Every revolution brings change. In our little corner of the world, the digital era has forever altered not only how many people listen to music, but also how they view its importance. That the art form itself has become, to a certain extent, a disposable commodity for many is probably beyond argument at this point. The ease with which we can find new music, spending a few minutes online, almost instantly following the threads that not even that long ago would have take weeks – if not months – to draw together, has perhaps removed some of the importance we once placed on new discoveries. Regardless of whether you think visiting record shops and digging through crates is an archaic pursuit that should be relegated permanently to the domain of strange and intense men (I don’t), there can be little doubt that the sense of joy when you finally stumble on that one record, that special 12″ you probably didn’t even know existed until you held it in your hands, was beyond compare. That feeling of discovery was almost as important as the music itself. For many of us, it still works like this.
But the speed of gratification has altered the way in which many people listen to, and buy, music. People cherry pick their tracks these days in a way that was simply not possible in the past. Online digital stores are set up for this approach: Buy the lead track from an EP, take your pick of the hits from an album and leave the rest behind. Personally speaking, I tend to buy the whole release. I’ve cherry picked tracks a few time, but in every case it was to pull a playable copy of a tune that I had on damaged vinyl. The biggest problem here, from a DJ point of view, is that by only pulling out the hits, you leave behind something that might be even more special. Usually, the big hits work because they have something upfront about them which pull us in straight away, a sugar rush of pleasure. Often, though, it is the other stuff, the tunes that might seem like filler when ripping through the samples on Beatport or Juno, that grow in importance to us when allowed the space to do their thing. On vinyl, this space is there from the start through the physical act of playing a record as the needle takes it time to negotiate the grooves.
For me, Poem my Bobby Konders was one of these. I wasn’t actually aware until quite recently that it had once been a separate release. My own exposure to it came from its place on his Nervous Acid EP. My tastes tended even more heavily to the acidic back then than they do now, and listening to the EP in the second-hand shop where I bought it, it was the bubbling skank of the title track that sealed the deal. The other tracks were simply not important.
Repeated plays, though, brought the change. I found more and more that it wasn’t Nervous Acid I was playing, but the slow, jazzy grooves of Poem which I was coming back to time and time again. The track that I had dismissed with fairly characteristic ignorance won me over because I let it have the time to do so, and it’s a tune that requires more than 30 seconds to start getting its meaning across. The bassline is slow, ponderous even, and takes an eternity to unwind. The jazzy flutes do nothing until you hear them play out in their proper, full context. When everything is given the space of your full attention, though, when the music is allowed the room to grow and pulse, it all falls together into delicious and hypnotic whole.
We all had tunes like this, that we only fell in love with because we allowed ourselves the opportunity to be exposed to them. My worry is that a lot of people are robbing themselves of this little joy in the hurry to load up with the sugar high. Maybe it’s time we had a slow music movement and return to these secret wonders the breathing space they are due.