The calendar ticked over a few days ago and I got older once again. Hey, it happens to the best of us. Even Keith Richard ages. Maybe not in the same way as the rest of us but there is a distinct thickening of the varnish nevertheless. I think Jagger applies it whenever Keef begins to creek onstage. I imagine that while the rest of the Stones have their accountants, yoga teachers and God knows what else, Keef has a French polisher on retainer, ready to step in to deal with any outbreaks of wood worm or limbs that are coming loose.
One of the things that has been occupying my ageing mind over the last couple of weeks is where my own tastes in music are going. Partly this was down to exposure to a fantastic mix of break, hardcore and jungle released by Berceuse Heroique by DJ Persuasion (Most likely most of you have already heard it. If not, check it out here.) In recent years I’ve watched as minimal flounced to a limp conclusion and ‘dark’ industrialized techno sought to move into the vacuum (with fairly mixed success, it has to be said.) I’ve gone through the whole outsider house thing, enjoying a lot of the left field sounds and getting a wee bit excited as its noisy lo-fi brother attempted to link a bunch of broken drum machines and synths together – in spirit at least, if not always in practice. I’ve always been aware, though, that the speed at which these scenes are being born, growing and dying at seem to be getting faster. By the end of 2016, I expect The Next Big Thing will arrive and depart within the space of a few hours, leaving only a vague memory in the music of bland second-raters tweeting from their Beatport perches.
Moving on from the Lo-fi stuff, we seem to be entering an era of well-mannered, polite and scrubbed up house music and techno. Some of it is fine – great even – especially when the glint of madness still resides in the eye of individual producers. Twenty years ago I might well have thought that some of it was fantastic, that it represented a departure from the excesses of loopy bangers and Detroit bass rip-offs that were saturating the scene. Now I’m not so sure. I’m finding a lot of it boring and tepid, lacking any form of life, energy replaced with carefully thought out chord progressions and an obsession with the correct influences. In the 50s and early 60s there was a reaction to bebop, kids hunting out the polite and more conventional sounds of trad jazz instead, growing proper beards and wearing cardigans. It feels like it’s happening again. Experimentation replaced by conformity of sound.
Strangely, I find myself drawn to music that I was never really on board with back in the nineties. I always had a soft spot for a bit of Drum and Bass but I seem to be seeking it out a lot more than I used to. The music I’m hearing just now that excites me are heavier with breakbeats than anything else. Hardcore, rave and what ever else seems to be banging in my head a lot. Electro too, is back on the menu. It still resounds with alien themes and stark motifs, weird collisions of ideas that thrill.
I hunted out a bunch of my old D&B records. I may never have bought as many as I should have, but I seemed to have a pretty high hit rate. It wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t, I don’t think you can go wrong with a bit of Source Direct, can you? I always wanted to play this track, Secret Liaisons in a techno set. Drop it late on, when things are getting messy, and see what happens. Forget the breaks for a minute, dwell on the crystalline structures of the rest of the music instead, the way that the mood hangs over everything like the threat of the angelic. But what makes it so special is its movement; that same mood lengthening like a shadow at dusk until the darkness hinted at from the start takes full control. It’s so subtle you don’t even notice until it’s done. Intelligence, energy and atmosphere linked by those furious breaks. Ah hell, you know what? Just listen to it. I’m an old man. Indulge me.