a little heartache on the dancefloor

January 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Posted in musings, new music | Leave a comment
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Check out this mix from the charmingly named Deadboy courtesy of FACT magazine.  And this quote from the accompanying short interview:

Your mix for FACT seems to have a lot of melancholy in it – from ‘K-I-S-S-I-N-G’ to the Theo Parrish cuts, to your own stuff like ‘U Cheated’ and ‘If U Want Me’. Is that a vibe you particularly go for in your music?

“Yeah I don’t think I ever sit down and think “how can I make this tune sound sad”, I’m generally trying to make something hype, but I’m always naturally attracted to sad girly vocal samples in hype music. I love all those sad old garage tunes. Bassline is good for it as well. Everyone can relate to a little heartache on the dancefloor.”

Chimes with something I’ve been noticing in my ill-informed-almost-middle-aged way about current trends in electronic dance music (and by that I mean music produced to be played at high volume in clubs – not home-listening electronica).  Here’s three short paragraphs of gross oversimplification:

Dance music has always been a means to escape everyday life.  With house music the escape is into euphoria – bliss, beauty, love are the themes with the music emphasising the E buzz.  Chuck in a bit of elitist consumerist aspiration too and you can imagine yourself as one of those feline models illustrated on the covers of ‘funky’ house mix CDs.

With techno the escape is through catharsis.  The percussion externalises the pounding in your head and the clean synth-lines cut away the useless flab of the working week.  Not to say that there can’t be humour or emotion in techno, there can be, but beauty in techno is generally a kind of machine-tooled perfection.  Throw in some dark, futuristic imagery and imagine yourself as the vanguard of the underground resistance.

UK garage, grime and dubstep returned us to the street and re-presented and glorified what happens there.  Escape from reality whilst never leaving it – just distance yourself by turning it into a film and swaggering through it as the gangster protagonist.

So you’ve been up, down and stayed exactly where you are – now what?  It appears confusion might be next.  I don’t need to add to the thousands of words written about Burial and his colleagues using elements of rave to create a downtempo atmosphere of dread and mistrust.  Now we also have elements of dread and mistrust being used to make rave.  See the seemingly oxymoronic rave-influenced bouncy 8-bit mutations of dubstep found in the Boomkat newsletter every week.  Either way – a little heartache on the dancefloor.

Is this new?  It certainly feels weird but I think it has a precedent in Northern Soul – another thumping club music largely about loss and desperation.  Check out this masterpiece of stomping melancholy by Luther Ingram.  Possible my favourite Northern Soul tune.

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