While the rest of the world slides towards the pit it seems to have taken such a liking to, I’ve been trying to steer myself away from going the same way. It’s not always easy, especially these days when prime idiocy is never more than a button press away (often whether you want it or not), but I think it pays to occasionally remember that not everything is quite as dark as it looks. Sometimes even music can light up the way, a glimmer above the smog.
Techno isn’t the most political of music, at least not overtly. I think we all know that. Despite a few laudable attempts, and a number of chosen causes, any politics in electronic music seems to lie far more in the realm of the individual than the collective. Even in the early days, when there were sound systems preaching vaguely political manifestos, it was never going to be a rival to Red Wedge. Hell, even rock music is more apolitical than it was. And like rock music, electronica hasn’t so much grown up as grown out; it’s become a broad church where the underground rubs shoulders with careerism and business, and anything with a strong political identity looks like the weird kid in a class full of peppy, preppy jocks. Occasionally that annoys me, but not today. Today I’m just sort of relieved. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I just need something which cuts the world out.
I think everybody has a fall back tune; a simple piece of music which resets the psychological alarm, even if it’s only for the duration of the track. I don’t listen to Kao-tic Harmony very often any more, and the last time I heard it in its entirety was last year (a year ago today, in fact) in the aftermath of the mass murders in Paris. Back then, when the sickening realisation of what was happening in France was taking hold, alongside the mounting anger at being told by internet fuckwits we weren’t allowed to feel anything unless we hadn’t also explicitly commented on other, non-European, outrages (despite the fact that, when you checked, none of those bastards had either), I found the best course of action was simply to listen to music and escape from it all for a little while.
The B side of Kao-tic Harmony, the peerless Ikon was the first Friday Night Tune I ever wrote, and like Ikon, Kao-tik Harmony was one of the first pieces of techno that convinced me that the genre was more than just bang thud bang thud bang. It’s not that I was slow on the uptake, more that for anyone growing up a long way from glowing centre of the electronic galaxy, it was easy to misinterpret what you were seeing, and hearing, from across all that distance. Joining the dots, building an understanding, is not so easy when all those dots are obscured by the dust clouds of mediocre music which came my way via television or radio. The miracle isn’t that it took me so long to start getting it. The miracle is that I got it at all.
And Kao-tic Harmony has always been there, somewhere in the background. I remember Spike Milligan writing about coming across one of his old jazz records years after the war. Almost everything else in his collection had been destroyed in the blitz, except this one record. And when, on the rare occasion, he listened to it, he had to walk for miles to rid himself of the memories it brought up. While Kao-tic Harmony doesn’t quite have the same effect on me (yet) I can relate. For me it’s become a piece of music that, while free of day-to-day connotations, carries memories and emotions through the years. Some of them good, some of them not so much, but all of them vital. Something in its fragility and beauty is relentless and enthralling, able to cut out the frequencies of everything else and transport you somewhere else altogether. It’s why I don’t listen to it very often these days. It’s too valuable a resource to waste on the daily grind.