Anyone who has been reading this blog from the early days is probably aware of my shifting tastes and interests. As time has gone by I’ve fallen in love with some things and out of love with others – a fairly unplanned state of affairs which has in its own way provided an interesting document of not only where my head has been at over the last couple of years, but also where it’s going. From an entirely personal standpoint, that’s as important to me as any amount of reviews.
When I started way back at the beginning of 2014, I was growing interested in what we were calling outsider house. It was perhaps a slightly grandiose title for a sub-genre that quickly seemed to shed much of what made it feel different in the first place, and it seemed that in no time at all the movers and shakers had splintered away into sounds that weren’t too different from a lot of other stuff. Since then I’ve covered what I think is a fairly good cross-section of music that I don’t tend to see covered very often elsewhere. Essentially this boils down to a simple equation – if I like it I want to talk about it, regardless of genre or trends.
There are always going to be some constants. My love of acid house is life long, and I have a natural tendency to gravitate towards anyone who is trying to do something new or different within the genre. Detroit techno is always going to be there as is any techno which hits me with a snarling, dirty, funk (there doesn’t seem to be as much of this kicking around just now as I would like, but it’s there if you dig a bit).
One of the most important constants in my life for more than twenty years has been electro. For all the talk from myself and other people about the electro renaissance the fact is that electro never went away. Sure, there were lean years – too many lean years – and the harder edged material that I fell in love with way back still seems to be very much in the minority under the flood of more delicately arranged and orchestrated deeper tunes. But its all good, and I still think that almost anything can be improved by sticking a break beat on it.
Trying to work out why a particular style or genre resonates with you can be a hard task, but with electro I think it has to do with the way it sounds like I imagine electronic music is supposed to sound. Far from being a style predicated on abstracts I’ve always found that in matters of emotion it seems to work better than almost anything else. The tough music is properly tough, and when it goes down the tight, claustrophobic, compressed route it sends chills up my spine. Electro is the music I hear when I read something like Neuromancer, a soundtrack that fluctuates between down and dirty street level mayhem (and occasionally terror) and something altogether more grainy and cinematic. With all music we tend to draw on our own experiences, our own tastes and beliefs, to make sense of what we hear, and electro feeds into my warped world view better than anything else. When I watch a show like Mr Robot, it at times feels like a visualization of electro; taut, nervy and dark, almost paranoiac, but not without its moments of colour or sweeping panoramic art.
There is something about the music of Ectomorph which has always latched onto that line of thinking. Aside from the name – and its a perfect name for any electro band – the music is the epitome of a form of electronica that contains all the qualities which makes it so important to me. Equal parts emotion, malice, and playfulness; powerful and heady, sometimes brooding, sometimes wistful, it hangs in the space where the chaotic, shambling song of flesh and blood comes up against the cool, sterile and unnatural symmetry of the machines’ symphony. And no matter which of these dual natures is in ascendancy, it is always underpinned, controlled, and brought into existence by the fluid and pulsing energy of the groove.
And this is at the heart of my love for electro: that nature, and the vision of a cybernetic thing stalking the boundaries between what we are and what we could be. House and techno are important to me – life changing in fact – but electro will always be the ghost in my machine.