I was going to start this by saying something about how rubbish 2016 turned out to be and how much better I hope 2017 is but, to be honest, I really can’t be bothered. Part of the problem is I think I’m beginning to sober up after Christmas, and January is not the time to be without booze. How anyone can even remotely consider doing the month dry is beyond me. Maybe they don’t live in Scotland where January is a 30 day deep shit-cot of rain, darkness, and cold. Maybe if you live in California or Australia or somewhere hot, where the streets aren’t full of angry, rain-soaked gnomes, it would be possible. But then, why aren’t you drinking in celebration? I’ve got you there….
Anyways, booze or not we find ourselves on the verge of another year of electronic music. I have high hopes for the next 12 months, not least because this is going to be the year electro cements its recent run of success. Not that you would know about that success if you read the big boys, or many of the EOY lists, where it seemed electro remained about as welcome as logic in a Brexiteer’s brain. Even the old criticisms about its abstract nature began to wear thin when you actually listened to some of the recommendations which were thrown about last year for all manner of obtuse non-music. It doesn’t really matter though, does it? What matters is that the genre is really accelerating in terms of confidence, sound, and listeners.
And that’s a lucky break for me because there were stretches last year when it felt I was finally heading into grumpy old man territory, the borders of which were festooned with banners stating music was better when I were a lad. Thanks to 2016 I know this isn’t true, mainly because a lot of the house I heard sounded EXACTLY LIKE it did when I was a lad, and it turns out a lot of it really wasn’t that great. Techno, too, seemed stuck in a rut. Actually not a rut as much as all of the producers going to the same gentleman’s outfitters to buy exactly the same clumpy black boots and black T-shirts. Somewhere in the middle of the year I began to get the feeling a lot of these folks were just passing the same Ableton template back and forth amongst themselves. Synth manufacturers don’t need to bother making any more drum machines – just release a button which plays a slightly pitched up sample of a tramp hitting an empty bin with the side of his head. I reckon that’ll do for 95% of modern techno productions if last year is any indication.
So, aside from the dawning of the New Electro World Order what else do I want from 2017? Well, less reliance on the past would be good. Nostalgia is fun in passing but it’s very easy to develop a dependency. I have the feeling though that we are currently between movements, that something is going to come along this year to reboot house music. I’ve said elsewhere that it feels very much like we’re heading towards a split: Safe and cosy on one side, something more politically aware and non user-friendly on the other, perhaps even a redefinition of what it means to be considered underground music in the first years of the 21st century. That goes for Techno too, the larger part of which has really been treading water for a few years now. It needs to find something in the experimental and the transcendent once more, or it runs the risk of forever descending into the sort of lazy self-parody which is common when you can’t see the woods for the trees.
Hell, enough of that. There is still a lot of great music around. The very good stuff is as good as anything which has gone before, and the best of it is better. It is sometimes easy to forget that, to lose sight of exactly how vital and lively a lot of electronica still is.
Tonight’s tune is 3rd Stone From the Sun, a belter by Third Electric and a tune I’ve loved for a very long time. I chose it partly because the title seems strangely fitting for these long, weird hours we’re all living through just now, and partly because I still feel its mix of bone breaking speed, funk and cosmic beauty retains a quality which seems to exist slightly out of phase with a lot of other music, particularly just now. Yep, it’s another FNT where the tune has little to do with what I’ve written. I suspect that might become a bit of a theme over the next 12 months. Happy New Year.