surely ain't straightforwardly danceable...

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 8, 2004 10:26 PM

the thing about grime mark, is that it doesn't have a clear identity. eskimo is certainly danceable. in fact it's difficult not to dance to it. there's a huge range within that genre, don't get caught up in identifying grime with boy in da corner, which is fairly anomolous. making those ( Part of its USP is its mechanoid rhtymic flatness. As Robin memorably put it, grimebeats are both _more_ metronomic and _less_ regular than previous breakbeats.)kinds of blanket judgements just isn't possible.

Posted by: luke at March 8, 2004 11:27 PM

The Wiley stuff I've heard makes Boy in Da Corner sound like James Brown!

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 8, 2004 11:57 PM

SimonR suggested that I had a very dance-music kind of approach to grime, presumably implying that this was unusual - which surprised me a bit. It never occurred to me that grime *wasn't* dance music (as well as hip hop/dancehall etc. - but those are dance musics too!).

I don't think the capacity for innovation within dance is exhausted but it may have entered a phase of what I think Simon once called "plausible deniability". I hear lots of stuff in current grime, dancehall, hip hop and the german tech-house continuum which I believe is genuinely new from a groove-perspective - and I think I listen to enough archival music to not have the reduced standards Mark is implying. However I can understand someone operating from a wider lens thinking "maybe, but it's not radically new or different enough for me to care much." I'm sure lots of critics would have taken this very perspective wrt say Blissed Out in the late eighties.

Maybe sonic tweaking isn't enough if it doesn't with it herald a shift in musical politics - ie. how the music sees itself and is seen by others. It's a bit tree in the woods innit: something new can be happening in a field of music but unless that newness is both self-evident and galvanizing for a large number of people then in some senses it hasn't actually happened.

Posted by: Tim Finney at March 9, 2004 01:09 AM

P.S. Matt I've also got mad sick love for "Stand Up" - it's hip hop equiv of Boymerang's "Still" obv!

Posted by: Tim Finney at March 9, 2004 01:12 AM

it may be not particularly fashionable and is perhaps anomalous, but a dance approach to grime seems strikingly valid. . of course it is its oral culture that has given grime its singularity, but its rhythm culture is 'swelling' nicely in the background

while everyone always looks to stations like deja where many of the key crews reside, it is rinse that has the concentration of the producers. . .from target to wonder to jon e cash to plasticman etc. etc [as well as crews like OT and the Musketeers].. .my point is simply that you can't understand grime unless you think the relationship between for example deja and rinse, the tension between the hyperkinetic orality and its hyperkinetic rhythm culture. . .at least on rinse, the will to dance lives on

Posted by: steve_hyperdub at March 9, 2004 09:07 AM

i sort of think rinse shot itself in the foot. it was the biggest station then they offloaded all their biggest names in some misguided attempt to stay ahead of the game. now, target, danny weed, wiley and roll deep, and boyz in da hood have all left/been pushed out because the management thought the dubstep sound was the new thing. if you want to hear the future you're probably better off listening to temptation where a lot of new crews are coming through. it's worth pointing out that the biggest crews are the ones with the biggest producers. ruff squad and meridian are big now, but not because of the mcs, there's much better mcs than that lot who you'll never hear of, but because they've got the rhythms, so even in crew land it's about the beats.

Posted by: luke at March 9, 2004 11:52 AM

well it is called the eski *dance* isn't it? still, i find the mcing more fascinating than the rhythms in general, however that's because they complement the rhythm, not because they are the raison d'etre of the whole thing. once the rhythm is recorded it just *is*, it's static and unchanging. but re mcing, the spontaneity, the fact that one mcs rhymes can merely augment a given track, but another mc can throw down a set of lyrics that utterly transform the same rhythm and make it the only way you ever want to hear it from there on, is what is really interesting to me. of course *music* (beats, rhythm, melody, all its component parts) is important and it's a mutually beneficial relationship, but the rhymes do grab my attention the most.

Posted by: dave s at March 9, 2004 01:08 PM

"once the rhythm is recorded it just *is*"

eh. . .mixing/cutting/rewinds etc. . .there is djs in this scene as well

i know what you are saying about rinse luke, and even alot of the djs who have been brought in [myself included] feel that they have swung to far in the instrumental/hosted show direction as opposed to the full crew line ups. . .they have their reasons

Posted by: steve_hyperdub at March 9, 2004 03:17 PM

i didn't know you did a show. i wouldn't have been rude about rinse if i did! i spose it's a niche to be filled still.

Posted by: luke at March 9, 2004 06:33 PM

I think the "what is dance music" issue is worth exploring. Certainly a case can be made for DOR sounds, that is, the return of dance-oriented rock (e.g., DFA, concededly "record collection" dance), but there's also dance-oriented hip hop, the entire field of ragga, and, I'd imagine (per steve hyperdub's comments) dance-oriented grime. U.S. hip hop is perhaps in a creative lull at the moment, but hip hop djs today rock the dancefloor much harder than house djs. Hip hop has displaced house as the most compelling dance music going, even though not all hip hop is dance music (and not all rock, and not all grime). Also, though not every track on "Boy in Da Corner" works as dance music, a good share of them do work. So, I'd say that genres like house and techno and jungle are dead, but that dance music is alive and well . . . . And I expect Mark K-Punk will disagree, but I think the critical consensus on OutKast is right. "Hey Ya" and "Ghetto Music" are fabulous tracks, even if not novel in construction. (But I of course agree that "Is That Your Chick" is an end-all knock-down track and would love to hear the grime tracks in this mode.)

Posted by: dominic at March 10, 2004 02:27 AM

So maybe this: rave music is dead. And disco/house tradition more or less dead (though as a shopper, I cannot resist the surfeit of early 80s disco in NYC used record shops). But dance music lives through hip hop, ragga, grime, the streets of the black atlantic . . . .

Posted by: at March 10, 2004 03:08 AM

Also, I think Brits prize novelty, modernism, the new more highly than do Americans. And that this cuts across racial lines. Such that black & white Britain prizes the new, and if the music isn't "new," the scene loses cohesion, the social energy is less concentrated, etc. By contrast, and black & white America prizes the underground, the scene, the vibe, and with these, the music. Music as music, seemingly without historical consciousness. American rockers have absolutely no concern for the "new," and those in hip hop only have a secondary concern for the "new." The main concern is moving the floor. And to the extent that there's still an underground house scene, its denizens have no sense of loss over the "loss of the new"

Posted by: dominic at March 10, 2004 03:22 AM

"eh. . .mixing/cutting/rewinds etc. . .there is djs in this scene as well"

yeah, i know, but there's not so much of that going on in grime, really. it's just not as dj-based. it really reminds me of dancehall back when deejays were performing live with sounds in that sense (they don't so much any more and are more dependednt on getting previously voiced records played now, rather than doing it live). anyways, that's what i reckon and i'd better get to work before i'm sacked!

Posted by: Dave S at March 10, 2004 10:52 AM