mr. zilla goes to town

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

toasting genres

I'm finding it difficult to start this post, because there are so many possible 90 degree prevaricating prefaces to the actual point that I'm in danger of my head disappearing up my own arse before I even begin.

Take the term "electronic music" for starters. Or, for a change, don't take it. If you give the nod to German pioneers Kraftwerk as the signpost in the road marking the beginning of the electronic genre, not an unreasonable thing to do, what do you make of their electrically-powered, electronically distorted/flanged/tweaked contemporaries with guitars slung about their necks? Why exclude the [electronic] production tricknowledgy initially pioneered by groups like ABBA to distinctualize their vocal sound, and imitated by a hundred half-as-hollow throated eighties poppers? If its the purity in artificial production that makes music electronic, how do you situate a live drum'n'bass outfit or today's producers pulling in real live musicians to their work both live and in the studio?

The point is, whether at the macro or micro level: genres, right, what's the point of having em? (I told you the head would go dangerously arsewards.) There's only a point to them if they're a shorthand communication that has meaning to both the speaker/writer and the receiver. (Gawd, does it show I've been reading one of ms. zilla's linguistic texts today?) But put three electronic *cough* music trainspotters in a room where the walls and chest cavities are thumping and you may just get three opinions on what the hell is going on around them. Four if one is a descendant of John Maynard Keynes.

Even in a world where internet radio and peer-to-peer transmission vectors make the sonic world almost borderless, competing genre labels for similar sounds seem to crop up in geographically tight production communities. Your German nujazz breaks bread with the west London brokenbeat. In the states the former term seemed to carry greater currency while unsurprisingly the latter is more on the cards here. As terms, genres are both competitive and cooperative constructions. If only we could appoint a tribunal to sort it all out for us. The dear departed John Peel would have been a gimme to head the panel and Frankfurt's Michael Rutten from Compost radio would be a good inclusion too.

But since accurate and authoritative categorization would kill the cat - not to mention put out of work a lot of music industry reporters and record store clerks - perhaps electronic music (which is neither synonymous with electro nor electronica) and its mushrooming profusion of subcategories will remain to us more like obscene pornography - at least the way that US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart saw it in 1964:
"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it . . . "

Anyway, under cover of darkness last night - not difficult with sunset around 5pm - your correspondent and his Lady Penelope reconnoitered a number of local venues to zero in on places conducive to the abovementioned d'n'b-on-chardonnay genre(s) I like to spin. The population of Oxford isn't that significant but the ratio of undergrad students to humans is, and therefore so is the ratio of clubs to humans. We had some success there, got some contact details for some promoters too, so I'll let you know later if that pans out. But the most highly amusing part of the night was reading on handbills and promo posters of a completely new genre, one that seems to be defiantly, belligerently, sardonically adopted. It would be funny if only it didn't appear to be in too many otherwise very acceptable venues. Actually that's not true: its still funny, its just a crying shame.


Yep, cheese.

It communicates... you know what to expect... meaning is exchanged between speaker and listener... what the hell, why not?

Techno on toast, anyone?


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