And so the young adherents of the Great Awokening exhibit the zeal of the Great Awakening. Like early modern Christians, they punish heresy by banishing sinners from society or coercing them to public demonstrations of shame, and provide an avenue for redemption in the form of a thorough public confession of sin. “Social justice” theory requires the admission of white privilege in ways that are strikingly like the admission of original sin. A Christian is born again; an activist gets woke. To the belief in human progress unfolding through history — itself a remnant of Christian eschatology — it adds the Leninist twist of a cadre of heroes who jump-start the revolution.
Complexity is beautiful. Multiplicity is freedom. Difference is destiny.
If there was ever a mission statement for this site, it would be some variation of the above affective-philosophical equations. Alas, we seem hell-bent on silencing the infinite complexity of the universe and the societies within it. I’ll never forget the actual (and wildly misplaced) anger I felt while reading Simon Reynolds’ Retromania back when it was released at the start of this decade as it was honestly hard to not take it personally (being a millennial weaned on the internet and all). But as one friend asked me earlier this year, “You do agree with the book’s point though, right?!” And yeah, of course I do (though admitting that helped me to check my own biases and narcissistic prejudices). The blinding cultural accelerationism of the nineties have given way to a now-two-decade-long concept creep in which we seem to be desperately grasping for often-necessary-but-shortsighted explanations to make the world a bit less overwhelming and anxiety-inducing (good luck with that!) Still, although I could never have anticipated that I would find myself bemoaning the current state of the internet back when I was in college in the mid-00s—my catchphrase, after all, was “Fuck nostalgia, I’ve got the internet!” Nonetheless, I’ve always felt that our extended bout of retromania is a temporary phase caused by the fact that the archives have been open for a hot minute now and we’re still scrambling to make sense of it all. However, as a result, media has also become infinitely easier to dismiss out of hand as we’re all drowning in (often pointless) content and misguided poptimism (which is more of a strategic inversion than a listening program). I personally take great solace in the unpredictability of the future and, for the sake of my own tenuous mental health, choose to remain optimistic that we have countless halcyon artistic epochs in front of us that are as infinite in potential as the digital audio workstations one can so easily pirate on the internet.
So yeah, here’s to having hope in the face of overwhelming mediocrity<3W
Whoa! Although I had encountered the name of the Sneaker Social Club imprint, I had never bother to check them out until yesterday and now they’re one of my favorite labels of 2018. With a roster that is a refreshing admixture of known entities like Appleblim (who released a long-overdue and great debut album with them this year), SeekersInternational, and Etch and newer names like Soundbwoy Killah and Hornsey Hardcore, they traffic in a type of rave revivalism that doesn’t so much look backwards as it does at an oblique angle. Not retro but not future either, they occupy the type of genre scientific middle ground that has become a hallmark aesthetic of our age. Dream Cycle debuted on the label last year and released a second EP in May of this year. The A1 cut “Influence” is the personal highlight as it rocks the type of spy thriller-soundtracking UKG jam that makes you wish you had a pair of shades to pop on the dome while driving through an ever-narrowing tunnel. Slick shit.
Oh! And while we’re circling the UK dance music continuum, I highly recommend scoping Martin Clark’s recent interview with Hugo Massien for an engaging discussion of genre-hybridized music production methods. The singularity is now a multiplicity, indeed.
You know what’s really, really exciting? Perennial sweethearts Minto George and J.T. Stewart are bringing their Down Low label out of retirement!!! For as influential as American dance music has been on the global stage, it always makes my heart cry when I’m scanning the Hard Wax mailer every week and see just how few exciting labels are operating in this country. Now, that deeply awesome news doesn’t have much to do with the above chilled-out cut other than it was recommended to me by one Tiago Varjao, the Houston-based promoter/lovely human whose constant prodding of George and Stewart over the past decade is surely partially to thank for the label’s coming out of retirement. I’m always amazed by how nicely ‘intelligent techno’ has aged and Matthew Puffet’s Future Beat Alliance material arguably sounds better today than it did when released in 1997. Despite going for ‘Scogs prices in the $20 range, Puffet thankfully just repressed the blazing three-tracker off of which the above Mode-M mellower can be found. Yes, ‘mellower’ is now a noun. You’re welcome;)
So, Yagya. Although I’ve encountered the moniker of Iceland native Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson from his releases on such powerhouse labels like Force Inc. and Adult Contemporary, I managed to sleep on the Delsin repress of his monumentally gaseous 2009 album Rigning (until I was alerted to this one thanks to a 3am exchange with a homie over the weekend). A shimmering beam of an album, the ten assembled tracks effortlessly exhale into one another, vaporous pads perforated by paper-thin snares and pillow-soft kicks.
Another producer whose name I’ve long scanned but never clicked upon, Sir Lord Commixx has been turned out jazz-inflected deep house jams for over two decades now and A1 cut “New World” off of his two-part 2017 release for For Those That Knoe checks all the right boxes: warmed-over keys, sputtering vocal science, and a quixotic top line. The rest of the EP is pretty disposable in my opinion, but this is the type of mood-setting house jam that I can never seem to get enough of.
As I’ve commented here before, one of the most unexpected and welcome developments of 2018 has been my waking up to the multifaceted deep dnb scene emanating from across the Atlantic. Be it the staticky halftime of Books or the industrialized soundscapes of the UVB-76 label, there is no shortage of challenging, adventurous music coming out that shares a 170 bpm and little else. The Samurai Music label tends to excel in percussive pandemoniun and narrative-driven exercises that take tribal into the future (oh wow, how has ‘future tribal’ not been a thing?!) Or, at least, they make hand drums not sound like a 90s throwback or kitsch-ridden. I covered a couple recent examples of the growing ‘experimental dancehall’ production style several weeks back, which makes the halftime shimmy of “Blackout” from the 2016 EP of the same name by The Untouchables sound even more prescient. Sounding not unlike a voudou ceremony set to a stead drumtrack, the drums are hellbent on breaking your back and wearing down an army of hands until they are arm-length rhythm sticks, the atmosphere coated in blood.
Considering how cheese-covered so much Italian house was in the early 90s, I never cease being amazed by the amount horror-informed and wildly deep dance music that was percolating at the same time (see Leo Anibaldi Francesco Pierguidi, The True Underground Sound of Rome). Taken from the 1992 EP Underground Rhythmic Project by The Order, “Big Q.9” is a ravenous, bubbling tune with a maniacally squiggly top and bottom that achieves a similar effect as a looped dial-up modem sample, the melody only establishing itself through the force of repetition. A burner and a bruiser.